San Francisco Giants: Kyle Harrison struck out 11 in his first start at Oracle Park.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Kyle Harrison definitely knows how to make a good first impression.
The Giants rookie made his home debut on Monday, and he exceeded even the most optimistic predictions.
The 22-year-old lefty starter’s 11-strikeout, 6.1-inning performance will live long in the memory. It demonstrated that the East Bay kid and his hometown team have a bright future — 50 thousand watts.
In the present, Harrison delivered a performance that the vast majority of Major League players cannot match.
No, what Harrison did on Monday was in the realm of the best in baseball.
And if that doesn’t serve as a defibrillator for a Giants team that came into Monday flatlining (losing seven straight series), nothing will.
On Monday, Harrison was a force of nature — the kind that doesn’t come around very often.
His second big-league start served as a reminder that the best pitchers in baseball cannot be fully appreciated through a television screen. To fully comprehend their excellence, they must be seen firsthand and the rhythm of their games felt.
The majority of the guys are just throwing.
Harrison, not so much. On Monday, he was out there pitching.
Statcast is unable to explain the difference. The 24 thousand fans in the stands, on the other hand, can.
Now I’ll start throwing some names your way. They may appear to be lofty or even unfair comparisons for Harrison, who has yet to pitch ten major league innings.
Harrison, on the other hand, became the first pitcher since Shohei Ohtani to strike out 11 Reds in his second Major League start.
At Ohtani’s first Major League start, I sat directly behind home plate at the Coliseum. Harrison’s start on Monday reminded me of that Easter Sunday game in Oakland. It felt like we were on the verge of something big.
Harrison was also the youngest Giant to strike out 11 batters since Madison Bumgarner did it in 2011 at the age of 21.
I don’t think I need to tell you that when Bumgarner was at his peak, he demanded your undivided attention whenever he took the mound. His stuff wasn’t the best, but he found ways to beat even the best hitters in baseball. He was merciless and fearless.
Harrison was strutting his stuff on Monday. Some of his put-away pitches found more spin and speed, indicating that he was pitching with malice.
Harrison took over the first of what should be many games throughout his career with a pitching motion reminiscent of Giants greats from his youth — the deliberate steps of Matt Cain, the full-body whip of Tim Lincecum, and the three-quarters release of Bumgarner.
He retired the first five batters he faced on Monday. That will catch your attention.
He accomplished this by combining a high-spin, 70-grade fastball with a slurve pitch that improved in sharpness and frequency throughout the game. We also saw seven changeups, which he rarely used in the minors, hinting at the improvisational skills required to be a great big-league pitcher.
Harrison pounded the strike zone like a multi-time All-Star and was rewarded. His 41 percent CSW rate (called strikes plus swings and misses) was exceptional; the game’s most dominant starter, Spencer Strider, has a 36 percent CSW on the season, according to PitcherList.com.
Monday’s game could be a preview of the playoffs. Nonetheless, Harrison made everyone else on the field look like second-rate players.
After all, the Reds started one of the game’s best young pitchers, lefty rookie Andrew Abbott, on Monday. On Monday, he might as well have been a taxi driver. He remained unidentified. I don’t recall him making a single pitch. According to Statcast, there were some nasty ones. They did not sign up in person.
Harrison’s pitches, on the other hand, were successful.
Only time will tell if Harrison can become one of the game’s best.
On Monday, he demonstrated that he has what it takes to reach that level. The ability is undeniable. He experimented with a playoff-contending lineup without fully understanding how to use his tools in the big leagues.
And, after a special performance like Monday’s, there’s only one question:
What happens when Harrison realizes exactly what he’s doing?