ORACLE PARK — Tyler Beede — the Giants’ No. 2 prospect as recently as 2017 — had been uneven, to say the least, over his first eight starts of 2019. By turns, he’d been sparkling and frustrating. He’d had two quality starts and four starts where he couldn’t get past the fifth inning.
Over his first five starts, Beede posted a 9.00 ERA, but two starts ago, seemed to have turned a corner, giving up just one run in six innings and striking out seven. Then he gave up four runs in four innings and walked three his next time out against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While San Francisco may be scuffling through the first year of what’s likely to be a three-year rebuild, it does afford them time and space to let youngsters like Beede find his footing. Though Beede came away the loser as the Giants managed just three hits in Thursday’s 5-1 loss to Arizona, he did take an encouraging step forward.
“This is part of his growth as a Major League pitcher,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You’d like to get him a win … get something on the board. Our margin of error is so small that we just don’t score a lot of runs. One little mistake seems like it cost us.”
Earlier this week, after his bullpen session, Beede got a set of numbers from the Giants’ big brains in the stats department: Opposing hitters were batting below .200 on his fastballs up in the zone, and .490 in the lower third.
“It gives me more conviction that I can ride the ball up in the zone,” Beede said. “I think in previous outings, I’ve been focused on driving the ball down in the zone, and that just doesn’t play for me. It gets me into a situation where I start to pull balls off the plate. Understanding what my strengths are, they were doing a good job of making me feel more convicted in that.”
So, in Thursday’s start, he did what conventional wisdom says not to: He elevated.
Beede looked more like the one-time first-round draft pick than a top prospect struggling to make the leap to the big leagues, allowing two runs (both earned) in 5 1/3 innings, showing easy mid-90s velocity and also savvy pitchability, getting a grounder up the middle for a double play in the second — saving his own anatomy in the process — and then fielding his position on a bunt to the left side to end the frame.
Beede kept executing pitches, fanning two in the third, and he even executed on a one-out, 3-2, 95-mph fastball on the black to Ketel Marte in the fourth. That pitch, though, was called ball four, much to Bochy’s chagrin. The next batter — David Peralta — sent a hot shot up the middle, ricochetting off of the glove of a shifted, sliding Brandon Crawford, playing behind the bag at second. It went for a double as the ball skittered into shallow left. One groundout later, Marte scored. It was the first of two walks that would score on the day.
“We’ve had a tough time getting around that,” Bochy said of walks. “That’s a tough walk. That pitch could have gone either way. They got the call on that.”
Brandon Belt sent the second pitch he saw in the bottom of the frame screaming to center for his 10th homer of the year, tying him for the team lead. It was the first hit the Giants (34-46) had against rookie Alex Young, who threw mainly cutters to keep the Giants off balance in his first Major League start, after posting a 6.09 ERA in 20 Triple-A appearances (including eight starts).
Nick Ahmed quickly broke that tie with a solo shot to left on Beede’s 64th pitch to lead off the fifth. Beede retired the next four men before allowing a double by Marte to an unsure Tyler Austin in left and a walk in the sixth. He was pulled after 84 pitches, having allowed four hits and three walks, striking out three. Bochy admitted Beede could have kept going, but he instead tapped Reyes Moronta, who fanned the next two men looking.
“I thought I could induce another ground ball, get a double play, get out of it,” Beede said. “Wanted to go deeper in the ballgame and preserve some of the bullpen.”
San Francisco’s bullpen had the fourth-best ERA in the Major Leagues this season, at 3.73. Over the last 13 games in 13 days, the relief corps had been even better, posting a 3.47 mark. That gave way on Thursday.
Trevor Gott allowed a two-run homer in the seventh, and Dereck Rodriguez allowed an RBI single in the ninth to all but end things. San Francisco didn’t regsiter a single base hit against the Arizona bullpen, and despite taking a big step forward, Beede had to swallow the loss. Results, though, aren’t what he’s looking at.
“My big emphasis was to attack the zone, not putting too much focus on what I had to avoid, but what I can control,” Beede said. “Tonight was a better attack percentage — which is getting 0-1, 0-2, 1-2 — and pounding the zone. Tonight was the best I’ve done that all year. Encouraging.”