What we learned as Webb Ks 12 in Opening Day loss to Yankees


NEW YORK -- The opener at Yankee Stadium was the marquee game on the MLB schedule Thursday, particularly because of what happened in the offseason. The biggest stars did their part, although that wasn't good news for the Giants. 

Aaron Judge homered in his first at-bat against a team that desperately wanted him to return to Northern California. Aces Gerrit Cole and Logan Webb had a strikeout battle that will be hard for anyone to match over the next six months, but Cole managed to keep the Giants off the scoreboard while Webb gave up a couple of homers.

The end result was a 5-0 loss for a Giants team that hopes to get off to a quick start and put a disappointing offseason further in the rearview mirror. The lineup managed just four hits and never really bothered Cole, who joined Webb in setting franchise records for strikeouts.

The best thing the Giants (0-1) did against Cole was get his pitch count up enough that he was out after the sixth. Trailing 3-0, they got a one-out single from Thairo Estrada and brought pinch-hitter David Villar in to face former Giant reliever Wandy Peralta. Aaron Boone countered with a right-hander and Villar flied out softly to center. 

The Yankees (1-0) tacked on two more in the bottom of the inning and cruised through the finish line. 

A different guy

There are few in the big leagues who are better at getting grounders than Webb, but with shift rules changing -- and a questionable defense behind him -- the Giants knew he would need to strike out more batters this season. Webb's K/9 rate dropped from 9.6 to 7.6 from 2021 to 2022, but it looks like he might shoot into double-digits this season. 

Webb kept pace with Cole early, striking out five in the first two innings, and he never slowed down. He had just one double-digit strikeout game last year, but he hit that mark when he got DJ LeMahieu with one out in the fifth. Webb then struck out Judge for the second time, setting a career-high.

His 12 strikeouts were the most by a Giants starter on Opening Day, passing the 11 Arizona Diamondbacks that Madison Bumgarner whiffed in 2017 on a day he also hit two homers. 

Webb was charged with four earned runs in six-plus innings, but deserved better. Two came when Gleyber Torres found the short porch in right field in the fourth inning, and the final one scored after Webb walked the leadoff batter in the seventh and then departed. 

Cole train

Cole also set a franchise record for most strikeouts on Opening Day, and he did it by the fourth inning. LaMonte Wade Jr. drew a walk to lead off the season, but Cole set the next three Giants down on sliders, then struck out three more in the second while leaning heavily on a 98 mph fastball. 

Per ESPN Stats & Info, he's the first player to strike out six in the first two innings of his team's opener since 1957, which is when Elias Sports started tracking it. He might be the first to ever do it. 

Cole got two more in the third, and when he threw a slider past Joc Pederson with one out in the fourth, he had his ninth strikeout and a share of the record. Mike Yastrzemski promptly went down on a changeup as Cole reached double-digits.

Cole allowed just three hits and walked two while also securing Thanksgiving bragging rights. Years ago, Brandon Crawford homered off his brother-in-law, who signed a pair of cleats and the ball for Crawford. On Thursday, Crawford struck out and flied out in two matchups.

Had to be that guy, huh?

Judge spoke highly of the Giants before the game, saying he met a lot of great people as they pursued him in November and December. One of them was Webb, who joined Crawford as clubhouse representatives when the Giants held a private dinner for Judge in the Gotham Club before Thanksgiving.

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Judge was coming off an MVP season and had just a few weeks earlier set the American League record for home runs in a season. That mark might go down this year.

Webb's second pitch to Judge was a sinker that didn't get down enough and Judge blasted it to dead center. The homer traveled 422 feet and left the bat at 109.3 mph. Judge also struck out twice but added a broken-bat RBI single in the seventh.

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