Blake Snell

What we learned as Snell's Giants debut ends in ugly loss to Nats

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SAN FRANCISCO -- When they finally agreed to terms on a two-year contract with Blake Snell, the Giants were hopeful that they could get the reigning Cy Young Award winner up to speed in time to face the rival Los Angeles Dodgers on the first road trip. Snell wasn't quite ready, and when he instead was lined up for a season debut against the Washington Nationals, it seemed he would have a much softer landing. 

There's been nothing easy about this matchup the last two years, though, and Snell's orange-and-black debut fit right in with an awful 1-5 record the Giants had against a 91-loss Washington team last year.

Just as they did last year, the Nationals worked long counts, fouled off tough pitches and always took the extra base. They spoiled Snell's first night at Oracle Park, won 8-1 and put such a dent in a rowdy crowd's hopes that fans resorted to the wave in the top of the eighth. 

It was a brutal night overall for a team that is now 4-7. For Snell, there were some positives, but also a lot of rust.

Here's how his first night went ... 

The Good

Snell's first pitch as a Giant was a 95-mph fastball and he sat there the rest of the outing, even hitting 97 mph with one pitch. The arm strength certainly is there after a lengthy layoff, and at times, Snell showed off the whole four-pitch mix, perhaps the best in the game. 

Despite only throwing three innings, he got multiple swinging strikes with all four of his pitches. He twice blew 96-mph fastballs past free-swinging Joey Gallo for strikeouts and got two more on his curveball. After falling behind 3-0 to Jacob Young, the game's leadoff batter, Snell battled back to a full count and then threw a nasty changeup just below the zone for his first strikeout. 

Snell faced 14 batters and just two got a ball out of the infield. The hardest of the three singles off Snell was hit just 82 mph. 

The Bad

The Nationals weren't squaring Snell up, but they didn't really need to. He led the league in walks last year and is more comfortable than anyone in the big leagues when there's traffic all around him, but even by that standard, the first couple innings were a bit surreal. 

Snell went to three-ball counts on each of the first seven hitters, and three different Nationals jumped ahead 3-0. Two of those batters struck out and one hit a grounder, which is basically how Snell operates. 

The two walks cost Snell, with both coming around to score. But the three-ball counts had a bigger impact. Snell threw 26 pitches to just four batters in the first inning and was at 59 pitches after the second inning, with lefty Erik Miller already warming up. He had a clean third but got up to 72 pitches, which is just about where he was in his last simulated game. The high pitch count ended Snell's night after the top of the third. 

The Ugly

Snell struck out the first batter of the second, but it was a tight zone all night long, and he lost touch with it to the bottom of the lineup. After back-to-back walks, Trey Lipscomb smacked a single into right to tie the game. From there, it got sloppy.

Lipscomb stole second base without a throw. Luis Garcia, the nine hitter, followed with a bouncer to first and he beat Snell to the bag as Wilmer Flores made a throw from his backside. 

Garcia immediately took off for second and Snell had him picked off, but the Giants botched the rundown. When Lipscomb broke for the plate, Giants infielders were out of position. Snell ended up at first base and made a strong throw home, but Patrick Bailey couldn't get a tag down in time as a third run scored and Garcia safely reached second. 

It wasn't ideal that Snell had such a late start to his spring, and that inning perhaps showed some rust as a fielder. It was also a rough night for Bailey, who has dropped a few balls early on. 

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