SAN FRANCISCO – By the end of his first night at home, Kyle Harrison had put himself alongside pitchers like Madison Bumgarner, Shuhei 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 batters that when he returned to the field an hour after the win to take pictures with his parents, a Giants staffer presented him with the usual game ball and lineup card, but also a “K” sign from the plate on the fairways that tracked them down during games.
It was the first historic night at Oracle Park for the Giants’ best prospect in a decade. Nor was it entirely surprising to his teammates who know him well.
“Am I surprised he did that? Not at all. Not at all,” said Giants player Logan Webb. “I told you guys a while ago how special I thought it would be.”
Catcher Patrick Bailey, who is taken two innings ahead of Harrison in 2020, smiled and said he found humor in the number of people blown Monday night.
“I think everyone is kind of shocked, and they’re like, ‘Oh man, this is unbelievable.’ I’ve seen him for three years and been a part of it for three years,” Bailey said. “It’s really cool to see him do that on the biggest stage. .”
Harrison’s debut at Oracle Park, where he once sat and watched the Giants while happily digging into a Ghirardelli sundae, couldn’t have been better. The 22-year-old left-hander overwhelmed the Cincinnati Reds with postseason aspirations, scoring 11 goals in 6 1/3 innings of offense and leading the Giants to a 4-1 win.
Even manager Gabe Kapler, who is very committed to staying level-headed no matter how bad the night, admitted the performance allowed him to dream a little. And he found himself involved in it as well.
“It was an electric performance by the pitcher as we’ve seen since I’ve been here in San Francisco,” said Kapler. “He was right there with no pitching performance.”
The last line almost didn’t do it justice. Harrison finished with 11 hits, but started the night with five straight hits, all on fastballs between 94 and 96 mph. When he hit the side in the first, Harrison walked out to a standing ovation from 24,581 in hand. The first time through command, seven of the Reds hit.
“I just came out and the game plan with Patty was to just attack these guys,” Harrison said. “I stuck to my game plan and had some great games behind me. Yes, it was a great day.”
The game plan was similar to the one in Philadelphia last week. Harrison bombarded the area with his fastball in the early innings, and just like the Phillies, the Reds’ right-hander was consistently trailing. When they tried to look for something else, Harrison froze them with fastballs on the knees.
Harrison hit five goals last week, and the Giants came away very encouraged about the way his team played at the big league level. But he walked away from that start in disappointment. It doesn’t matter that Bryce Harper got to him. He was annoyed that anyone would do that, period.
“He was really hard on himself after the last game,” Webb said. “I think you took on a team that was in the World Series last year and you made a lot of good hitters look like they weren’t in shape.”
The Reds are nothing like the Phillies – at least not yet – but they thought they had the right plan. Manager David Bell went with eight right-handed batters, but that didn’t matter. Harrison wasn’t tested until the fifth, and got out of the hole with a fly ball to deep center and then the tenth strikeout. He pumped his fist and shouted as he ran off the hill.
Harrison was at 72 at that point, about a dozen off his pregame plan, but the staff decided to keep pressing after the scoreless sixth. As fellow rookie Ryan Walker warmed up, Kapler sent Harrison, who had completed five innings only once all year, to running back for the seventh time. He ended up throwing 91 pitches, eight more than his previous season’s high.
The seventh was uncomfortable, Kappler said. It was also exhilarating for the dugout.
“I felt like this was a historic performance at that point, and it required an extra run, even though it wasn’t entirely comfortable,” Kabler said. “It was good and he deserves it.”
Harrison retired the first batter he faced in the seventh, but when a walk-off double followed, Kapler walked out for the mound. He was walking slower than usual, and when he met Harrison on the dirt, he told him to take a moment and enjoy it all. After a long beat, Kapler raised his right hand and Harrison walked out to a standing ovation.
“It sure has been a long time,” he said. “It was great for Cap to say, ‘Take this moment into consideration’, so I did. And it was cool. It was cool.”
The left-hander’s teammates did the rest, claiming his first career win and their first back-to-back in nearly a month. Harrison watched from the hidden rail and then returned to the clubhouse to enjoy a ceremonial shower of beer, spices, shampoo and whatever else his teammates could get their hands on. As he was checking his phone and talking to reporters, he finally began to recognize the company he had joined.
Harrison became the first major since Ohtani in 2018 to hit more than 10 batters in his second start. He became the first Giant to hit the first five batters in a game since Johnson in 2009. You have to go back to Jeff Tesero in 1912 to find the last Giants pitcher to hit 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, though he came in one stroke short of matching Webb’s season-high. When he heard that, Webb smiled.
“That will be broken by him,” he said.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”