Rookie Logan Webb (1-2, 6.75 ERA) must have put on the wrong underwear for his fourth major league start, or gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe he ate the wrong thing for breakfast or committed some slight against the baseball gods before he stepped on the mound at Oracle Park Wednesday night for the Giants (70-76).
Whatever it was, it led to his second consecutive disappointing outing, complemented by sloppy defense and limp offense in the Giants 6-3 defeat to the Pirates.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at Oracle Park.
After a smooth first inning, it seemed everything that could go wrong for the 22-year-old, did go wrong. He struggled to locate his changeup and Pirates (64-82) hitters were either walloping his fastballs like they knew when and where they were going to be, or making weak contact that simply found holes.
Meanwhile, Giants bats were hopeless facing Bucs righty Dario Agrazal (W, 5-4, 4.91 ERA). And a three-run rally San Francisco sparked on the heels of Webb’s exit was not enough.
The Giants one hit through the first four innings came when Mike Yastrzemski won a nine-pitch battle to lead off the first with a single and stole second when the Agrazal airmailed a pickoff throw to first into right field. But with a runner in scoring position, Agrazal promptly retired the next three Giants in order on 11 pitches.
In fact, Agrazal retired another nine consecutive Giants after that, too.
Meanwhile, Webb battled himself as much as the Pirates over 4-2/3 innings.
José Osuna opened the second with the first of two leadoff doubles against the Giants right-hander Wednesday, this on an outside fastball after an eight-pitch battle. On the very next pitch, Adam Frazier swatted an inside fastball to left-center to put the Pirates ahead, 1-0. He advanced to second on a throwing error from Yastrzemski.
Webb seemed to settle in after that, coaxing a comebacker for out No. 1. But then things unraveled.
He threw a wild pitch to Kevin Kramer to move Frazier to third and set the stage for an RBI bloop single to shallow right — the kind of earned run that’s up there on the cruelty scale with earned runs on balls that beat the shift.
The previous two hits had exit velocities of 91 and 95-mph, respectively, while Kramer’s came off the bat at 55.8-mph. It just found a hole.
With another run in, Webb threw a second wild pitch, this one to Agrazal before finally getting out of the inning.
Manager Bruce Bochy said Webb still has some work to do to fine-tune his performance, but the talent is there:
“It’s about being consistent with where you’re getting the ball and the kid’s got good stuff he just made some mistakes ”
Webb’s offense gave him almost no time to catch his breath after a 26-pitch stressful first. Agrazal retired three Giants batters in under three minutes on five pitches, forcing the rookie to get right back out on the mound. Nevertheless, he came up with a 1-2-3 inning of his own and he seemed to be back on track.
But Osuna lined a first-pitch 84-mph changeup Webb leaked over the plate to left for his second double to lead off the fourth. The Pirates got Osuna home on a ground out and a sac-fly to put them up, 3-0.
Webb said he was frustrated:
“I just [need to] try not be too perfect with my pitches. I think sometimes when I try to perfect, those are the ones that I tend to leave up. Or I get ahead in the count and then I try to make a perfect pitch and then all of a sudden I’m 2-2 or 3-2 and obviously it gives the hitter a better chance to put it in play or do something with it.”
Things got downright cringeworthy for the Giants in the fifth.
Webb got out No. 1 immediately on a ground out from Agrazal, but then journeyman infielder Corban Joseph, recently selected off waivers from Oakland, watched a grounder from Kevin Newman skip by him at third from just feet away without appearing to make any effort to field it.
Newman then stole second (15) and scored on another ball essentially lobbed into the outfield on weak contact. Colin Moran blooped a single to left, this one off the bat at just 69.8-mph, to put Pittsburgh up 4-0.
Bochy hooked Webb with two outs after he walked Josh Bell, and right-hander Burch Smith quickly dispensed with Osuna on a deep fly ball to left, but the Giants were in a relatively deep hole, given the current state of their offense. Bochy said:
“You’re gonna have nights like this. I mean sure we don’t like them, but [the team is] going hard. We did look flat tonight, there’s no getting around it but you’re always gonna look flat when you don’t do much offensively.”
San Francisco finally made some headway with two hits and three walks in the bottom of the fifth. Kevin Pillar beat out an infield single to open the inning and Brandon Crawford drew a walk to bring up rookie Jaylin Davis.
Davis had been skidding on a 2-for-16 going into the at-bat, but ahead of Wednesday’s contest Bochy said he wasn’t worried about him:
“I’ll just have Willie Mays talk to him about his start.”
Mays went 1-for-26 in his first 32 plate appearances in the big leagues—granted, that first one was a dinger—but even so, it wasn’t the easiest introduction to the Show.
Davis patiently earned a 3-1 count before knocking a 91.6-mph sinker over the plate into right field for his second big league RBI, putting the Giants on the board. Joseph then reached on a fielder’s choice, and Davis was safe at second on an error from Newman at shortstop, scoring Crawford.
Clint Hurdle decided he’d seen enough from his starter and substituted Michael Feliz, who walked pinch-hitter Chris Shaw and later Mauricio Dubon to force home a run before getting out of the inning.
Shaw’s walk was especially of note because he had a 37.1 K% in 2018 and swung at just about anything remotely in the vicinity of the batters-box. But Wednesday he was choosy, laying off the kind of pitches he could not resist last season.
Shaw says his 2018 big league stat line is not representative of who he is as a baseball player, and to be fair, 62 plate appearances is a small sample size. But in Triple-A in 2018 he had a 34.1 K% and a 5.0 BB%, compared with an improved 25.2 K% and 6.5 BB% in Triple-A this year. He said:
“I just think I had a bad year last year, I don’t think that that needs to be what defines me. I’m shedding that reputation based off one year, I’ve been playing a really long time, in the span of just my lifetime, and I feel like this year is more reflective of who I am as a hitter than last year was with all those strikeouts and limited walks.”
Asked if he thinks walks will play a more significant role in his game moving forward, he said:
“I think it’s a byproduct of good at-bats and sticking to a plan. But I don’t want to ever be a passive hitter, I’m more effective, when I’m aggressive. And I think it’s kind of finding that balance between being selectively aggressive and not going up there just trying to be a caveman.”
Shaw said that veteran catcher Stephen Vogt gave him a piece of advice that really resonated and changed his mindset at the plate:
“The way he presented it to me, he was like, ‘What’s your job when you go out there?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know, if I’m pinch-hitting it’s probably to slug and you know, an extra-base hit type situation.’ And he’s like, ‘Wrong. Your job is to take your at-bat.’ And that’s kind of just been my mentality now. If that results in seeing a bunch of pitches and taking a walk, then that’s what the at-bat dictated, but if it’s a situation where I get up, and I get a good pitch to hit, then that’s how it was supposed to go.”
The Giants fifth-inning rally would be snuffed out after just three runs, and that would be all she wrote.
Bochy said he was frustrated by the dry offense and the team’s inability to capitalize more on their sole rally:
“Offensively we didn’t do much…If you take away the fifth, we didn’t do anything, I think we had one runner on base. With three hits it’s tough to win a ball game and you got to take advantage of those innings when you have ’em on the ropes.”
Insult to injury came with the no-longer-leak-proof San Francisco bullpen, which suffered one-run breaches in the sixth — when southpaw Sam Selman allowed a two-out walk and a double— and the eighth — when Nats castoff Kyle Barraclough walked Osuna to lead off, allowed a Frazier single and failed to field a bunt from Elias Díaz. Barraclough clawed his way through the inning, though, striking out the next three Bucs and allowing just the one run.
Felipe Vázquez (S, 27, 1.68 ERA) put San Francisco down quietly in the ninth.
The Giants are likely out of contention for any postseason berth at this point, but even so, they’re playing below their true talent and fans see that.
They hit a season-low in attendance at Oracle Park Monday in the series-opener with 26,826 paid guests. File that one under records you don’t want to beat. But the Giants did beat it. Wednesday they hit a new low with just 26,627 spectators.
San Francisco may be standing before the precipice of a significant rebuilding phase, with new President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi firing eight of the organization’s 12 scouts this week and talking about filling a general manager position that has been empty since about this time last year, not to mention the imminent retirement of their longtime manager signaling an opportunity to inject new blood into the running of this team on a micro-level.
But in the meantime, the Giants need to put a product that is at least marginally compelling on the field for their fanbase, and they did not do that Wednesday.
Jeff Samardzija (10-11, 3.64 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Giants in the series finale with the Pirates Thursday afternoon at Oracle Park. Pittsburgh has yet to announce a starter for the 12:45 p.m. contest.
Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @InsideThePark3r on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.