Kyle Harrison

Kyle Harrison's historic home debut allows Giants to dream

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SAN FRANCISCO -- By the end of his first night pitching at home, Kyle Harrison had put himself alongside pitchers like Madison Bumgarner, Shohei Ohtani and Randy Johnson in the record books. He did things that haven't been done in this franchise in over 100 years. He piled up so many strikeouts that when he walked back onto the field an hour after the win to take pictures with his parents, a Giants employee presented him with the usual game ball and lineup card, but also a "K" placard from the board on the arcade that tracks them during games.

It was a historic first night at Oracle Park for the best Giants prospect in a decade. It also was completely unsurprising to the two teammates who know him best. 

"Am I surprised that he did that? Not at all. Not at all," Giants pitcher Logan Webb said. "I've been telling you guys for a while how special I think he's going to be."

Catcher Patrick Bailey, who was taken two rounds before Harrison in 2020, smiled and said he found humor in how many people were blown away Monday night. 

"I think everybody is kinda shocked, like, 'Oh man, wow, this is incredible.' I'm like, I've seen it for three years and been a part of it for three years," Bailey said. "It's really cool to see him do it on the biggest stage."

Harrison's debut at Oracle Park, where he once sat and watched the Giants while happily digging through Ghirardelli's sundaes, couldn't possibly have gone better. The 22-year-old left-hander overwhelmed a Cincinnati Reds team with postseason aspirations, striking out 11 in 6 1/3 shutout innings and leading the Giants to a 4-1 victory

Even manager Gabe Kapler, so committed to staying even-keel no matter how a night goes, admitted the performance allowed him to dream a little. He found himself getting caught up in it, too. 

"It was about as electric a performance by a pitcher as we've seen since I've been here in San Francisco," Kapler said. "It was right up there with any pitching performance."

The final line almost didn't do it justice. Harrison finished with 11 strikeouts, but he started his night with five straight, all coming on fastballs between 94 and 96 mph. When he struck out the side in the first, Harrison walked off to a standing ovation from the 24,581 on hand. The first time through the order, he struck out seven Reds. 

"I just went out there and the game plan with Patty was just to attack these guys," Harrison said. "I stuck to the game plan and had some great plays behind me. Yeah, it was a great day."

The game plan was similar to the one in Philadelphia last week. Harrison pounded the zone with his fastball in the early innings, and just like the Phillies, the right-handed Reds were consistently late. When they tried to look for something else, Harrison froze them with fastballs at the knees. 

Harrison struck out five last week, and the Giants came away very encouraged about the way his stuff played at the big league level. But he walked away from that start with disappointment. It didn't matter that it was Bryce Harper that got to him. He was upset that anyone did, period. 

"He was really hard on himself after the last one," Webb said. "I'm like, you faced a team that was in the World Series last year and you made a lot of good hitters look not so good."

The Reds are not the Phillies -- at least not yet -- but they thought they had the right plan in place. Manager David Bell went with eight right-handed hitters, but it didn't matter. Harrison wasn't tested until the fifth, and he got out of that jam with a fly ball to deep center and then his 10th strikeout. He pumped his fist and screamed as he walked off the mound. 

Harrison was at 72 pitches at that point, about a dozen away from the pregame plan, but the staff decided to keep pushing after a scoreless sixth. With fellow rookie Ryan Walker warming up, Kapler sent Harrison, who had completed five innings just once all year, back out for the seventh. He ended up throwing 91 pitches, eight more than his previous season-high. 

Kapler said the seventh was uncomfortable. It was also exhilarating for the dugout. 

"It felt like this was a historic performance at that point and one that warranted an additional (inning), even though it wasn't totally comfortable," Kapler said. "He was that good and that deserving."

Harrison retired the first batter he faced in the seventh, but when a double was followed by a walk, Kapler came out to the mound. He walked slower than he usually does, and when he met Harrison on the dirt, he told him to take a moment and soak it all in. After a long beat, Kapler raised his right hand and Harrison walked off to a standing ovation.

"It was a long time coming for sure," he said. "It was pretty cool for Kap to say, 'Take this moment in,' so I did. And it was awesome. It was awesome." 

The young left-hander's teammates did the rest, clinching his first career win and their first back-to-back in nearly a month. Harrison watched from the dugout rail and then returned to the clubhouse for the celebratory shower of beer, condiments, shampoo and whatever else teammates could grab. As he checked his phone and spoke to reporters, he finally started to get a sense of the company he had joined. 

Harrison became the first big leaguer since Ohtani in 2018 to strike out more than 10 batters in his second start. He became the first Giant to strike out the first five batters of a game since Johnson in 2009. You have to go all the way back to Jeff Tesreau in 1912 to find the last Giants pitcher to reach double-digit strikeouts in his second career start. 

Harrison also joined Webb, his friend and mentor, as the only Giants to reach double-digits this season, although he came one strikeout short of matching Webb's season-high. When he heard that, Webb smiled.

"That's going to be broken by him," he said. 

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