In loss to Phillies, Giants continue to pile up the strikeouts

In loss to Phillies, Giants continue to pile up the strikeouts

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. 

Down on the Farm: Ray Black and his 100-mph heater are back


Down on the Farm: Ray Black and his 100-mph heater are back

Ray Black nearly retired before this season. Ray Black was designated for assignment to help make room for names like Aaron Hill, Chris Marrero and Neil Ramirez just last year. Ray Black can also throw a fastball 104 mph. 

With injuries and anybody's guess where the ball is going, Black's career hasn't paved a fast path to the big leagues for someone with a rocket right arm. But now at 27 years old -- he'll be 28 in June -- Black is back and maybe better than ever. 

Take a look at how Black was blowing up the radar gun for the River Cats Thursday night in Sacramento.

Black faced four batters Thursday night. All four outs came from strikeouts and only one batter reached base as the lone hit he allowed.

After only pitching 2.1 innings last season due to elbow surgery, Black began the season in Double-A Richmond this year. His start to the season was nothing short of dominant.

Before being promoted to Triple-A, Black appeared in 10 games for the Flying Squirrels. Over 10 innings, he allowed just two hits and one earned run. Batters had no chance in Double-A against Black as he finished with 20 strikeouts, and what was even more encouraging, he only walked four.

Once he arrived in Sacrameto, things didn't start as smooth out of the bullpen. Black's first  two appearances don't look great in the box score as he allowed five earned runs over 2.1 innings and three walks. But, all five of those runs came off two home runs and he still struck out five. 

Since Black's first two bullpen appearances for the River Cats, he's been nearly unhittable. Including Thursday night, Black has allowed only one hit in 4.1 innings with no runs, one walk and nine strikeouts. 

Healthy and back on the mound, Black has 34 strikeouts to eight walks in 16.2 innings between two levels this season. It has been a long road, but the Giants could have quite the treasure at the end of this map. 

POLL: Giants Memorable Moments -- Belt's 18th inning HR against Nats vs Clark's HR in first career AB


POLL: Giants Memorable Moments -- Belt's 18th inning HR against Nats vs Clark's HR in first career AB

PROGRAMMING NOTE: NBC Sports Bay Area is looking back at the Giants' 60 Memorable Moments since the franchise moved from New York to San Francisco. Tune into Pregame Live at 10am to see the next two moments you can vote on! Then, after the Giants and Cubs conclude on Saturday, tune into Postgame Live to see which moment will move on to the next round! Make your vote count!

1. Brandon Belt's 18th inning homer against the Nationals in 2014 NLDS (Five-time winner -- Defeated Ed Halicki's no-hitter in 1975)

(From Alex Pavlovic)
By the end of an 18-inning win over the Nationals in Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS, the Giants were drained in every way. It would be understandable if some of them have few solid memories of the six-hour, 23-minute marathon game, but Brandon Belt will never forget the details. His solo shot off Tanner Roark in the top of the 18th was the difference in a 2-1 win. Four years later, the moment is still fresh in his mind, from his preparation for the at-bat to the emphatic bat drop: 

(From Brandon Belt)
"I remember chugging a Red Bull. It was late into the night and that's tough, it's mentally draining and physically draining to be in a game like that, where you're giving everything you've got to win a baseball game. I was drained at that moment to say the least. I remember chugging a Red Bull and going out there and thinking, 'I'm just going to try and get on base and see what happens.' I remember just not trying to do too much and he gave me a pitch that I could handle, that was kind of in my happy zone. It felt like one of the first home runs I ever hit. It's like you're in Little League and you hit a home run and it's like you're in a dream and it's not real life -- it was kind of the same way. 

"We had just played so long and it was such a big moment in the game, and the fact that I was able to come through and help us win with such a big hit, it was surreal to me. I felt like I was floating around the bases. I think (the bat drop) was relief, more than anything. When I do that I don't really know I do it. It was really just relief. The way the game was going, we had to assume it was over after that. The bullpen had done so well and everyone was so tired. It was going to be tough for (the Nationals) to come back after that.

"We were just ready to go home. We had a long flight after that. We just put so much effort into it and all the guys did so great. Pablo came up with a big hit in the ninth inning and Petit throwing (six shutout) innings. For me, that was the pivotal game of that entire playoffs. We were playing the best team in the NL and to be able to come home up 2-0 was huge."


2. Will Clark's home run off Nolan Ryan in first-career at-bat