‘Shark’ sinks Bucs, Giants clinch series

San Francisco was due for a let-down game after Tuesday night’s 14-hit, 11-run rout.

So perhaps we’re making patterns where none exist, but Eduardo Nunez‘s bat was sorely missed in a rubber match that saw a measly 12 hits and three runs combined in the Giants 2-1 series clincher over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

With Nunez noticeably absent, though, the Giants flipped the page to yet another productive teammate that could be inching his way onto the chopping block.

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

Jeff Samardzija dealt one of his strongest outings of the season at a time with more eyes on him than any other Giant. He’s not paying attention to the rumors, though:

“I don’t read the news anyway.”

Like every other name mired in trade talks, Samardzija has vowed to keep focus on the task at hand, a promise he kept. He walked one batter — matching the most he’s allowed in his last 15 starts. But, unlike the others, was able to mix in his cutter and stave off the four-seamer enough to prevent the long ball for the first time this month.

After Adam Frazier‘s double tied the game at 1-1 and an intentional walk loaded the bases, Samardzija made a spectacular play off a Trevor Williams chopper, finishing with a mid-air throw for the force out at home, said Bruce Bochy of his football guy:

“It looked like he was receiving a football there, didn’t it? For a pitcher, it’s one of the better defensive plays I’ve seen.”

After that: pure domination.

Samardzija struck out the side, the heart of the order, the following inning and retired the next ten batters until Frazier’s single in the seventh. Brandon Belt‘s quick glove on Jordy Mercer‘s grounder and Samardzija’s leaping stop of David Freese‘s chopper put an end to the threat.

His 5.05 ERA lowered back down to 4.85, a number Bruce Bochy said doesn’t speak to Samardzija’s strongest asset:

“Games he has hiccups on are not pretty games, and that’s what pumps his ERA. … Sometimes a starter can’t control wins, but he can control the number of times he goes out there and tries to help give us a win, and he does that.”

Contending teams in need of a starter — the Astros have reportedly shown interest — have to like the 7-inning, one-earned run, four-hit, eight-strikeout defensive showcase Samardzija put on Wednesday. At the same time, is a steadily improving arm with three more years on his contract something the 2018 Giants want to give up on?

Miguel Gomez, his pinch-hitter, even gave him the win, doubling to kick off the bottom of the seventh and scoring on Belt’s double hit deep enough in the sun for Starling Marte to lose.

Up next

The Giants will play the Dodgers in Los Angeles this weekend before taking on the A’s in Oakland, then San Francisco for two games at each stop.

Notes

The Giants purchased outfield journeyman Carlos Moncrief‘s contract before Wednesday’s game. This is the first 25-man roster Moncrief has been on in his nine-year career and he was one Gorkys Hernandez hit away from getting his first big-league plate appearance. … Moncrief heard the news from the Triple-A Sacramento RiverCats manager David Brundage after accidentally ignoring the early morning calls and got a lot of social media support from the ‘kids’, teammates Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones. He loved the support:

“Sometimes guys get mad that others get called up, but these guys are always happy for each other.”


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.