SAN FRANCISCO — As they head into the final third of their regular-season schedule, the Giants plan to closely monitor the workload of their players to ensure that everyone stays as healthy and fresh as possible down the stretch.
Manager Gabe Kapler regularly checks in with his position players to map out upcoming series and build in rest days for his veterans. The same goes for the Giants’ starting pitchers, who will be asked to cover more innings with the return of the 162-game season this year.
Anthony DeSclafani only pitched 33 2/3 innings with the Reds during the pandemic-shortened, 60-game campaign in 2020, so when he began to show signs of right shoulder fatigue earlier this summer, the Giants decided to place him on the 10-day injured list to give him a breather.
The plan seems to have worked as intended. DeSclafani delivered five solid innings on Friday night in his first start since returning from the IL to help the Giants extend their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 5-4 win over the Rockies at Oracle Park.
Pitching for the first time since Aug. 2, DeSclafani gave up two runs on five hits while walking two and striking out four. Wilmer Flores crushed a three-run shot to kick off a four-run first inning against Rockies left-hander Austin Gomber, and Austin Slater supplied a three-hit night out of the leadoff spot to back DeSclafani, who is now 11-5 with a 3.29 ERA in 23 starts this year.
“It felt pretty good, for the most part,” DeSclafani said. “It was good getting through five and keeping the team in the game. The 10 days [off] were nice, for sure. I’m glad to be back out there competing with the guys.”
The Rockies stirred up drama in the ninth after Connor Joe, the Giants’ Opening Day left fielder in 2019, hammered a two-run homer off Jake McGee to cut San Francisco’s lead to 5-4. McGee then surrendered back-to-back two-out singles to Brendan Rodgers and Charlie Blackmon, forcing Kapler to summon Zack Littell to face C.J. Cron. It was the second consecutive rough outing for McGee, who was charged with a blown save on Tuesday after giving up two runs over two-thirds of an inning against the D-backs.
“Jake’s bread and butter is getting swings and misses on that fastball,” Kapler said. “Specifically, he almost always has the ability to put a hitter away with that fastball. Right now, it’s just getting fouled off. Jake’s our guy. It’s obviously very difficult to take him out of that game, but we really do have a ton of confidence that we’re going to get this worked out.”
Littell picked up McGee by striking out Cron swinging on a 96.5 mph fastball to end the game and convert his second save this week.
With the win, the Giants improved to 75-41, the best record in the Majors, and maintained a five-game edge over the Dodgers for first place in the National League West — their largest division lead this late into the season since winning the division by eight games in 2012.
Signed to a one-year, $6 million deal over the offseason, DeSclafani posted a 2.68 ERA through his first 18 starts of the year, but he struggled to sustain that success following the All-Star break. He recorded a 6.63 ERA over his next four starts, giving up five home runs over 19 innings before landing on the IL with soreness in his shoulder.
“I think the workload is a real thing,” DeSclafani said. “I think it definitely plays a part, but the whole league is going through it. Everyone had a shortened season last year, and everyone is playing a full season this year. Everybody’s body’s different, and all that stuff. Just from a workload standpoint, my body was just kind of getting a little tired. I was dealing with some shoulder stuff, and I wanted to be smart about everything before everything kind of started going south.”
DeSclafani said he felt he was fighting his mechanics a bit on Friday, but he still managed to stay effective against the Rockies and retired seven of the final eight batters he faced. The Giants will be counting on him to continue to deliver reliable production out of the rotation, which has looked shakier in the second half following the injury to Johnny Cueto, who was placed on the IL with a flexor strain earlier this week, and performance dips from Kevin Gausman and Alex Wood.
“It looked like he didn’t really miss a beat,” Slater said. “Maybe by his standards, he didn’t feel like he was as sharp as he has been. I had a pretty good view from center. He was throwing 95-96 [mph] and carrying his velo. His slider looked sharp. You take 10 days off, there’s going to be a little rust, but honestly, I didn’t really see a whole lot of it there. He’s been a big reason why we’ve had so much success, so it’s great to have him back and ready to go.”