By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–You’re like a lot of baseball folks, you want to decipher whether the Giants are any good or not.
Here’s some help with that.
After wiping out the Mariners 10-1 on Wednesday night at smoke-shrouded Oracle Park, the Giants have won 15 of 20, after an 8-16 start had them as indistinguished and anonymous as most thought they would be.
Well, it turns out the Giants have a winning identity that centers around consistently smashing baseballs. They’re not just good at it, they’re borderline elite. The Giants are averaging better than five runs a game (6th best in MLB) and they’re 22-11 in games they score four runs or more.
And these aren’t your Uncle Bruce Bochy’s Giants by any stretch either, these Giants hack: in 44 games, they’ve amassed 81 doubles (5th), 12 triples (1st) and 60 home runs (tied for 9th). In an empty, quiet park, the crack of the bat tells the tale. You can hear it, just like you see the water cannons and hear the foghorn when the home runs fly out.
Prime example from Wednesday’s blowout: the game’s scoreless in the third, and Mike Yastrzemski is batting with two runners on, intent to adding to his impressive slash line (.294/.402/.563). Manager Gabe Kapler sets the scene for the 1-2 pitch from Seattle starter Nick Margevicius with baserunners Brandon Crawford on second and Joey Bart on third.
“It’s just a comfort level hitting with two strikes,” Kapler said. “Interestingly we’ve been talking quite a bit about this, and so that’s caused us to dive into other great hitters, and most are comfortable hitting with two strikes. If they don’t get a pitch they’re comfortable with in the first couple pitches of the at-bat, (they’re) comfortable going deep, fouling off a pitch or two until they get a pitch to drive. In that particular at-bat against Margevicius, got to the fastball down and in, had seen several fastballs, and taken two good swings on the fastball, got to the fastball and put a good swing on it, and was right on it. Obviously a big three-run homer for us.”
“He’s been pretty consistent with his approach throughout the season. He’s comfortable going deep into counts sometimes he’s going to strike out looking. That’s okay. The result over the course of time will be walks and damage. And we’re definitely willing to make (that) tradeoff from time to time for a strikeout.”
Yastrzemski’s homer marked the eighth time he’s hit one this season in a two-strike count. And you caught Kapler’s reference to great hitters. Is Yastrzemski in that group? At age 30, with fewer than two years of major league experience under his belt, time will tell. But with no All-Star game to experience this year, Yaz is an All-Star, and he’s doing things great hitters do.
The Giants quickly put this one out of reach with a run in the fourth, and three spots in the fifth and sixth. It would be the third time the Giants have scored 10 or more in 23 home games this season.
Tyler Anderson picked up the win, after going 1-2 in his previous three starts, all against the Diamondbacks, with the former Rockies starter getting the complete game in the first start but failing to get out of the fifth inning in either of the last two. This time he pitched six, scoreless innings allowing just three hits.
“I knew it’d be pretty good to face another team and kind of refresh him a little bit,” catcher Bart said of Anderson. “I was glad that he did a great job tonight and went six innings for us.”
The ominous, dark, smoke-filled skies that essentially wiped out daytime in the Bay Area didn’t make for an unhealthy evening at the ballpark. But a superstitious manager Scott Servais probably took note of the twilight orange skies turning pitch black around the third inning when the Giants turned hitterish.
“Everything was orange,” Servais noted. “And when you’re playing the Giants and the sky is orange, it’s not a great feeling. And it certainly didn’t work out well tonight.”
The Giants travel to San Diego for the opener of a four-game set on Thursday with one of the NL’s hottest clubs in the Padres. Only 16 games remain, but only the next six are outside the Bay Area. After a two-game set in Seattle, the Giants finish with three games in Oakland followed by the final seven at Oracle Park.
MORE YAZ: He might fallen off the NL MVP pace being set by Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mookie Betts, but Mike Yastrzemski is back on his business in the last week. Yaz has hit safely in seven of his last eight games, building his numbers to 24 extra-base hits (2nd in the NL), 26 walks and 31 RBI, reflecting his blend of pop and patience. His eight home runs in two strikes counts leads all MLB hitters.
In his first 151 games at the big league level as a Giant, Yastrzemski is second only to Orlando Cepeda in amassing 70 extra base hits. Cepeda achieved the feat in 150 games. Also, Yaz has 30 home runs in that same period, equaling Bobby Thompson and Dave Kingman for tops in Giants history.