When the Giants pitching and hitting coaches held their pre-series meetings on Tuesday afternoon, each group had to take time to prepare for Shohei Ohtani.
The two-way superstar entered the series and led the American League in home runs with 23 and leading Angels pitchers with 2.70 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings.
Neutralizing Ohtani on the plate was the Giants’ first step in defeating the Angels, and right-handed Anthony DeSclafani found a way to do it on Tuesday. DeSclafani went with Ohtani once but got a pair of strikeouts against him before Dominic Leone hit the left-handed batting bat in the eighth inning.
“Ideally, I wanted to make sure he wasn’t up with anyone in case he cut me off,” said DeSclafani. “It wasn’t something heavy in the gap or a two-pass homer or a three-pass homer, then I was just trying to mix it up and throw him off balance. You’re trying not to fall into a pattern with him, and I had a feeling I could do it. ”
The Giants had a clear plan of attack against Ohtani, aiming at the top of the striking zone and sticking to their pitches the barrel of his racket.
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On Wednesday, their hitters have a chance to defeat Ohtani as they face a starter who ranks in the 85th percentile of Major League pitchers in whiff percentage and 89th percentile in strikeout percentage. The key for the Giants will be to release Ohtani’s Shard, which is one of the most effective offers thrown by a Major Leaguer.
In 67 at-bats that ended against Ohtani’s Shards, only five resulted in base hits, while 46 ended in strikeouts. Gausman is possibly the only pitcher in the majors with a comparable splinter, having scored 70 strikeouts in 143 at-bats to land against his splinter.
“I was hoping I could punch him because I wanted to see what his breakup looked like,” said Gausman. “Not that I think I could hit it, I’d just love to see it.”
Ohtani’s biggest fight this season was to cause swings and misses on fields outside the striking zone, which could play in the Giants’ favor. The right-hander has a chase rate that is in the fifth percentile of the pitchers, running 4.9 batters per nine innings, while the Giants have the third lowest team chase rate in the majors this season, behind only the Padres and Dodgers.
With a solo home run to the right midfield on the first pitch of the second inning on Tuesday evening, Giants midfielder Mauricio Dubón extended the Giants’ lead to 5-0.
Dubón was visibly cheered as he circled the bases and explained after the game that his fifth home run of the season had added meaning to him as he had spent so much time improving on the record.
“It was tough, I could swing a ball well and I’m not getting the results I wanted,” said Dubón. “I talked to my wife (Nancy) about it, it was more personal than anything. I’ve done a lot of work and no results are shown. When I meet that, it’s a feeling of relief because I’ve done all the work and she was by my side the entire time. ”
Tuesday’s start was only the fifth of the month for Dubón, who has a .675 OPS in 147 AT bats for the Giants this season. After spending much of 2020 as the Giants’ start center fielder, Dubón has taken on a utility role for the Giants this season, playing in midfield, shortstop, third base and second base.
“I didn’t play much so it was difficult to get my timing right with my kick,” said Dubón. “I put my foot on and tried to swing and put the barrel on the ball. If I throw the ball, it will go far. At home, on the cage, I have tinkered with everything possible so that I can do the right thing when I call. ”
The Giants rewarded Dubón for his performance on Tuesday with a start on Wednesday against Ohtani, as he plays in eighth place and plays third base.