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Giant bats shrunk by Godley curve in 2-1 loss

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San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (9) reacts after striking out in the sixth inning as the Arizona Diamondbacks face the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, April 9, 2018.

The Diamondbacks are the hottest team in the National League West out of the gate, and starter Zack Godley was a major part of that success in a 2-1 series-opening Arizona win Monday night at AT&T Park.

Giants starter Derek Holland threw a masterful six innings, but the San Francisco offense which had been coming together over the previous weeks seemed to have had a case of the Mondays.

Among the factors of success for the Diamondbacks (8-2) is their ability to put the pressure on early. Coming into San Francisco, Arizona had scored 11 runs in the first inning, the fourth-most in the league, and that strategy against the Giants (4-5) was no exception.

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

Paul Goldschmidt, who stepped into the batter’s box sitting on a .100 average (3-for-30) on the season with 11 strikeouts, took the early opportunity following a Ketel Marté single to left to put the notion of a slump to bed by walloping an RBI triple to right field. AJ Pollock then executed a sacrifice fly to bring Goldschmidt home and put the D-Backs up 2-0.

Those would be the only two runs the Diamondbacks would score, but they wouldn’t need anymore.

Said Holland (L, 0-2, 4.09 ERA):

“You gotta tip your hat to them. We’re major league players for a reason. They made some contact, and found some holes and hit some mistake pitches. You know that’s part of their game.”

Arizona hit that sweet spot, attacking Holland in the first, when many starting arms can be vulnerable. But he settled in and matched Godley (W, 2-0, 0.64 ERA) frame-for-frame after that, striking out eight and giving up just six hits. The San Francisco starter said:

“I wanted to make sure I kept it as close as I possibly could so that way we could try to get back and win this game.”

Meanwhile, Giants hitters were blinded by Godley’s curveball. He elicited nine punch outs, many of the swing-and-miss variety on sharp biting curves, through seven innings. Most of those big benders landed well out of the strike zone.

Skipper Bruce Bochy said of the Diamondbacks hurler:

“He had us chasing that breaking ball all night. We just couldn’t lay off and most of ‘em were down below the zone. We’re usually more of a patient hitting club, but tonight he had us chasing and expanding the zone more than we usually do.”

Godley made Brandon Belt look especially bad. Despite being known as a hitter with a very good eye, Belt earned a golden sombrero whiffing four times Monday night, three of those four final strikes waving at below-the-zone Godley curves. Other curveball victims were Andrew McCutchen, who went down in both the second and fourth innings, and Hunter Pence, Grégor Blanco and Holland who Godley sat down concurrently to strike out the side in the third inning.

The loss can’t be hung solely on Godley’s curveball though, the Giants missed out on a few opportunities. In the fifth Buster Posey led off with a single to right field. After Evan Longoria grounded into a fielder’s choice and took Posey’s place at first, Brandon Crawford knocked one of Godley’s dreaded curves to center for a single, moving Longoria to third. But Pence and Blanco popped out and grounded out respectively to end the threat.

The skipper said:

“We did have a couple chances. We’ve gotta start doing a better job with runners on bases. We stranded some runners there a couple times.”

Held scoreless going into the eighth, Crawford led off that inning with a double to right-center. Crawford ultimately scored, but it took two outs to plate him — Pence flied out to center to move him to third, and he made it home on a Blanco groundout to Marté at second base. Pablo Sandoval came off the bench to pinch-hit for reliever Roberto Gómez who had just pitched two scoreless innings striking out both Pollock and Nick Ahmed. After drawing nine pitches from right-handed reliever Yoshihisa Hirano, Sandoval ultimately whiffed on a 92-mph fastball.

The only bright spot is that San Francisco’s pitching continues to be solid and its bullpen nearly leakproof. After Gómez’s clean seventh and eighth frames, Sam Dyson matched with a scoreless ninth.

Bochy said:

“They’ve done a great job, haven’t they? I’m really pleased. I mean the starting pitching I think has really been solid up to this point, and the bullpen — not just our veterans but these young guys that ended up making our club there at the end because of some injuries — they really have stepped up.”

Up Next

The Giants have yet to confirm a starter  for Tuesday’s game. It was previously thought that Johnny Cueto (1-0, 0.69 ERA) would face off with lefty Patrick Corbin (2-0, 1.38 ERA) Tuesday in the second of three games with the Diamondbacks, but after Monday night’s game Bochy said Cueto was not a given anymore.

Notes

Jeff Samardzija threw 45 pitches in a 3-inning extended spring training game Monday. He is expected to throw in one more minor league rehab game before rejoining the Giants starting rotation sometime next week. … Giants highly touted prospect Tyler Beede joined the team’s Taxi Squad Monday in preparation for a likely spot start on Wednesday.


Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @JPWhatsername on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.

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