Surging Giants top Dodgers, win fifth straight

Last season, Joe Panik and Matt Duffy were embattled in what they called a Tortoise Race — a home run contest between two unlikely power sources — that raged on in the months before Duffy was traded.

The players, like the team, were generally fresh out of power, a trend that has plagued the San Francisco Giants years before the Tortoise Race and well into April this year.

May 2017, on the other hand, has been an outlier. The same club that struggled to get hits beyond the infield for stretches have now hit 16 home runs in 15 games this month, 13 in their last nine. No. 13 came from Brandon Belt, who hit a solo shot (9) off a hanging Rich Hill curveball that just cleared Levi’s Landing as the Giants (17-24) claimed a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers (22-18) on a foggy Tuesday night. That makes it five in a row for San Francisco.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.

The fourth-inning dinger broke up a tough pitchers’ duel, a stark contrast to Monday’s one-sided scoring fiasco. Gaining an advantage in said duel, Ty Blach (W, 1-2, 4.15 ERA) got his first win of the season — and the team’s first from the rotation’s No. 1 spot — in another strong start. He dealt 7 one-run innings and allowed five hits, striking out four.

He also dealt a season-high 109 pitches, in keeping with manager Bruce Bochy‘s trend this week of letting his starters get deeper into games. A long start, at first, seemed improbable as Blach struggled to stay ahead in the count.  Blach’s resilience kept him afloat, Bochy said:

“He has a great way about him, great poise, and he’s just unflappable.”

Blach made one costly mistake fastball to Dodger second baseman Chris Taylor, who pummeled a game-tying home run (4) to the kale garden in center field. Other than that, Blach along with Hunter Strickland (H, 2, 1.26 ERA) and Derek Law (S, 4, 2.75 ERA) silenced the LA offense.

That wouldn’t have been possible without the defense behind them, though, said Blach:

“Any ball on the ground, I feel like I have a chance.”

Christian Arroyo played his first big league game at second and melted right in, making a spectacular Panik-esque diving stop off Joc Pederson‘s sharp ground ball that nearly slipped through to right field. He seemed to settle into the position even further, particularly in the fourth when, with runners on second and third with one out, Arroyo scooped up an Austin Barnes grounder and hurled it home in time to nab Justin Turner — thanks in large part to a perfect Buster Posey tag. Blach, who watched the ball eek past him, walked through his thoughts:

“That was awesome … when that ball got past me my heart sank. To see him get that and get him at home was awesome.”

Arroyo wasn’t expecting that kind of play, saying the infield wasn’t set up to prevent the run:

“It was just perfect spot because Turner froze. … I fielded it and looked up and saw he was three-quarters off the bag and looked up and just threw home.”

Said Bochy:

“Good heads up play going home on the ball. … That ended up being the difference in the game.”

The Giants waited for a shot at lefty reliever Luis Avilan (L, 0-1, 2.45 ERA) before making the pitching and defense count with a sixth-inning rally. One Belt initiated sending a grounder deep enough into the shift for and infield single before advancing to second on a wild pitch. Posey moved him to third on a ground ball and Brandon Crawford flipped the first pitch he saw into shallow right center for the eventual game-winning RBI single.

Up Next

Johnny Cueto (4-2, 4.15) and Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.43 ERA) will face off in game three of the series, with the Giants going for the sweep.

Notes

Closer Mark Melancon, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a pronator strain, will be activated Friday. … Buster Posey, who went 2-for-4 Tuesday, is now batting .379, good enough for third-best in the Major Leagues behind Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper (.388) and Ryan Zimmerman (.385). Posey, who won the batting title in 2012, is only the second National League catcher to do so, and first since Ernie Lombardi did so in 1942 — Joe Mauer (2006, 2008, 2009) is the only American League catcher to accomplish the feat.


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.