By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–Could the power outage in the Giants’ clubhouse at Oracle Park continue for a fifth straight day?
No, and neither could Zach Greinke’s magical touch at Oracle Park.
Greinke has never lost a game at Oracle Park, posting a microscopic ERA in the process, and barely being tested in the majority of his six wins. But these days, the Giants have a brand new approach, and Greinke found out first hand that things might be different going forward. And when was Greinke notified of the change? Probably three home runs into the four homer barrage the Giants hit him with, all in the game’s first five innings.
“Three of them might have been home runs still in any situation,” Greinke said of his start, the first time he’d allowed four home runs to the Giants, and the first time he’d allowed any club that many homers since 2019. “They weren’t cheap.”
In 53 innings pitched at Oracle Park, the 218-game winner described as a future Hall of Famer in the Astros’ media notes, had never allowed a home run. In fact, his dominance was the essence of velvet: Greinke averaged little more than six strikeouts in his previous eight starts along McCovey Cove, showing that he was content to let the Giants get themselves out without needing to display a dominant stance.
What’s new is the Giants are swinging harder. Among the few quality home run hitting teams not to feature one, standout slugger, the team’s across-the-board approach is to look for pitches to launch, swing hard, and don’t get discouraged by strikeouts or meager batting averages. Against Greinke, who’s not only unlikely to allow a big fly, but also stingy with teams trying to string together base hits, the approach works. Maybe not everytime, but during a day game in a park where the park needs ideal conditions to surrender big hits, it worked on Saturday.
“We put some really good swings on the ball. All the homers were pretty much no-doubters,” Ruf said. “Although it was a nice day to hit and the ball seemed to be traveling well, those would have been homers in any other day game.”
The Giants’ homer drought–none over the first four games of the homestand–ended with a bang. The four, consecutive games without at least one home run was a first in manager Gabe Kapler’s run of 164 games at the helm.
The Astros, considered MLB’s top-rated offensive club, attempted to keep up the pace. They homered three times, two of those from Aledmys Diaz, and during a stretch of nine half-innings in which runs were scored in eight of them, the teams went back-and-forth, wiping out any leads that one of clubs established. But that pattern broke in the sixth when Brandon Crawford singled home a run with two runners aboard to give the Giants a 7-6 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The only run on the afternoon the Giants would produce without hitting a home run was the difference, and it came after Greinke departed, allowing him to escape with his undefeated record in San Francisco in tact.
Alex Wood, described as the Giants’ stopper with his excellent record in games following a Giants’ loss, was anything but, allowing six hits–two of them home runs–in his abbreviated 68-pitch outing. But often, it’s better to be lucky than good, and Wood benefitted from the Giants’ offensive breakout, and a bullpen effort that saw four relievers following him and allow just one, meaningless base hit. Jake McGee capped that effort with a perfect ninth to earn his 22nd save.
Ironically, the Giants played without newly acquired Kris Bryant from the Cubs, who was flying to San Francisco during the game Saturday. Bryant will be in uniform on Sunday, and will assume a lofty position in a lineup where he will lead the Giants in hits (87), be tied for the lead in home runs (18), and second in doubles (19). To say the Giants lineup will be not only loaded, but versatile, would be understatement. But the objective is to do it on the field, and not on paper, over the season’s final 59 games.
In a final move before the trade deadline the Giants reacquired Tony Watson from the Angels with Sam Selman the key piece headed to Anaheim. Watson has a recent, string of exemplary outings but he also moves into a crowded situation in the Giants’ bullpen. Currently, the Giants have relievers Dominic Leone, Jack McGee, Tyler Rogers, Jarlin Garcia and Jose Alvarez with ERA’s under 3.00. Reliable arms Caleb Baragar and Reyes Moronta could also be the mix as well at some point if they recover from injury.
On Sunday, the Giants have Logan Webb starting in a matchup with Houston’s Luis Garica at 1:05pm.