Giants hang on, escape San Diego with second win of season
The Giants have blown more than enough leads already in 2017.
San Francisco (2-5) nearly added another on Sunday, but closer Mark Melancon mercifully recorded his first save in a Giants uniform to seal a 5-3 win over San Diego (3-4), a game in which the Giants had held a comfortable 5-0 advantage.
Coming into the rubber match tied for the worst record in baseball, the Giants managed to salvage a game in the series and get in the win column for just the second time this season.
Even Buster Posey, a veteran and three-time World Series champion, was thirsting for this victory:
“It’s funny. No matter how long you play, it always feels good to get the first save, get a win.”
Johnny Cueto (W, 2-0, 4.50 ERA) went seven strong innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out seven on 109 pitches. But he gave up two runs in the sixth, and handed the bullpen — whose struggles have highlighted the horrific stat of the team’s eight blown leads through six games — a 5-2 lead.
Enter Derek Law in the eighth. The young reliever was promptly greeted on his second pitch with a home run by Yangervis Solarte to draw the Padres within two. But after walking the next batter, Ryan Schimpf, Law settled down and retired the next three batters in order.
Melancon, whose last appearance was in the season opener a week from Sunday when he blew the save against the Diamondbacks, induced a game-ending double play by Wil Myers, who had homered earlier in the game represented the potential game-winning run. But Melancon, after allowing two runners to reach with one out, survived with his first save of the season, throwing a cutter that Myers grounded weekly to second base.
“It is a first one, which is great to get out of the way. God willing, hopefully, one of many.”
Manager Bruce Bochy, who has steered better bullpens, was glad to see it as well:
“I’m sure it’s good for him to get the first one. It got a bit scary there, but he made a pitch when he had to.”
Following a frustrating one-run performance in Saturday’s loss, in which they spoiled a gem from Madison Bumgarner, the Giants’ offense ignited early on Sunday.
In the second inning, with runners on first and second, left fielder Chris Marrero roped a single to right to score Posey from second. A throwing error by Padres right fielder Hunter Renfroe brought home Brandon Crawford from first for a 2-0 Giants lead.
Marrero’s hit was a welcome sight. It was not only his first hit in the majors since 2013, but also the first hit of the season for any Giants left fielder, snapping an 0-for-22 streak to start the season.
If Marrero’s single was the appetizer, Hunter Pence served a home run-sized entree in the third. Brandon Belt walked with one out before Pence brought him home on a two-run shot to left off Padres starter Clayton Richard (L, 1-1, 2.57 ERA).
Richard then fell behind 2-0 to the next batter, Buster Posey, who punished him with an opposite field homer to expand the Giants lead to 5-0.
“He’s got power that way, and when things are going well, he’s geared that way toward right center.”
Cueto’s trouble inning was the sixth, when he gave up a two-run homer to Myers. Then, he loaded the bases with two out, bringing the tying run to the plate for the Padres. But the crafty right-hander induced a pop-up by Erick Aybar to end the threat. He then convinced Bochy to pitch the seventh as his pitch count jumped into the 100s. And it paid off, as Cueto threw a scoreless frame after walking the leadoff man.
Cueto said he didn’t feel any more pressure with the Giants needing a win to stop the early-season slide:
“I wasn’t thinking about being swept. I just told myself to go out there and do my job.”
The Giants fly home for their home opener Monday afternoon against the Diamondbacks, hoping some home cooking can smooth a rough start to the season on the road.
Several players noted that every team goes through turbulent patches during a 162-game season. And Posey said the mood is where it needs to be when asked what he learned during the opening road trip:
“The results – as far as wins and losses – weren’t there. But I feel like the overall demeanor in the clubhouse is good. I don’t feel like guys are panicking.”