April 14, 2024
Camilo Doval blew the save in the ninth inning, wasting an impressive debut from the Giants' top prospect Kyle Harrison.

PHILADELPHIA — Kyle Harrison couldn’t help but hear the noise.

Teammates chided him. Fans heckled him.

“Just telling you that you need to be up there. This and that. You hear it,” Harrison said a day before making the most-anticipated arrival of a Giants prospect in a decade. “I hear the noise.”

In front of 40,420 rabid fans, under a cotton-candy sky on a Tuesday evening and three levels of grandstands, Harrison either tuned out the noise, the most he’s ever experienced on the mound, or thrived on it — either way, in an environment that was a far cry from De La Salle campus or Sacramento, Harrison largely lived up to the billing, with the understanding that this was never going to be a seven-inning or 100-pitch debut.

The Giants understood the challenge the Phillies’ loaded lineup presented. They believed Harrison, even on a pitch count, was ready for it.

And in 3⅓ innings of work, he put them in position to capitalize on the little offense they got, an error-fueled run in the first and a two-RBI double from Joc Pederson in the fifth, to rebound from Monday night’s ugly loss and even their three-game series with the wild card leaders. But an erratic Camilo Doval, tasked with closing out a 3-2 lead, loaded the bases and allowed Trea Turner to line a game-winning walk-off single past Thairo Estrada to send the Giants to a 4-3 loss.

At 22 years old, Harrison became the youngest man to throw a pitch for the San Francisco Giants since Madison Bumgarner when he fired a 94.3 mph fastball past Kyle Schwarber that popped into Patrick Bailey’s glove for the first strike of his major-league career. Aware of the magnitude, Bailey tossed the baseball back to the visitor’s dugout for a forever keepsake, just as he did 10 pitches later, when Harrison painted the inside corner with another heater — 95.8 mph — freezing Turner for his first career strikeout.

Approximately two-and-a-half hours earlier, Harrison took a seat at his locker, situated between Wade Meckler and Scott Alexander, and took it all in. Clad in a black shirt, black shorts and graphite slides, Harrison and his blond mop made small talk with Triple-A teammate Tristan Beck — what undershirt to wear, what a strange selection of music for the pregame mix, ranging from mellow folk (Hans Williams) to red-dirt country (Tyler Childers).

He sat there, alternating between his iPhone and breaking in his brand-new black-and-orange Adidas spikes, while mental skills coach Harvey Martin tossed a football around with Logan Webb and Alexander, as Drew Robinson’s dog, Ellie, played fetch, and Alex Wood and Luke Jackson sat around the card table.

He then made his way into Gabe Kapler’s office, where the manager posed him a question.

“I just asked him if he was nervous,” Kapler said. “He said, ‘Yeah, I’m a little nervous. I think I’m gonna be fine after the first pitch.’ I said that’s great. I think nerves are a really good thing for a baseball player. They can lock your focus in, you have a lane that you’re thinking about pitching in, and it can get you right in that lane. Sometimes a little extra adrenaline or nerves can make you throw a tiny bit harder. It’s really all about how you channel it. I don’t think Kyle necessarily needed any advice.”

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – AUGUST 22: Pitcher Kyle Harrison #45 of the San Francisco Giants walks onto the field before his first Major League start against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 22, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) 

Camera shutters clicked as he emerged from the dugout for the first time, some 35 minutes before first pitch, to begin his warm-up routine. He walked up the flight up of stairs to the upper level of the two-tiered bullpen beyond the center-field wall, where fans lined the rail, a few in Giants gear but most of them rooting against him.

“Don’t throw a meatball to Schwarber!” one shouted his way.

Here comes the man pic.twitter.com/rOTMHQFURV

— Evan Webeck (@EvanWebeck) August 22, 2023

While Harrison alleviated any command-related concerns, throwing 43 of his 65 pitches for strikes, there were a few he likely wanted back, including one that ended his first at-bat against Schwarber. That heater caught a little too much of the plate, and sturdily built lefty whacked it down the right field line for a leadoff double. Bryce Harper put the only two runs on his pitching line a couple batters later, sending one of Harrison’s sliders into the right-field seats.

Harrison’s final line: 3⅓ innings, five hits, two runs, one walk, one hit batter and five strikeouts. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride: The only balls put in play his first time through the order went for extra bases, but there weren’t many. He induced 14 swings and misses — 11 on his electric fastball.

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He topped out a 97.6 mph, rearing back to get Alec Bohm looking to end the first inning. The only other left-handed starter who has reached that kind of octane in a Giants uniform in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008) was Carlos Rodón last season. It explains why Harrison arrived with such fanfare. He’s a rare breed.

After one game, Harrison’s ledger of strikeout victims includes seven total All-Star appearances and five Silver Slugger awards. Surely, it will only grow from here.

He walked off the field after allowing a one-out single in the fourth inning and was greeted by a line of high-fives in the Giants’ dugout.

Asked before the game whether he viewed this as a spot start, Kapler said “if Harrison goes out and does his thing, we’re going to try to give him more opportunities.”

Well, he did his thing. Next step: do it at home, a short drive from where he grew up.

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