By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–Giants’ fans, here’s your introduction to Arizona’s Zach Godley.
Big guy, loves to fish, perpetually sweaty, selfless, great curveball, and yet another youthful player in the NL West not with the Giants who’s career track is ascending rapidly.
In facing MLB’s toughest schedule through the first 28 games of 2018, the Giants are seeing the best-of-the-best early and often. On Monday, that gauntlet of a schedule brought the Diamondbacks to AT&T Park, and by any measure, Arizona impressed.
In beating the Giants 2-1–with both teams limited to five hits–the D’Backs manufactured runs early, pitched, played defense and their bullpen got the big outs late.
Just like the Giants used to do.
Last year, the Diamondbacks won 93 games, with winning records both home and away, and they somehow flew under the radar, dwarfed by the bigger story lines in Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Boston. An epic wild card win over the Rockies brought Arizona some notoriety, an NLDS loss to the Dodgers kept them from being a bigger story.
Now with a franchise-best ever 8-2 start, the Diamondbacks are looking for more, and getting it. Godley’s clearly no No. 5 starter, not with his swing-and-miss curveball, and his excellent mechanics, and ability to not tip his pitches. Everything comes out looking the same which prevents hitters from keying on something, and being hitterish.
Godley may have pitched better last week when matched with Clayton Kershaw he downed the Dodgers 6-1 while allowing just one run, on four hits, in seven innings of work. Against the Giants, Godley again went seven, allowing four hits, no runs while piling up nine strikeouts. According to Godley, the key was the Giants’ approach, not his.
“They were just aggressive, and that played in to what we wanted to do,” Godley explained.
In his first ever appearance at AT&T Park, Godley relied heavily on his curveball, and his success against the Giants’ first three hitters in their lineup. Godley allowed one hit, and struck out six when facing the Giants’ 1-2-3 combo of Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Andrew McCutchen. After Belt struck out looking on reliever Archie Bradley’s 95 mph fastball at the knees in the ninth, the Giants’ first baseman was saddled with an 0 for 4 collar with four strikeouts.
And while the Giants have been gritty and competitive early this season, they haven’t produced a lot of offense. After scoring just one run Monday, one thing sticks out. The Giants are a major-league worst 30th with runners in scoring position, hitting .119 (8 for 67). They were 0 for 4 on Monday.
In the eighth, the Giants got a leadoff double off the bat of Brandon Crawford in their best opportunity to catch Arizona, leading 2-0 at that point. But Hunter Pence flew out, with Crawford advancing to third, then scoring on Gregor Blanco’s ground out. But without the tying run aboard, pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval tried to dial up magic, and struck out to end the inning.
Derek Holland was plenty effective, closing the door after allowing two runs in the first, with Paul Goldschmidt’s run-scoring triple as the big blow. Holland ended up going six innings, allowing just two hits while striking out eight. That’s a quality start, and deserving of a better fate.
“It was a pitcher’s duel, but (Godley) obviously lasted longer than I did,” Holland said.
The Giants get a second crack at the Diamondbacks on Tuesday with Tyler Beede making his major league debut after being called up from the minors. Beede replaces Johnny Cueto, who will instead pitch Wednesday afternoon. Arizona will counter with Patrick Corbin, who is 2-0, winning his first two starts.