Thursday’s decision that made Giants fans raise their pitchforks toward Gabe Kapler “really wasn’t a decision,” Kapler said.
Tyler Anderson, whose knee surgery cut his season off after five starts last year, was cruising. Through five innings, the lefty had thrown 66 pitches (42 strikes) and allowed just a pair of hits and walks against the team with whom he had spent his only four major league seasons.
He was locating his low-90s fastball, his low-80s changeup had drawn seven whiffs, his cutter was missing bats, too. But the most he had thrown this year was 49 pitches, which came July 29. Sunday he had thrown two innings and 26 pitches in relief.
No one wanted Anderson to be out there for the sixth inning more than Anderson. And yet.
“There’s been a lot of injuries going around baseball,” Anderson said, accurately, over Zoom. “I think that that’s the right move there.”
The Giants and Anderson are thinking long term over short term. The short term did not work out, Wandy Peralta allowing a home run to Trevor Story to break the scoreless tie, and then Rico Garcia and Caleb Baragar getting knocked around in the seventh in a 6-4 loss to close an unsuccessful Coors Field series. But the Giants would trade a game for a healthy and effective Anderson.
The 30-year-old is clearly comfortable in Denver, Kapler complimenting the “fiery” nature of a pitcher who starred in 2016 before injuries and ineffectiveness struck, leading to the Giants claiming him this offseason. He looked like his old self, hitch and all, and openly has said he is most comfortable in the rotation.
Kapler has responded that he would like Anderson’s play to convince him.
“I think I definitely started to make a little bit of case for myself,” Anderson said after shutting out a lineup that includes David Dahl, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado.
“I think he’s definitely put himself squarely in the conversation to make a start the next time through,” Kapler said.
The spot gets easier to grab while Drew Smyly is out. When Smyly returns the decisions will get curious, particularly if Jeff Samardzija is still struggling.
The sample size is only 12 1/3 innings, but Anderson lowered his ERA to 2.19. He did not know the precise pitch count the Giants had in mind — Kapler pinpointed it at 60-65.
“It was an excellent performance by TA. He did everything we could have possibly asked of him,” Kapler said.
And when a competitive pitcher agrees that he should not have been pushed further, a loss gets a bit easier to stomach.
“I felt good, but I’d be the first person to always go out there and fight for more innings, but to me that felt like it was the right time,” Anderson said.
Kapler announced the rotation that will face the Dodgers: Samardzija, Johnny Cueto and Kevin Gausman. Samardzija, who has struggled with a blister, “looks good,” Kapler said. “We’re good to go.”
Donovan Solano went 3-for-4 and now has an impossible .465/.478/.674 slashline. Mike Yastrzemski, who has not been quite as hot this month, was out of the lineup but had a pinch-hit RBI single.