SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In a season that will be about the youth, the aged had a nice day Wednesday.
Jeff Samardzija threw a scoreless two innings, Evan Longoria contributed a double that Brandon Crawford scored on, and the shortstop then launched a third-inning home run in the Giants’ 3-3 tie with the Brewers at Scottsdale Stadium.
The Giants had led until the ninth, when Milwaukee scored three off Raffi Vizcaino. Tyler Cyr struck out two to keep a fourth run at third.
The Giants are now 2-2-1 this spring season, which is as meaningless as a boat on Mars. Here are some takeaways:
Apart from a tick or two on the radar gun, Samardzija looked to be in midseason form. As were his postgame quotes.
Asked to describe his relationship with his splitter — which he has picked up and lost over the years, throwing as often as 18.6 percent of the time (in 2012) and 6.1 percent (in 2018) — Samardzija got personal.
“Cheating girlfriend,” said Samardzija, whose splitter struck out Keston Hiura. “Really, really hot cheating girlfriend. It’s an on-and-off relationship me and the splitter have. But we’re on right now. We’re hot and heavy right now. We’re an item and we’re going to continue to be an item.”
He was in good spirits following his two-inning spring debut, in which he allowed a walk and a hit, and that was that. It was another solid day for a Giants starter, following Drew Smyly’s and Kevin Gausman’s leads.
Samardzija touched 90 mph but mostly lived in the upper-80s, which would be concerning if it weren’t Feb. 26.
“Location was great, I’ll get stronger as the spring goes on, but definitely no complaints,” said the 35-year-old, who’s coming off a nice rebound season.
Samardzija, who pitched 181 1/3 innings last year, said he would love to hit the 200 mark this season, though an evolving organizational philosophy — as well as his impending free agency — could complicate that target.
Asked if the Giants see eye to eye on that goal, Samardzija said: “We’ll see. The numbers a lot of times trump other things. But I understand where they’re coming from when it comes to protecting assets. All you can do is be vocal and understand that I want more work, and I’m not shying away from it.”
The most visible change in Brandon Crawford’s at-bats is his bat placement: a bit higher, no longer resting on his shoulder. He’s been working with months with the new hitting minds, and while there’s a lot at work, that’s the most tangible difference.
At least compared with last year, there’s a (very early) change in results thus far in camp, Crawford hammering a third-inning home run to right-center.
Crawford cited his ground ball rate last year — 48.2, according to Fangraphs, up from 43.7 a season before — and while he wouldn’t use the term “launch angle,” he’s trying to get more balls heading north.
“When you hit half the balls on the ground, it’s not going to create much slugging,” said the longtime Giants shortstop, whose job has come under scrutiny without Bruce Bochy around — though Gabe Kapler has made it clear he believes in Crawford.
Crawford also made a bid for the game’s baserunner award, going from first to home on a Longoria double.
“I’ll be looking tomorrow morning,” Crawford said of the award, which hangs in the clubhouse.
Mauricio Dubon’s first action in center field did not yield much — he ventured back for a hard-hit ball that went for a double, though his throw in to second was solid. He was a bit slow to cover second on a ninth-inning pickle, which is a tough ask for a fledgling center field. He will have plenty more time to prove he can stick in the majors as an outfielder. Next time he’ll even have a glove that works.
It was his legs that caught the Giants’ attention Wednesday, though. Dubon, who worked a seventh-inning walk then reached second, took off for third while pitcher Devin Williams was sleeping. Dubon slid in safely on the delayed steal, trying to take the baserunner award from Crawford.
He Gott in trouble
Trevor Gott, who had groin surgery that ended his year last season, looked strong, sitting at 95 mph. But he walked the first two batters he saw, making for a tough start to his spring and the third inning.
Gott bounced back, inducing a double play and line-out, but he’ll be worth watching in camp.