The Cincinnati Reds Nick Senzel slides into the glove of San Francisco Giants catcher Curt Casali in top of second inning action at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Fri Jun 24, 2022 (AP News photo)
Cincinnati (24-46). 4. 7. 0
San Francisco. (38-32). 2. 6. 2
Friday, June 24, 2022
By Lewis Rubman
SAN FRANCISCO–In the morning of June 17, before the start of the first of a seven game trip that would see them play in Pittsburgh and Atlanta, the Giants were in the third place, at 35-27, four and a half games behind the Dodgers in the race for the National League Western Division title.
When the sun rose this morning, they still were in third but, at 39-31, now trailed Los Angeles by five and a half games. While not a disaster, it was not a good swing through the east for boys from the bay.
When tonight’s festivities had ended and the team had absorbed its 4-2 loss, the Giants’ record was 38-32. The Dodgers beat the Braves tonight in Atlanta, so San Francisco’s now is six and a half games behind the division leaders.
Their opponents in tonight’s contest, the first of a three game weekend series, the Cincinnati Reds, at least afforded fans of the orange and black a bit of schadenfreude; the Rheinlanders came to a Oracle Park at 23-26, trailing the Milwaukee Brewers, leaders of the NL Central, by a whopping 15-1/2 games.
There is, however, at least one bright spot in the sorry picture the Reds present. He is Graham Ashcraft, a 24 year old rookie right handed pitcher who came to town sporting a record of 3-1,3.57 for the woebegone cellar dwellers.
He features, in descending order of frequency, a cut fastball, slider, sinker, and change of his pace. He was Cincinnati’s starting pitcher Friday night. One of the fielders behind him (at least in certain shifts) was recent Giant second baseman, now Reds third sacker, Donovan Solano, making only his eighth appearance since recovering from a hamstring injury that had kept him on the IL almost all season long.
Facing him for the Giants was Alex Cobb, who took the mound at 3-2, 5.62. In his last start, which came five days ago and was his first since coming off the injured list, the Pirates got to him for two runs, both earned and coming from solo homers, on four hits, striking out two.
Although San Francisco lost that game, it was a no decision for the 34 year old right hander. Cobb usually throws two types of fastballs-a two seamer and a four seamer- a curve, and a change of pace. He threw his cutter effectively tonight.
Before the game began, the Giants announced that Zack Littell had been optioned to Sacramento. Replacing him on the active roster was fellow right handed reliever Yúnior Marte, who was recalled from the River Cats.
Cincinnati took an early lead. With one out in the top of the second, Kyle Farmer hit a ground ball to Brandon Crawford, whose throw drew Brandon Bell off the bag at first. It was scored as a hit. Mike Moustakas promptly drove in Farmer with a double to right center, and, after Albert Amora, Jr., struck out, Nick Senzel’s double down the left field line plated Moustakas.
That brought up Aramis García, who sent a soft grounder to Crawford. García beat the throw to first, but Belt´s throw home caught Senzel trying to advance two bases on the play. That ended the inning, with the home team down by two.
Evan Longoria cut Cincinnati’s lead in half in the bottom of the fourth. He did it with a two out blast over the fence, just to the left of the 391 foot sign in center field. It came off an 89 mph slider and was the third baseman’s sixth roundtripper and 13th RBI of the year.
The Reds came roaring back in their next at bat. Senzel started the frame by reaching first on catcher’s interference. After García flew out to center, Jonathan India walked, moving Senzel to second. The two pulled off a double steal while Solano was at the plate.
The ex Giant followed by sending a slow grounder to Crawford, whose errant throw home allowed Senzel to score, upping Cincinnatí´s lead to 3-1 and ending Cobb’s labors for the day. John Brebbia struck out Pham, much to the delight of Joc Pederson’s fans in the crowd, walked Votto and retired Farmer on a line drive to third that ended the inning.
Cobb had lasted four and a third innings and had given up three runs, two of them earned, although better fielding might have prevented one of them. He surrendered five hits. and a walk, striking out three. 55 of his 80 pitches counted as strikes. He would take the loss, making him 3-3, 5.48 for the season.
Jake McGee followed Brebbia to the mound at the start of the sixth. Moustakas greeted him with a resounding double to left and moved up to 90 feet from home on Almora’s ground out to second. Senzel drove him in with a. line single to left on which Ruf wisely decided not to attempt a circus catch. A strikeout and a fly to center later, the frame. had ended but the gap between the teams had widened to three runs, 4-1.
The freshly recalled Yúnior Marte faced the Reds in their half of the seventh and stayed on to repeat the feat in the eighth. He shut the Redlegs out in the ninth but had to face four batters to do that because he hit García with a pitch.
After setting down 10 Giants in a row, Ashcraft began to tire in the bottom of the eighth. Wilmer Flores, pinch hitting for Walton, led off with a single to center and advanced to second. on Curt Casali’s single to left.
The rookie pitcher still managed to start a 1-6-3 double play before yielding a run producing single to Yastrzemski before Ruf just missed driving the ball out of the park with a fly to the Visa sign in right center that Senzel corralled at the fence.
One time Giant Hunter Strickland came in to pitch the ninth for Cicinnati and earn the save, his third in three opportunities. The Giants’ hopes stayed alive when, with two down in the frame, Longoria walked to bring the potential tying run, inj the person. of Crawford to the plate. But the Strickland struck him out to drive the final nail in the coffin for the night.
Ashcraft had given a very impressive performance in his eight full innings of labor. He held San Francisco to two runs, both earned, on six hits, one a four bagger. and no walks. He struck out eight batters, throwing 104 pitches, of which only 34 were balls, in the process. He now boasts a record of 4-1, 3.27).
The series continues Saturday afternoon at 4:15pm PDT. Cincinnati will send southpaw Mike Minor (1-3, 6.97) against the Giants at the right handed hurler Logan Webb (6- 2,3.26).