The Giants will remain in the lead for the second wild card for one more day.
When the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Reds in walkoff fashion, San Francisco was down two runs. They came back, though, and hiked all over the Colorado Rockies, offering a 7-2 shellacking.
The Giants pulled this one out in a way they know best: productive outs, lucky bunts and quality pitching, though a sixth inning rally certainly put them over the top.
Johnny Cueto, who’d returned from a nine-day break after his “crab-bite” groin injury, struck out 11 Rockies in a pitching performance that just got better by the inning, said Bochy:
“That’s his forte. As the game goes, he gets better.”
Nolan Arenado and the heart of the Rockies lineup pounced on him early, when his command was shaky and his velocity looked lower than usual. Arenado knocked his 24th RBI against the Giants (for a second straight season) with a double down the third base line to put Colorado up a run in the first. David Dahl tripled to give them their pair.
Then Cueto picked it up, started to throw 93, and the Rockies tumbled. They were strikeout-prone already, it seemed. Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzija and Cueto all notched 11 strikeouts against the Rockies. Ed Halicki, Peter Falcone and John Montefusco bested the New York Mets and Montreal Expos, respectively. His teammates were impressed, said Pence:
“Johnny’s a huge lift, he’s been a huge lift.”
Cueto’s final regular season start played out as it should: He earned his 18th win, capped a 2.79 ERA and his team finished 23-9 in his starts. Cueto rarely faltered this season, noted Bochy:
“He’s been everything we expected and more.”
Cueto said he’s ready, with a starter yet to be determined Saturday, to give a little more than if need be.
He also gave a little more with the bat Thursday.
In the sixth, faced with one out and two runners on, Cueto laid down a perfect bunt in no-mans land. Arenado’s errant throw to first let Angel Pagan and Joe Panik score some insurance runs and Cueto chugged to second base.
Only one part of that play surprised Bochy:
“I think it’s the first time I’ve seen Arenado make an error.”
“It was a lot of happiness. It was a happy moment, lot of good stuff happening.”
The Giants used a flurry of productive outs and bunts to get those seven runs. Cueto’s bunt and Panik’s game-tying bloop in the fourth were the only hits to produce runs.
That’s what Bochy liked to see:
“We executed perfectly all night, and that’s what it’s gonna take.”
Wild Card Notes
Word of the St. Louis Cardinals’ controversial walk-off against the Reds earlier Thursday spread through the Giants clubhouse within minutes of the Giants’ 7-2 win over the Colorado Rockies. Bruce Bochy hadn’t even seen the play, but heard that the Reds were working to protest it:
“Tough break for the Reds and a tough break, I guess, for us.”
The drama in St. Louis is over a potential ground rule double. Matt Carpenter scored from first on Yadier Molina‘s drive that bounced off a scoreboard that sits behind the wall. The Reds thought to challenge it too late. Hunter Pence didn’t seem to care:
“These things happen. It was a good hit. It was a good game.”
A play that stirred the baseball world into a tizzy just didn’t phase the Giants too much today, they’d just won their second home series of the second half. They stay sandwiched between the New York Mets and the Cardinals in the Wild Card race by one-game on either end with just one more series, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, to go.