Pressure weighed on Matt Moore to deliver for the long haul Saturday.
Moore (W, 2-4, 5.67 ERA) mowed through the Cincinnati Reds (19-17), striking out seven using 120 pitches over 7-1/3 innings, driving the Giants (14-24) to their 3-1 win Saturday afternoon — their first back-to-back for the since April 9 and 10 against the Arizona Diamondbacks (21-16).
It was a milestone kind of win, picking up a second following the post-midnight spectacular, said manager Bruce Bochy:
“They found a way to win that ball game and it was big following a win like yesterday.”
Moore’s pitch count began to mount sooner than needed when he struggled to find the strike zone early. Six Reds reached base through the first 2 innings.
The visitors loaded the bases on a double and pair of walks, but Moore got Arismendy Alcantara swinging on an 0-2 curveball to end the threat. Moore found his stride despite a Scott Schebler solo home run (10), accounting for the entirety of the Cincy offense, and even dipped his toes into the eighth, which wasn’t a problem for him:
“I felt better than what the pitch count was saying.”
Said Brandon Crawford, who contributed more of his gold-laced glove work:
“He was able to come back and get some shorter innings and that was huge for our bullpen.”
Hunter Strickland (H, 1, 1.35 ERA) and Derek Law (S, 3, 3.00 ERA) pitched a collective 1-2/3 innings in the bullpen’s nine-inning shutout of their own Friday night, so they had little trouble continuing the trend. The duo added another 1-2/3 innings of relief, with only a Law walk stunting perfection, to extend the bullpen’s shutout streak to 11-2/3 — including a ninth-inning zero Thursday from Josh Osich.
The defense behind Moore, like usual, put the emergency brakes on any Reds rally. Kelby Tomlinson, in at the hot corner for a resting Arroyo, made a diving catch off a Schebler drive with runners on first and second with one down in the third. Gold Glove second baseman Joe Panik helped his hurler get his final out of the game, snagging a Eugenio Suarez high-hopper in tight to his body retreating into the outfield grass for a spinning out.
Crawford was a sight for sore eyes at short, especially in the always tense ninth. He eased to a sharply hit Scooter Gennett ground ball that nearly escaped into the gap for the putout at first. Then, he glided from his post all the way to the mound in foul territory in left to record the final out of the game.
These back-to-back wins don’t happen without Moore’s resilience and a near perfect defense, said Bochy:
“Lot of these balls like Craw’s up the middle and Panik, they win ballgames for you.”
Sure, but the missing piece through all the struggles has been clutch hitting.
The Giants hit 16 home runs in all of April. Since May 8, they’ve tallied 10.
Two of those put the game away Saturday afternoon. Brandon Belt cranked a bomb (6) into McCovey Cove off Reds starter Lisalverto Bonilla for his sixth career splash hit, which gave the team their 72nd and the Giants a 1-0 lead in the first.
Justin Ruggiano, in for Pence — who’s missed the last two starts with hamstring tightness– pummeled his own solo homer (1) to dead center field in the second.
Tomlinson added an insurance run in the seventh, scoring pinch runner Gorkys Hernandez from third on a ground-ball single monetarily fumbled by shortstop Jose Peraza. Bochy assured the power — drives, doubles triples, homers, would come soon:
“You see what we’ve done, that was missing for us and it wasn’t missing for the other clubs.”
Bonilla (L, 0-1, 4.85 ERA) gave up three runs but had the kind of start Moore, ideally, could have used. He faced close to the minimum through the game’s meat, ultimately using just 98 pitches to get through his 8-inning outing allowing six hits and walking two while striking out five. Schebler not only accounted for his team’s only run but also two of its eight hits, and the game’s multi-hit performance.