Before the start of the bizarre, altered and abridged 2020 season, I said this about the launching of the pitch: “We could very well go an entire season without a single full game.”
It took Kyle Hendricks and the Chicago Cubs a whole day to make me feel like I should get my “I write about baseball for a living” card revoked.
While I could have bought the idea of a pitcher to pitch a full game in 2020, I couldn’t really buy the idea of a San Francisco Giants pitcher doing so.
And even if I could, I would have firmly refused to believe that it would be Tyler Anderson.
Elections taking place exclusively on the moon? Of course, OK, that’s pretty predictable. A fake meat perfectly imitating the steak tartare? I can see him. The discovery that Bigfoot is real and has procreated with the Loch Ness Monster? Either way, it’s 2020.
But Tyler Anderson is launching a full game?
Come on, all of you. Let’s not be ridiculous.
It’s a roundabout way of me to say that I look as helpless as one can be right now. And you know what? I love this. Bring it on. I’ve never liked to look bad more than when I predict the Giants will be miserable and end up being wrong.
Predicting giants are bad is like ordering a breakfast sandwich: you want to end up with copious amounts of eggs on your face.
But enough on me. Anderson was masterful on Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, placing the opposition over and over and over and over, which looks easy.
He wasn’t lacking many bats – he only had 10 hits and 4 strikeouts – but he kept hard contact from a distance and never seemed intimidated. He kept the books in his favor, and as a result never had to throw meatballs over the plate for the DBack hitters to go wild.
It wasn’t overwhelming or even particularly exciting, but it was a master class in playing baseball chess, with each field serving one goal and setting up the next.
He gave up only 3 hits and 1 unearned run. He didn’t walk any hitters (although he did hit one). He set the side in sequence five times and needed less than 10 pitches to pass an inning four times.
And he became the first giant since… wait for it… Chris Stratton in 2018 to kick off a full nine-round game.
Just a special performance all around.
Offensively, the Giants gave up their home run by hitting bats and took a pacifist approach to scoring the run, using walk after walk after walk to score their five points.
For the second day in a row, they loaded the bases without a withdrawal in the first round. This time around, it took place over three straight steps, a rather shocking development since Arizona starter Zac Gallen had only issued 8 free passes in 30 innings before the game started.
On Friday they had no chance to get out of the situation, and on Saturday they only got one out. But for a long time that was enough.
But after the Diamondbacks tied the game at the top of the seventh inning, the Giants once again returned to staunch, powerful basics on balls.
The bottom half of the seventh began with Brandon Crawford drawing a walk. Then came Joey Bart for his first appearance of the day, having started the game on the bench.
And what did he do in his third MLB game? Oh nothing big, just his third straight game with a strong double that topped 100 mph in exit speed. It looked like a home run, looked like a home run, and finally dropped a few inches before his first career home run.
Crawford couldn’t score as he had to play things cautiously, but a four-length walk drawn by compatriot Mauricio Dubón again charged in goals without a strike.
It was then that Arizona manager Torey Lovullo made a curious decision. Along with lefties Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson, Lovullo knocked out the only left-handed pitcher from his field.
Of course, this pitcher (Matt Grace) had just given up two steps and a very hard double. And of course, it was only his second appearance of the year. But to put a right-hander against two left-hangers, one of whom is the team’s best hitter?
It could backfire on you.
It turned against him.
Junior Guerra, who you might remember from hits like “Walked Joey Bart with bases loaded on Friday night,” Yastrzemski walked with bases loaded. And then he walked Dickerson with the bases loaded. This gave the Giants a 3-1 lead and set the stage for Donovan Solano (RBI defenseman’s choice) and Brandon Belt (RBI single) to make the lead comfortable.
The Giants have now drawn a base loaded walk six times this year, already three-quarters of what they drew a year ago.
Guerra has published three.
Yastrzemski’s walk was very pleasant, but it wasn’t the most beautiful thing he did in this game. In the sixth inning, he did the type of right-field catch that we haven’t seen in San Francisco since the 2014 World Series.
It’s a little dishonest to say that the game is belle, but it’s… well I don’t know what it is. His Something, and that something is exceptional, and I can’t look away.
And so, with a defensive climax, eight steps and a masterful strategic approach from Anderson (and a great game called up by Chadwick Tromp), the Giants won the game 5-1, clinched a series victory and now have five-winning streak.