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Giants lose unlikely pitchers’ duel to Diamondbacks in extras

© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Something has happened to the San Francisco Giants over the past half-week; the team has played consistent, competitive baseball for four-straight games. Despite underwhelming pitching performances in the first two the team’s three games in Arizona this weekend, Saturday featured a somewhat unlikely pitcher’s duel between Shaun Anderson and Merrill Kelly, rookie starters with a six-year age gap.

After a combined 26 runs scored in the first two games of the series, Sunday’s affair saw both offenses at their most muted. The Giants went on to lose 3-2 in the 10th inning, but the outing featured bright pitching performances throughout. Below are four takeaways from Sunday’s matinee:

The starters

When you think of a rookie, you imagine someone in their 20s. But in baseball, weird things seem to happen about as often as predictable things, as was the case today, when 30-year-old Merrill Kelly and 24-year-old Shaun Anderson had themselves a pitcher’s duel (carried on faithfully with the help of their respective bullpens).

Kelly’s performance this season before tonight was firmly in the average category. By no means a slight to Kelly, but his stuff has been, overall, OK. He spent his last four seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), where he boasted a 3.86 ERA before being signed by the Diamondbacks this summer.

He entered tonight with a 7-7 record, 3.99 ERA, 1.273 WHIP and 7.0 K/9 rate with a low-90s fastball used 48 percent of the time, roughly 89-mph cutter used 18 percent of the time, and 85-mph changeup used 14 percent of the time and an 80-mph curveball used 20 percent of the time, with opposing batters hitting .257 off him (.263 for lefties, .252 for righties). Again, pretty average; except, when you take a deeper dive into Kelly’s outings, you see he has seven outings of six-plus innings pitched with three earned runs or less, and his ERA has been ballooned by horrific outliers, bringing his stuff to around average.

Of course, when you deem a guy “average,” he’ll tend to have a career night, which is exactly what Kelly did. Through three innings, Joe Panik’s leadoff double was the Giants’ only hit, and Kelly had struck out five batters. He finished six innings with four hits, two walks and two earned runs allowed with a career-high nine strikeouts, tied for his second-highest mark in 15 starts this season.

Shaun Anderson kept pace with Kelly for six innings, before an unfortunate seventh. Anderson came in to the game with  4.08 ERA, and has had a season punctuated by glimpses of brilliance, but an inability to carry that brilliance for the full duration of his outings.

Such was the case tonight, in an appearance during which but he walked one batter and allowed five hits, with two earned runs. But it was that fifth hit (one more than Kelly), which ended his night in the seventh. That fifth hit was a lucky ground rule double which ended his night, and would have scored a run if not for a high bounce over the fence. That would-be run came from fluke single from Eduardo Escobar, which preceded the double.

Crawford’s highs and lows

That fluke single could have been argued as an error on Brandon Crawford, but Escobar was given the single. It was a hard play for Crawford to make, but one that you would hope, if not expect from Gold Glove shortstop would make. Anderson may have been given another batter (for better or for worse) after allowing the ensuing double if not for this play:

Even isolating the play above, it’s difficult to say the baserunner was Crawford’s fault. Considering the play he made earlier the game, he earned a bit of slack. When David Peralta hit a shot up the middle, it skipped skyward off Anderson’s boot. If Crawford had decided to glove the ball, which no doubt was full of backspin, Peralta was likely to reach first safely. Instead, Crawford snatched the ball barehanded and threw a dart to first:

The bullpen, featuring a Reyes Moronta special

When Anderson was pulled in the seventh, Reyes Moronta came in for a classic, nervy, but stunning performance typified by the term, “The Reyes Moronta Experience,” coined by Bay Area News Group reporter Kerry Crowley.

Two pitches into his night, with runners on second and third, Moronta sent a ball sailing past Stephen Vogt, only to receive the most fortuitous of caroms off the backstop. The ball returned to Vogt’s grasp like a pitchback machine returns the ball to a kid playing in the backyard, and Vogt tagged out Escobar at the plate with ease, and a tinge of hilarity.

The out saved Anderson from a loss, as Moronta secured a groundout and fantastic strikeout on promising Diamondbacks prospect Domingo Leyba, who struck out as a pinch-hitter on a nasty 3-2 slider, which had Moronta and Anderson fired up.

Moronta then sat down the side in the eighth inning with a triplet of fly outs before Sam Dyson came in for the ninth. Dyson secured a couple groundouts and a strikeout, leaving Mark Melancon on duty for the 10th inning. Things unraveled at that point, beginning with a leadoff single to Christian Walker, followed, after a groundout, by a walk. A wild pitch set up an intentional walk, giving Timothy Locastro a bases-loaded chance to end the game, which he did on a single to left field.

Melancon’s performance was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect series from the bullpen, which boasted a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings of work (the only earned run, and only run allowed at all, coming from Melancon).

The Dickerson party comes to an end, Pillar’s continues

Alex Dickerson’s confounding hot streak came to an end Sunday, but Kevin Pillar’s did not. Since saying he was open to a trade away from the Giants on June 12, Pillar is batting .395 with 4 home runs, 10 RBI and his defense remains as reliable as ever. His value is as high as it has ever been this season if the Giants do intend on trading him:


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