The numbers worth paying attention to on a pitcher’s stat line revealed a bounce-back outing for Giants’ starter Matt Moore on Monday night.
But sometimes, the numbers lie.
That was the case for the 28-year-old left-hander on Monday evening, as Moore tossed seven innings of six-hit ball while giving up just two earned runs, issuing just one walk, and striking out five Cleveland Indians.
Sure, Moore gave up four runs total, but there’s a reason a pitcher’s earned run average is a valued statistic. It’s not a pitcher’s fault when the defense behind him makes errors, unless of course, it’s the pitcher himself making an error.
In the fifth inning of Monday’s game, though, that’s exactly what happened. Moore flipped what should have been an inning-ending groundout toward first baseman Jae-gyun Hwang, only to watch the ball sail over Hwang’s head and nestle up against the railing in foul territory. Two runs scored in the inning, and Moore admitted afterward he should have tossed the ball overhand, but said the speed of Indians’ leadoff hitter Bradley Zimmer forced him to make a split-second decision. It didn’t end well.
“Knowing that he’s fast and that’s not a play that I normally make in that manner, but I probably should have ran it over and threw it underhand,” Moore said. “I think I just kind of stayed still and threw it underhand so yeah, normally I just throw it overhand over there and get the out.”
Up until that point in the game, a third inning mistake out over the heart of the plate to Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes was the lone blemish on Moore’s ledger, as Gomes launched his sixth home run of the season on a fastball Moore simply tried to blow past him on the first pitch of the inning.
By the fifth, though, that pitch was in the back of Moore’s mind, as the Giants’ offense had armed him with a 3-1 advantage. Then suddenly, Moore’s night came crashing down.
“It’s a shame what happened there,” Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy said. “He (Moore) was 15 feet from first base and just held onto it too long. That’s the difference in the game. He had to throw more pitches after that too, but it was encouraging to see how he threw the ball.”
Are there moral victories in professional sports? You can be the judge of that. But when a team is 29.5 games out of first place, it’s clearly hard enough for players to earn victories on the field.
That’s been the case for Moore this season, who dropped to 3-10 with the loss and actually managed to lower his earned run average from 6.04 to 5.81 over his seven-inning stint. Moore entered Monday’s game with the highest ERA in the National League, and even after pitching reasonably well, that fact won’t change.
He knows he hasn’t lived up to expectations this season, but he also knows there’s potential to find himself in the second half. After taking 10 days off in between starts thank to an All-Star break that allowed the Giants to reset their rotation, Moore returned to the mound at AT&T Park with the type of command he’s been searching for.
“I think I had probably my better changeup for the season tonight,” Moore said. “I thought I had a pretty good curveball and when those pitches are acting like that, I think it just adds to my fastball.”
For a Giants’ team that dropped 24 games below .500 with a series-opening loss against the Indians, nothing has gone according to plan. And for Moore, the same can be said. Even when it seems like a victory or a breakthrough is within reach, the Greek god of defeat comes to slap the Giants’ hand away.
In most seasons, the type of loss the Giants suffered on Monday would have the potential to sting for weeks. A home game in the heart of the summer in which a pitcher tossed a quality start? That’s a game San Francisco needs to pull out.
“It’s been a tough go,” Bochy said. “We get home. We want to get off to a good start and win the ballgame and to lose like that, sure, it’s always tough to lose and you hate shooting yourself in the foot, which we did.”
But 2017 isn’t most seasons, not for Moore, and certainly not for the Giants. This is the type of year in which the team and the player are forced to hang onto the beam of positive light that may or may not be waiting at the end of the tunnel. At this point, the Giants’ fate is sealed. So instead of dwelling on costly mistakes and wondering what could have been, the Giants will try to get right, and Moore will try to build off of the momentum he did create.
“I’ve had trouble getting deep into games, going over 100 pitches,” Moore said. “Just the next four days, it’s fresh in your mind so kind of just replaying it and going through just envisioning it happening again and kind of reliving those moments, but it’s something to build on because I felt like I was throwing the ball where I wanted to, I felt like I was in control of the game for all of it up to that error on Zim (Zimmer). But it still sucks. But in the end, it’s something that’s headed in the right direction.”