— Ryan Gorcey (@RyanGorcey) September 12, 2019
ORACLE PARK — On Wednesday, San Francisco Giants started a lineup of four rookies, two holdovers, a former top prospect, a catcher nobody thought would still be on the roster and a center fielder who may or may not be non-tendered this offseason.
This is the team many thought San Francisco would field for much of the year, the team that was lurching harder toward a full rebuild, one that would make intriguing leaps, but suffer the inevitable growing pains.
Such was the case in Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where Logan Webb flashed electric stuff but couldn’t command it, where Jaylin Davis came up big, but where the Giants offense once again predictably sputtered in front of an apathetic home crowd that was the smallest in nearly a decade, having seen 40 losses in 71 home dates this season.
“We did look flat tonight,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “You’re always with a flat when you do much offensively.”
The Giants got just three hits on the night to Pittsburgh’s seven, but only three of the seven hits hit off Webb qualified as “hard-hit” balls.
An RBI single by Adam Frazier opened scoring in the second, and, with Webb struggling to command his slider, he served up a wild pitch to Adam Kramer, which moved Frazier over. The infield played in, and Kramer sent a broken-bat single through the spot rookie Mauricio Dubon would normally have been playing at second. That same slider, though, mystified Kramer in the fourth, as Webb — a 22-year-old projected to be a key cog in the rotation — hit him with a literal back-foot slider for an inning-ending strikeouts, one of his four Ks on the day.
After two stellar outings — one earned run in five innings at Arizona and one earned run in 5 2/3 against San Diego on Aug. 31 — Webb had given up seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings six days ago, but looked to at least be on the right track against the Pirates.
“It’s frustrating, as a competitor,” Webb said. ” … Just a couple missed locations, and when you do that, you tend to give up hits.”
A leadoff double and a sac fly added a run for Pittsburgh in the fourth, and a two-out flare single by Liam Moran in the fifth tacked on yet another run, as Pirates starter Dario Agrazal retired 12 in a row after a Mike Yastrzemski leadoff single to start the game.
Then, after just getting nipped on a slow grounder in the second, center fielder Kevin Pillar led off the fifth with an infield single to third. The Giants would score three runs on that hit and one other — a line-drive single to right by 2-for-16 Davis — plus an error and three walks, including a 3-2 free pass by Chris Shaw — who made it a point to improve his pitch recognition this offseason — to load the bases, and a four-pitch walk by Dubon cut the lead to one.
“Good at-bat, big walk there, same with Dubby,” Bochy said. “It’s not easy when you’re not getting starts, getting in those three or four at-bats, but he looked comfortable up there and I thought he did lay off some tough pitches.”
Brandon Belt then struck out, and Stephen Vogt popped out to end the inning, and the Giants wouldn’t get another hit, or another baserunner.
Twenty-eight-year-old rookie reliever Sam Selman got two quick outs in the sixth, but walked No. 8 hitter Kramer on four pitches, then gave up an RBI double to pinch hitter Cole Tucker to make it 5-3. An error by Kyle Barraclaugh — throwing past a late-covering Dubon at first in the eighth — added another run.
Barraclaugh was one of six relievers who saw action, none of whom were on the Opening Day roster (though not one of the five rookies pitching on the night). In fact, the only reliever left on the active roster from a group that was, at one time, the best in the National League, is Will Smith, and even he is still laid up with back issues. Barraclaugh — a late-season flier — wildly loaded the bases in the eighth after letting in the run, but his stuff was good enough to strike out Melky Cabrera, Newman and Reynolds to end the threat.
Rookie Conner Menez struck out two, retiring the side in order in the ninth — another intriguing sign for the future — in front of 26,627 (with a season ticket base of 26,000). It was the smallest crowd at Oracle Park this season, and the smallest since April 12, 2010 (26,011), also against the Pirates.