Giants set franchise mark for strikeouts in four-game sweep

Giants set franchise mark for strikeouts in four-game sweep

PHILADELPHIA — How do you sum up the four games the Giants just played at Citizens Bank Park? Bruce Bochy did it in three words.

“Lot of strikeouts,” he said, shaking his head. 

Bochy muttered the phrase twice more as he sat in his office and tried to digest a four-game sweep at the hands of the up-and-coming Phillies. He did not know his lineup had set a franchise record. He only knew that what he had seen could be summed up cleanly: “Lot of strikeouts.”

The final total, including two in the ninth inning of a 6-3 loss, was 55 strikeouts over four games. That didn’t just break the previous franchise record for whiffs in a four-game series, it absolutely shattered it. The 2003 team struck out 44 times in a four-game series against the Diamondbacks, but they faced Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and a young Brandon Webb during that trip. 

No offense to the Phillies group, but they do not have a couple of Hall of Famer caliber pitchers and a three-time All-Star in their current rotation. The Giants struck out 55 times against Zach Eflin, Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and a hard-throwing bullpen. It’s a group not particularly known for piling up strikeouts. The Phillies entered below-average as far as National League staffs go, but they got 17 percent of their season total in strikeouts over just four games. 

The Giants have seen a lot of good pitching through six weeks, but Bochy said there was something different about the Phillies. The right-handers all had firm fastballs and came right at Giants hitters. They were aggressive, and the Giants swung and missed through one 95 mph fastball after another. When that wasn’t their downfall, it was good breaking balls. 

“They’re all big arms, they all hit 95-plus and have a good secondary pitch,” Bochy said. “(Velasquez) had a good curve today to go with a fastball, and then he was spotting the fastball well. You look at this club and they’ve been playing good. When you’re playing good, you probably have pretty good starting pitching, along with a good bullpen. They’re a good team.”

Whatever this series was, the Giants had better figure out their issues on the flight to Pittsburgh. Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Ivan Nova are waiting. None have a shiny ERA, but they have the same profile as the pitchers who dominated the Giants this week. Right-handed, good fastballs, a secondary pitch to turn to. For four games in Philadelphia, that profile meant just one thing. 

“Lot of strikeouts.”

Crawford does the heavy lifting, and the little things, in Giants win

Crawford does the heavy lifting, and the little things, in Giants win

SAN FRANCISCO — Quietly, Brandon Crawford spent much of his day saving teammates.

When Nick Hundley’s throw down to second in the fifth inning drifted, Crawford deftly moved a few feet off the bag, grabbed the ball and placed a nifty tag down on Manuel Margot to erase a runner in scoring position. In the seventh, Pablo Sandoval had trouble finding a two-out pop-up into the midday sun. Crawford, his glove shielding his eyes, kept creeping and creeping until he was standing in Sandoval’s place at third, and he gloved the ball to end the inning. An inning later, Tony Watson got what looked like a double-play ball back to the mound, but his throw to second was low. Crawford did well to scoop it, getting the lead runner out on a force play. 

Then there were the contributions that were impossible to miss. 

Crawford broke an 0-for-18 mini-skid with a scorched triple off the wall in the fourth inning. That brought Andrew McCutchen home with the game-tying run. Two innings later, the likely All-Star starter went the opposite way for a two-run double that would hold up in a 5-3 win over San Diego. 

On many days, Crawford might weigh the offensive and defensive contributions equally. But when you’re riding a mini slump … 

“I always want to make plays out there for sure, but when you’re 0-for…I don’t even know, I’m not going to lie, the triple and doubles felt better today,” he said, smiling. 

They were sorely needed, too. The Giants were caught off-guard when Jordan Lyles was a late scratch with elbow tightness, and they struggled against hard-throwing lefty Matt Strahm until Crawford broke through. He said he had seen signs in recent days that his swing from May and early June was returning.

“You just know him. You know it’s a matter of time,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “What a great game, and we needed it. We needed someone to come through. This guy was throwing well…when you’re in a game like this you need someone to deliver and Craw did it.”

The contributions backed Andrew Suarez, who continues to get better and better and show signs of his maturity on the mound. Suarez discovered early that his slider had abandoned him, so he teamed up with catcher Nick Hundley to go sinker-changeup heavy. That led to three double plays in the first four innings. 

Crawford was in the middle of those, and so much that went right on this day. But he’s a bit of a perfectionist, and the ending of this one stuck with him. Crawford was one of three Giants who couldn’t get under a high pop-up to center in the ninth that dropped for a sun-aided double. His throwing error on a tough roller led to some anxiety as the Padres tried to come back. 

“It’s frustrating, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I’ve always said I try to not take at-bats to defense of defense to at-bats. I try to separate things. Obviously I want to go 3-for-3 any day but I wanted to make those plays.”

They were minor blips on a day that otherwise showed all the reasons why Crawford very likely will be starting for the National League All-Star team next month, and they won’t cost him any sleep. Not during a week when his wife gave birth to the couple’s fourth child, a second Crawford son. 

“A little tiring for a couple of days,” Crawford said of his week, “But they’re still in Arizona, so I’m getting good sleep right now.”

Crawford's big day paves the way for Giants in win vs Padres

Crawford's big day paves the way for Giants in win vs Padres

SAN FRANCISCO — Padres starter Jordan Lyles was a late scratch Saturday because he felt the dreaded forearm tightness while warming up. The change happened so late that nobody even knew about the injury until lefty reliever Matt Sarah started warming up in the top of the first inning.

The Giants faced a steady stream of relievers, but that didn’t mess with Brandon Crawford. In his third game back from paternity leave, Crawford drove in the first three Giants runs in a 5-3 win over the Padres. The Giants have taken two of three in this series and four of six on the homestand.

--- Crawford sat in the high .330s with his batting average on the last road trip, but he was hitless in 18 at-bats when he strolled to the plate in the fourth. He smoked a triple off the wall, scoring Andrew McCutchen. The triple was Crawford’s second of the season. He was stranded on third. Crawford’s two-run double in the sixth put the Giants on top for good. 

--- Andrew Suarez did a nice job before being lifted with two on and two outs in the sixth. He scattered eight hits, getting out of trouble by inducing three double plays in the first four innings. Suarez was at just 76 pitches when Bruce Bochy came out and called for Reyes Moronta, who immediately gave up a rocket to center field. Gorkys Hernandez was there, making a running catch to end the inning. 

--- Reyes Moronta threw a 99 mph fastball to A.J. Ellis in the seventh inning that was the fastest pitch by a Giant this season. Moronta, of course, held the previous high, at 98.9 mph. 

--- In his return to the big leagues, Austin Slater got robbed of a double, but still got a sacrifice fly. He became the first Giants outfielder to drive in a run as a pinch-hitter this season. Really. 

--- File this one away for Sunday: Phil Maton came up-and-in on Andrew McCutchen and then hit him with the next pitch. McCutchen popped up with his arms outstretched, but then calmly took his base.