Rookie right-hander Tyler Beede (L, 1-3, 6.45 ERA) had one of his stronger outings of 2019 and managed to keep San Francisco in the game Thursday, pitching through the fifth inning against Arizona for just the fourth time in nine outings this season.
But an uneducated bystander could have been forgiven for thinking the Giants were facing not a rookie making his major league debut in Diamondbacks righty Alex Young (W, 1-0, 1.80 ERA), but an established ace, given how they fared against him in San Francisco’s 5-1 defeat at Oracle Park.
Young’s Triple-A numbers are nothing to write home about—6.09 ERA with a 1.683 WHIP in 54-2/3 innings—yet he allowed just one run on three hits over five innings, striking out five and holding the Giants hitless until Brandon Belt led off the fourth with a solo jack (10) to the right-center field bleachers. So though Beede limited the D-Backs to just two runs on four hits, it wasn’t enough.
Manager Bruce Bochy didn’t beat around the bush regarding his club’s failure to produce offense, he said:
“We gotta swing the bat, I mean three hits, very little action out there—it’s hard to win ball game like that.”
Beede has struggled with walks for most of his young career, and the series opener with Arizona was no exception. In 2019 he’s averaging seven walks per nine innings and Thursday he allowed three over 5-1/3 innings, the first of which came with one out in the fourth to Ketel Marte.
The Diamondbacks followed Marte’s free pass with the two sharpest hit balls of the contest. David Peralta scorched a grounder up the middle with an exit velocity of 109.3-mph that deflected off of Brandon Crawford and into centerfield for a double, moving Marte to third. Then Christian Walker grounded out on a 108.4-mph bullet to Donovan Solano at second to score Marte.
But the 26-year-old first-round pick said he made a point of focusing on getting and staying ahead in the count against batters this outing. Beede said:
“This is the best I’ve attacked hitters percentage-wise since I’ve been up here and it was just something that I was able to figure out and focus on. It allows me to, to attack the zone better I have a better mentality going after guys. And so it’ll be something I continue to work on and focus on going forward.”
Beede said he also made an adjustment after his last bullpen session when someone in the Giants analytics department pointed out that batters were feasting on his fastballs in the bottom third of the zone, posting a whopping .490 batting average on such pitches, while hitting under .200 on fastballs up in the zone. As such he said he changed his approach, and focused on elevating his fastballs. He said:
“It just gives me more conviction to know that I can ride the ball up in the zone. I think in previous outings I’ve been really focused on driving the ball down in the zone and that just that just doesn’t play for me and it gets me into a situation where I start to pull balls off the plate. So I think just understanding what my strengths are [helps], and they are doing a good job of making me feel more convicted in that. Those guys brought that to my attention and that was huge.”
Beede would allow just one more run on a solo homer from Nick Ahmed (7) to lead off the fifth Thursday. Ultimately he made it into the sixth before allowing a double and a walk with one out, prompting Bochy to hook him for Reyes Moronta.
Bochy said he was pleased with Beede’s performance:
“He threw more strikes, he looked more in control and he probably could have kept going but I had Reyes fresh and [runners on] first and second there. [Moronta] did a good job, but you know Beede, I thought he looked much better as far as commanding the strike zone and staying in his delivery and hitting his spots a lot better tonight.”
But the Giants offense was simply moribund. They went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, stranded five runners, and were held hitless by the Arizona bullpen for the final four innings of the ballgame.
Bochy defended his hitters despite their lethargic performance:
“Energy comes from base hits, when you don’t hit you always look flat. They were trying, too, trust me, trying to get things going. But the right-handers had a tough time tonight in the heart of the order. …We have a meeting before every series so we felt good tonight going into the game but their guy just kept us off balance.”
This offensive performance wasn’t an exception, though, it’s been the rule. As a team they came into Thursday’s contest hitting .244 with runners in scoring position (RISP) and over the last five games they’ve stranded 29 runners and gone 4-for-32 with RISP, while scoring just 10 runs over that span.
The Diamondbacks widened the gap against the Giants bullpen. Carson Kelly (9) took Trevor Gott deep in the seventh for a pair of runs after Gott walked Ahmed to open the frame. It’s just the third home run Gott has allowed in 33 innings in 2019.
Shaun Anderson (2-2, 3.94 ERA) will take the mound Friday against right-hander Merrill Kelly (7-7, 3.93 ERA) for the Giants in game two of four against the Diamondbacks. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
Steven Duggar, placed on the 10-day injured list June 21 with a lower back strain, has begun baseball activities and according to Bochy he was scheduled to run the bases and swing the bat ahead of Thursday’s contest. If all goes well, Bochy said Duggar will begin a rehab assignment Saturday in Sacramento to last “a few games.”