Winn off from the 1st pitch in tough return from IL

June 9th, 2024

ARLINGTON -- The Giants were hoping rookie would be able to help boost their starting rotation after returning from the injured list, but his first start back didn’t go as well as anticipated.

Winn was rocked for seven runs over 4 1/3 innings as the Giants fell to the Rangers 7-2 to come up short of a sweep in Sunday afternoon’s series finale at Globe Life Field.

Winn, who was making his first start since May 14 after missing nearly a month with a right forearm strain, struggled from the outset, hitting Marcus Semien on the helmet with his first pitch of the game. Catcher Patrick Bailey immediately popped up to check on Semien, who remained in the game and subsequently stole second to help the defending World Series champions load the bases with no outs in the first inning.

“It definitely rattled me a little bit,” Winn said. “Anytime you do something that you don’t mean to do like that, especially hit a guy in the head, it kind of shook me a little bit. It just comes down to execution, I guess.”

Winn nearly escaped the jam by recording back-to-back strikeouts of Nathaniel Lowe and Ezequiel Duran, but Texas ended up getting on the board behind Wyatt Langford’s two-out, two-run single up the middle. Langford then swiped second to draw a throw from Bailey and set the stage for Adolis García’s steal of home, which extended the Rangers’ lead to 3-0.

Winn allowed the Rangers to steal a season-high four bases on Sunday, another sign of rustiness from the Ollie, Iowa, native.

“He was too slow to the plate,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Even his slide steps were a little too slow. That’s something he’ll have to work on.”

Semien struck back in his next plate appearance against Winn, sending a first-pitch slider out to left field for a two-run shot that put the Giants in a five-run hole. San Francisco managed to cut the deficit to three after Bailey delivered an RBI single in the third and Mike Yastrzemski homered off Rangers right-hander Nathan Eovaldi in the fourth, but Winn couldn’t hold the line, issuing a leadoff walk in the fifth and surrendering a double before being lifted in favor of reliever Randy Rodríguez.

Rodríguez got the next batter, Ezequiel Duran, to hit a grounder to the right side, but it ended up getting through the Giants’ drawn-in infield for a two-run single, raising Winn’s ERA to 6.94 through 10 starts this season.

“Obviously, the command wasn’t great early in the game there and they got some hits off him early and had him on the run,” Melvin said. “Five runs after two innings kind of puts us in a little bit of a hole, but I expect him to be better next time.”

Winn began the season by recording a 3.18 ERA over his first six starts of the year, but he’s hit a rough patch over his last four outings, going 0-4 with a 17.05 ERA (24 earned runs over 12 2/3 innings). He struck out a season-high seven batters on Sunday, but his velocity was down a tick, with his four-seam fastball sitting more in the mid-90s instead of the upper-90s.

Winn said he tried to tone it back a bit in light of his latest arm injury, though he acknowledged that the slightly decreased velocity ended up leaving him with a smaller margin for error.

“I guess I’m not super worried about that,” Winn said. “I also wasn’t trying to max out on the gun today. I’m trying to be smart about that side of things.”

With Blake Snell (left groin strain), Robbie Ray (Tommy John surgery) and Alex Cobb (left hip surgery) on the IL, the Giants will need Winn to recapture the promising form he showed in April and show that he can hold down a rotation spot until reinforcements arrive.

“He’s got good stuff,” Melvin said. “It’s just about commanding it, locating it. I think you’ll see a tick up in the velocity next time, too, after being on the mound.”

“I’m definitely going to start diving deep,” Winn said. “I’ve been trying to figure things out, but we’re going to really hammer it this next week.”