DeSclafani: Win over former club 'feels good'

May 19th, 2021

Great American Ball Park isn’t known as a pitcher-friendly venue, but Giants right-hander looked comfortable in his return to his old stomping grounds.

DeSclafani, who spent the previous six seasons with the Reds, tossed seven innings of one-run ball to lead the Giants to a 4-2 win over his former club on Tuesday night in Cincinnati.

DeSclafani allowed a leadoff home run to ex-teammate Jesse Winker on his third pitch of the game, but he put up zeroes the rest of the way. Paired with backup catcher Curt Casali, another former Red, DeSclafani yielded six hits, walked two, struck out seven and threw a season-high 107 pitches to lower his ERA to 2.03 on the year.

“Anytime you come back and face your old teammates, there’s going to be a lot of nerves,” DeSclafani said. “You always want to pitch well in general, but to come back and face your old ballclub and pitch well ... I think in general, it feels good to get the win.”

Reds right-hander Luis Castillo racked up 11 strikeouts over five innings, but Alex Dickerson crushed a three-run blast -- his first home run since April 20 -- to put the Giants ahead for good in the fourth inning. Brandon Crawford later chipped in with his team-high 10th home run of the year to continue the Giants’ unprecedented power surge on the road. San Francisco (26-16) has homered in 15 consecutive road games, the longest single-season streak in franchise history.

DeSclafani, 31, endured a career-worst season in his final year with the Reds, logging a 7.22 ERA over 33 2/3 innings in an injury-marred 2020 campaign. Looking to rebuild his value as a starter, he subsequently signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Giants, who have earned a reputation for rehabilitating pitchers over the past couple of years.

Drew Pomeranz, Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly are among the starters who have leveraged bounceback seasons in San Francisco into more lucrative contracts in free agency, establishing a mold for DeSclafani to follow.

“I just heard a lot of good things about the Giants and what they were doing from the pitching side,” DeSclafani said Monday. “You could see it with Gausman and Smyly as well, kind of just regaining their value. That's something that I needed to do a little bit of. Just from that aspect, it was really intriguing.

“I made some really good strides while I was here with [Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson] and Caleb [Cotham], and it was really imperative that I just tried to continue that wherever I went. I felt like the Giants were going to be the best fit to do that.”

DeSclafani has credited the Giants’ coaching staff, which includes director of pitching Brian Bannister and pitching coach Andrew Bailey, for their work with pitch design, which he feels has allowed him to get his fastball and slider back to where they were in 2019, when the New Jersey native recorded a 3.89 ERA over 166 2/3 innings.

Opposing batters hit .436 off DeSclafani’s four-seam fastball and .302 off his sinker in 2020; entering Tuesday, those marks were down to .257 and .114, respectively. DeSclafani has continued to lean heavily on his sharp slider, which was holding batters to a .145 clip through his first eight starts of the season.

The move from Great American Ball Park to Oracle Park hasn’t hurt for DeSclafani, either.

“He's got a lot of confidence out there,” Casali said. “He’s pitching with a lot of swagger. Pitching in Cincinnati is tough. It's a small ballpark that gives up some wall-scraper home runs sometimes, and that can derail a pitcher's confidence at some points. But I think the fact that Oracle is a big park, that coupled with a new division that doesn't really know him that well, I think it's been a really nice fresh start for him. He's been piling up a lot of strikeouts, a lot of wins. He's just been absolutely tremendous for us. We're not in the position that we're at right now without Anthony DeSclafani.”

DeSclafani has allowed one run or fewer in six of his nine starts this year, becoming a key contributor in a Giants rotation that has recorded an MLB-best 2.64 ERA so far in 2020.

The Reds threatened in the second after Kyle Farmer and Jonathan India strung together back-to-back singles to put a pair of runners on with no outs, but DeSclafani came back to strike out the next three batters -- Tucker Barnhart, Alex Blandino and Castillo -- to escape the jam.

“I love those guys to death,” Barnhart said of DeSclafani and Casali. “Disco, I've known for a little bit longer than Curt. I love those guys like brothers. It was fun. It sucked. It was hard. It was everything, all that stuff rolled into one. I'm really happy for those guys. They're both in a great spot. Disco's throwing the ball great. Curt's doing what Curt does, calling great games, calling shutouts, putting good at-bats together. I miss those guys like crazy."