Baseball evaluators look for swings in judging pitchers, assessing how well batters see and react to pitchers’ offerings.
So when Josh Fuentes, one knee bent to the ground after swinging through strike three, viciously takes a cut at the dirt in front of home plate, that probably means Anthony DeSclafani’s stuff is working.
DeSclafani skillfully danced his way out of his only jam, and the Giants’ offense brought their power and brains to sweep the Rockies with a 4-0 win Sunday at Oracle Park in front of 6,560 happy and masked fans.
Behind surprisingly effective starting pitching, San Francisco improved to 6-3 on the short season and has won four straight and five of six. The competition will get stiffer Monday, when the Giants open a three-game set at home with the hot-hitting Reds.
Josh Fuentes got mad after this DeSclafani breaking ball 😡 pic.twitter.com/Y7dxIw9kQ7
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 11, 2021
It will be on Aaron Sanchez to continue an impressive streak for the rotation: There have been nine starts, and in each one the Giants pitcher has gone at least five innings and allowed three runs or fewer. DeSclafani was far better than that, though.
The righty whom the Giants envision as their next Kevin Gausman — a high-octane starter who couldn’t put it all together elsewhere — looked very much like the next Gausman. He went six strong, scoreless innings while scattering six hits and a walk, reaching back for eight strikeouts that he timed nicely.
The biggest came in the sixth, when Trevor Story smacked a double to right center, and Charlie Blackmon followed with an infield single against the shift. After a sacrifice fly, two were in scoring position and the tying run was at the plate.
But DeSclafani got ahead of Fuentes and unleashed a big-time curve to outrage Fuentes enough that he pounded the dirt. With the crowd on its feet, the 30-year-old turned to a full-count, 94-mph fastball that Sam Hilliard fanned on. DeSclafani walked off the field with a fist pump to the loudest round of applause that 6,000-plus can muster.
His curveball was his best pitch on the afternoon, but he got swings and misses on four different offerings — and a lot of them. His 17 whiffs tie Johnny Cueto for the most by a Giants pitcher in an outing this season.
There was a bit of drama after he left, notably Tyler Rogers bailing out Jose Alvarez and inducing a bases-loaded comebacker from Charlie Blackmon. Rogers excelled, Wandy Peralta gave Jake McGee a day off with a clean ninth, and the Giants’ bats (and legs) did enough.
San Francisco will want to out-homer opponents and has designs on being an excellent baserunning team, even if that does not always translate to stolen bases.
It translated in the first, when Brandon Belt walked and then, upon taking his lead, just kept walking toward second base. He was not being held on by Colorado, so he never stopped taking his lead and then took off while German Marquez was on the rubber. It was his first steal since Aug. 27, 2019, and a batter later, Evan Longoria’s single drove him in.
Small ball at work! And yet, the Giants will more thrive off the long ball. Alex Dickerson powered a first-inning dinger, and Belt added his own in the sixth. After a first week of struggles by lefty batters, there are signs of life from that pair and Tommy La Stella (who had two hits Saturday) and Mike Yastrzemski (who doubled Sunday).
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) April 11, 2021
While those bats are coming around, LaMonte Wade Jr.’s lefty bat looked fresh. The outfielder was recalled before the game, the corresponding move to Reyes Moronta going on the injured list, and he played a capable center field while getting on base three times (single, double, walk). The Giants like his plate discipline, and in his debut with the team he showed it off.
DeSclafani’s arm, Belt’s legs and Wade’s eye. Whatever the body part, it’s all working for the Giants.