There were two hearty chest bumps at AT&T Park Monday night — two more than than there have been all season.
The first came between the longest-tenured Giant and the newest one: Christian Arroyo, in his MLB debut, picked up a sharply hit drive, deflected off Matt Cain‘s foot, that Arroyo swiped up for the swift putout, all while propping Cain up off his seat and meeting for the chest-y hug.
It was a moment that, perhaps, represented a kinetic and symbolic jolt as a result of the Giants’ roster shakeup, said Arroyo:
“Yeah, in that moment I was kind of pumped up.”
The second came with two outs, the tying run at second, in the ninth inning of Monday night’s low-scoring thriller: Buster Posey sensed Justin Turner getting greedy off second base and, when Adrian Gonzalez let a ball three go, hurled the pickoff to Brandon Crawford to seal the Giants’ 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mark Melancon leapt and sprinted to give Posey a much-deserved chest bump.
This team had suffered enough in the past week, said Posey:
“We needed (the win), there’s no way to underscore that.”
A 1-4 road trip, one in which the rotation collected a 6.07 ERA, begged for a source of confidence, a solid outing from anyone in the rotation.
Cain, who made the start for the Giants’ only win on that road trip — a 2-1 win against Kansas City — was the guy to do it. The lefty-phobic Dodgers (9-11) looked just as anemic against Cain, who eased a lively fastball at them and attacked the zone, giving up only two hits and striking out three over six shutout innings.
Cain left the game suddenly 70 pitches deep into his flawless game without any answers until later: he felt tightness in his hamstring and, not wanting to exacerbate an old and familiar issue, decided it was best to leave the game:
“I didn’t want to be selfish…Especially after what happened last year, I didn’t want to go down that road again.”
The Giants need him, too, in an erratic, Bumgarner-less rotation. Let’s ignore his first four-run, 4-1/3 start against the Padres. Cain (W, 2-0, 2.42 ERA) has since given up just two runs over 18 innings, making his ERA in his last three starts 1.00.
Tyler Beede is waiting in the wings behind his roommate Christian Arroyo–but it’s too soon to speculate. Cain said his hamstring tightness didn’t feel as urgent as hamstring issues he faced in previous years. His early departure was just precautionary, Bochy assured:
“He felt it warming up, so there was no point in taking any chances. Hopefully this clears up and he can make his next start.”
Cain made his mark on Monday’s game, though, and the rest fell in place.
Christian Arroyo, the hot-handed rookie called up this afternoon, went 0-for-4 but contributed key contact with Brandon Crawford on second base — a situational hitting moment Arroyo said his experience training for a National League team prepared him for:
“I’m thinking ‘do something, move him over,’ but my timing was off because I was a little excited.”
Arroyo’s ground ball advanced Crawford to third with one out. Joe Panik hit a sac fly to give the Giants a 1-0 lead.
Hunter Pence provided what would be some much-needed insurance, capitalizing with a runner in scoring position with an RBI single up the middle to give the Giants a 2-0 lead in the seventh. Pence went 2-for-4 in his first stint atop the lineup. That was just one move in Bochy’s attempt to shake things up. Eduardo Nunez batted third and started in left and Drew Stubbs — in for an injured Denard Span — made his Giants debut in center field.
If Arroyo’s move-the-line offense wasn’t Giants-y enough, he melted right in with the homegrown defense, too. After fielding a ground ball in the first inning, he said, natural instincts just fell into place. Arroyo said he couldn’t remember much from the game because he “blacked out,” but Bochy knew he’d be alright out at the hot corner after watching him all spring:
“I knew he’d be comfortable there, and he’ll get there at the plate…I thought he looked comfortable from the first pitch.”
To top off the chest-bump worthy play, Arroyo made a spectacular diving stop in the eighth off a Chris Taylor drive with runners on the corners and no outs, turning in time for the out at second and just one split second off two. Chase Utley leaked home to give the Dodgers their only run of the game.
With the jolt of confidence, the Giants fell back into their pattern, said Bochy:
“That’s who we are, we’re a team that plays at our best when pitching is there and defense is there.”
Arroyo’s 21-year-old, fresh-faced presence got Cain and Posey energized, and thinking. Posey and Cain joked from the dugout together:
“Cainer and I were laughing about how we used to have baby faces too. That’s changed, we got a couple gray hairs now.”…
Sergio Romo got a standing ovation to the tune of “El Mechon,” his old warmup song. He cried and took a curtain call. It was nice. He also pitched the eighth inning and allowed a walk to Nunez and a hit to Crawford. Nunez was caught stealing and Arroyo struck out to end the inning. Bochy got to catch up with Romo, but appeared weirded out by the first sight of him in blue and white on this mound.