SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the first inning on Wednesday, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll bounced a single to center, stole second, then scored. Two innings later, Carroll launched a bunt single to left, stole second, then scored.
By the end of the 7-1 victory over the Giants, Carroll had become the first rookie in MLB history to reach 25 homers and 50 stolen bases. It was part of a 14-hit effort by the Diamondbacks, who hit two homers, stole three bases, played their usual solid defense and left the Giants hoping for a miracle over the final 10 games of the season.
“Right now, the math is not on our side,” manager Gabe Kapler said.
There’s no good way to get swept when you’re in the position the Giants are in, but this is a franchise the front office should be chasing when the offseason rolls around. Farhan Al-Zaidi and Kapler said repeatedly at the end of a disappointing 2022 season that the team needed to get younger and more athletic in 2023, and part of that push was last year’s late-season games against the Diamondbacks.
Arizona was younger, faster and more dynamic. In a division that had the Los Angeles Dodgers and free-spending San Diego Padres at the top, the Giants saw the formation of another potential powerhouse. Staff members marveled at the way the young Diamondbacks chased every ball into the gap and took the extra base with every hole.
When a reporter pointed out to Kapler that he often talked about the Diamondbacks without being asked about them, he admitted that he spent a lot of time thinking about the strong team they were putting together.
The Giants have promised to keep up in 2023, and they’re technically getting younger. This season has been defined in part by the introduction of a large rookie class, but it’s a group that’s mostly not ready for prime time. Facing their biggest game since the 2021 NLDS, the Giants relied almost entirely on veterans, with only Patrick Bailey and Luis Matos considered good rookie options for those two games at Chase Field.
The Giants went with their experience — and were two games into the starting gate. The biggest play of the series was Wilmer Flores’ foul in the second half on Tuesday. He has allowed both Carroll and Ketel Marte to score, and the type of play that is lacking in the Giants’ offense has been the lowest-scoring group in the National League since the beginning of July.
You can watch that play and ask how many current Giants can score like Carroll and Marte did, but that’s not the right question. How many current Giants can even attempt to score?
Thiro Estrada? certainly. Mike Yastrzemski? When your hamstrings are in good shape, most likely. But it’s not a long list.
Carroll and Marty were on base that inning because with two outs, Mitch Haniger couldn’t reach a popup down the left field line. It was an odd-looking play, but it fits perfectly with the type of outside defense the Giants have played the past two seasons. On the other hand, Alec Thomas and the Diamondbacks’ infielders shut it all down for 18 innings.
In two crushing losses, the Giants have looked big and slow, but that’s not surprising. Despite all the offseason talk about getting more athletic, they once again sit near the bottom of the league.
Carroll is just three stolen bases away from tying the Giants’ entire lineup. At 53, they are far and away last in the major leagues, and have stolen 103 fewer bases than the Diamondbacks. They rank dead last in the NL in sprint speed, and it’s not as if they make up for that lack of juice and athleticism with homers and extra base hits. On the other side of the ball, the Giants’ shortstops rank 26th in above average.
The Diamondbacks rank fourth in perimeter defense and fifth in sprint speed, which seems like a pretty good indicator of success given the offseason rule changes. Of the eight teams ahead of the Giants in the NFL’s postseason race, only the Atlanta Braves — who lead the world in homers — are outside the top 13 in the major leagues in team speed. The Giants are in fifth place with the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees.
The game had changed, and for two days at Chase Field, only one team benefited. The Diamondbacks appear poised to join the Dodgers as NL West representatives in the postseason. After pledging to present a different look in 2023, the Giants faltered once again.