PHILADELPHIA — Bruce Bochy spent all offseason and spring saying the Giants would hit more homers this season, and he was right. The new-look lineup has come with a nasty side effect, though.
The Giants’ strikeout rate was up nearly five percent from a year ago entering Tuesday’s game. Aaron Nola did nothing to change that tune. Nola struck out a career-high 12 in seven innings and the bullpen rung up five more. The Giants have three games already with at least 17 strikeouts. They never whiffed more than 15 times last season.
“That’s a little bit of a surprise, as many strikeouts as we’ve had,” Bochy said. “These last two starters have been tough. They both had great stuff and command.”
On Monday, Zach Eflin set his career-high in strikeouts. Nola was on a different level, and a scout in attendance said it was the best stuff he had seen all year, with three “plus-plus” pitches going. The 24-year-old got 26 swinging strikes, the second-most in the majors this season.
“He’s been throwing the ball well and he really did tonight,” Bochy said.
Derek Holland has not thrown all that well this season, and he gave up two early homers on curveballs. The second one was tucked low and away and it almost looked like Jorge Alfaro knew the pitch was coming. Holland went back and looked at film and felt he was tipping his breaking ball, something he has done in the past by inadvertently slowing down his delivery. He made an adjustment and didn’t allow another run, but the Giants made too many mistakes on this night to truly come back.
Austin Jackson bobbled a ball to the wall in the third, allowing Cesar Hernandez to reach third. Alen Hanson couldn’t keep Odubel Herrera’s bouncer up the middle on the infield. On another night, Holland might have escaped that inning. On this night, it was an easy run for the Phillies.
Then there was the mistake that really seemed to get to Bochy. Gregor Blanco singled with two outs in the fifth but was picked off with Andrew McCutchen at the plate. Blanco had nearly been picked off earlier in the at-bat, but replay showed he was just barely back in ahead of the tag. In a two-run game, the misplays added up. The pickoff was the MLB-leading sixth of the year for Giants runners.
“That’s something we will address,” Bochy said. “That’s too many pickoffs.”
It does not sound like the strikeouts have reached that level yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. Every hitter in the lineup struck out at least once, and Jackson whiffed three times.
“A lot of strikeouts tonight,” Bochy said. “That’s unlike us, although we’ve had our moments.”
There have been a lot more of those moments this season than in the past.