SF Giants series preview: vs Cincinnati, June 24-26
The SF Giants return home to face the Cincinnati Reds following a seven-game road trip that saw them go take two of three from National League Central division afterthought Pittsburgh then drop three of four at NL East contender (and reigning World Series champions) Atlanta.
Interestingly, the Giants' results on the trip saw similar themes. Each of their three victories were by two runs (2-0 and 7-5 over Pittsburgh, 12-10 over Atlanta), while all four losses were by one run apiece (4-3 in the finale against the Pirates, followed by 2-1, 4-3 and 7-6 to the Braves).
The Giants enter their homestand (which also includes games Tuesday and Wednesday against Detroit and a weekend series hosting the Chicago White Sox starting next Friday) 5.5 games back in the NL West and 0.5 out of a Wild Card spot. They have dropped a few games off the pace in the division thanks to losses the past two days while the Los Angeles Dodgers swept their series.
The team the Dodgers visited and swept is the team in San Francisco beginning today, the Reds. Things have not gone the Reds' way this season; at 23-46 they are not only worst in the NL Central but all of the National League, and in MLB they have a better record than only the Giants' Bay-Area rivals, the Oakland A's (23-48).
The Reds are on a seven-game losing streak: they dropped a series finale in Arizona a little over a week ago when they had a chance to sweep and then lost three games at home to division-rival Milwaukee before being spanked by Los Angeles (the closest game in the series was a four-run difference).
The two teams met in Cincinnati for a three-game series almost a month ago, with the Reds prevailing in the first two games before the Giants avoided a sweep with a 6-4 win in the finale.
Friday: CIN RHP Graham Ashcraft (3-1, 3.51) vs SF RHP Alex Cobb (3-2, 5.62)
Ashcraft, who made his MLB debut May 22, came into the season as the #9 overall prospect in the Reds system according to Baseball America. He started against the Giants in the May 27 opener of their series in Cincy and pitched 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball with four hits and two walks but only one strikeout for his first Major League win. Recently teams started figuring him out, as St. Louis hammered him for nine hits and four runs in 4 2/3 and Milwaukee put up six runs on eight hits in five innings.
Cobb, in his 11th season at the MLB level, has had an up-and-down first season with San Francisco. He struck out 10 in five innings with only two runs allowed in his first start, April 12 against San Diego, but in May allowed 13 runs in 11 1/3 innings over consecutive starts against Colorado and the New York Mets. He started the series finale in Cincinnati and fanned eight in six innings in a no-decision, then went on the Injured List. His first start off the IL was four innings with two runs at Pittsburgh last Sunday; he threw only 60 pitches, so he may still be limited Friday against the Reds.
Saturday: CIN LHP Mike Minor (1-3, 6.97) vs SF RHP Logan Webb (6-2, 3.26)
An aging lefty (34 years old), Minor is having his worst season of an 11-year MLB career. An All-Star and Cy Young vote-getter in 2019 with the Texas Rangers, Minor began the season on the IL and has made four Major League starts this year, all in June, allowing at least three runs in each. His last appearance, against Milwaukee on June 19, was decent: six innings, six hits, three walks, four runs and four strikeouts on 99 pitches.
Webb, the Rocklin native, broke out last season and is backing it up with a strong 2022. While not quite as dominant as 2021 (strikeout rate down, hit rate up), he still puts the Giants in good position most times out - only twice in 14 starts has he allowed more than three runs, and seven times he's given up two earned runs or less. At present Webb is on his best streak of the season, having allowed just three earned runs in 19 2/3 innings with 19 strikeouts over his last three starts.
Sunday: CIN RHP Tyler Mahle (2-6, 4.57) vs SF RHP Anthony DeSclafani (0-1, 7.71)
Possibly the Reds' best starting pitcher, Mahle has had an unlucky 2022 after a solid 2021 (13-6, 3.75 in 33 starts). A couple rough outings have marred his ERA: seven runs in 3 2/3 against the Dodgers in April and eight runs in four innings against the Cubs in May, but eight of his 15 starts have seen two or less earned runs allowed. He shut out the Giants on one hit over 6 2/3 frames in late-May, though his bullpen blew the game in the eighth as San Francisco plated six runs against two relievers. Mahle has a pair of double-digit strikeout games in June, notably tossing nine shutout innings with 12 Ks against Arizona June 14, but his offense didn't score until extra innings themselves. He was battered for 12 hits and four runs in six innings against the Dodgers in the opener of their most recent series.
DeSclafani made three starts in April before going on the 60-day IL, and he was activated to start against the Braves in the second game of the Giants' series in Atlanta, where he gave up five runs on six hits in three innings. He struck out three batters and walked just one but was tagged for a pair of home runs. DeSclafani, a member of the Reds from 2015-2020, has a ways to go to recapture the success of his 2021 season with the Giants, where he was 13-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 31 starts.