It would be hard to imagine a worse way for game one of a doubleheader to go than how Saturday’s went for the Giants. Pablo Sandoval was San Francisco’s top performing pitcher and Alen Hanson was its most productive hitter.
Chris Stratton (L, 2-2, 3.25 ERA) saw nine batters and needed 45 pitches to get through the first. And things only continued to tumble downhill for the Giants (12-14). Just 20 minutes into the long day, Bruce Bochy had Roberto Gómez warming up in the bullpen.
The carnage continued in the second and Stratton was put out of his misery after just 1-1/3 innings having given up three more runs on a double, two triples and a home run, before the Giants went to their bullpen down 6-2. Gómez and company didn’t fare much better, ultimately dropping another 14 hits and nine runs as the Dodgers (12-13) took game one of the double-dip, 15-6.
Stratton, who carried a 2.32 ERA and 0.935 WHIP into the game, became a father Wednesday. Bochy believes that the whirlwind of a newborn and traveling to and from his home in Mississippi for the birth may have affected the young pitcher:
“He’s been so good, so reliable, [but] he’s probably had a long last three days with flying home and coming back here, and he just couldn’t get on track.”
Stratton was as surprised as anyone by his poor performance but was grateful to have the support of his teammates:
“Shark [Jeff Samardzija] mentioned to me today that if you play this game long enough you’re gonna have one of these [games]. I hate that it happened when it did, and I hate that it happened against the Dodgers, but it’s just one of those things, and you’ve gotta get ready for the next one.”
Gómez fell victim to Dodger rallies in the third and fifth, lasting 3-2/3 innings giving up six hits and three runs before being pulled in the fifth for Derek Law, the Giants 26th man for the doubleheader.
Law threw 63 pitches in an effort to bridge the gap and save the relief staff for the evening game. He played in traffic in the sixth and eighth innings giving up two doubles, two singles and three runs in the sixth, and another three singles, a double and three runs in the eighth.
Bochy appreciated the effort of his two relievers:
“Sometimes you get in the predicament and you gotta stretch them out a little bit and you need some length out of ’em. They gave us that, they showed a lot of heart [even though] they had some tough breaks there with balls falling in or call here or there.”
Giants pitching gave up a total of nine extra-base hits. Chase Utley alone hit three doubles, going 4-for-5 and scoring four times.
Meanwhile, the Giants offense snoozed after tagging rookie starter Walker Buehler (W, 1-0, 1.80 ERA) for three hits, a walk and two runs in the first. They weren’t heard from again until the seventh inning when the game seemed all but lost.
Nevertheless, Law ignited a rally by leading off against Pedro Baez with a one-out ground ball single up the middle for his first big league hit. Grégor Blanco followed with a single to center to bring up Hanson for his debut in the orange and black. Hanson didn’t waste the opportunity. He took the third pitch he saw, a 94-mph fastball, and launched it over the 20-foot wall to the left of Levi’s Landing for a three-run home run (1).
While the Giants offensive spurt may have been too little too late, they did tax the Dodgers pen by drawing 24 pitches from Baez, 10 from Liberatore, and another 10 from Josh Fields, which wasn’t nothing with the second leg of the doubleheader looming.
But the main event came in the top of the ninth when Bochy brought out his secret weapon, the right-handed pitcher and Kung Fu Panda, better known for his work at third base. Sandoval pitched the only 1-2-3 inning the Giants pitching had all day, and he was the first position player to pitch for the Giants since July 4, 1991.
He did so impressively, with a four-seam fastball that topped out at 88 miles per hour, a decent curveball and a changeup. He went on to draw a walk in the bottom of the ninth. Because, why not, and finished 1-for-4 with an RBI at the plate.
When asked when he learned to pitch he said he was never taught, adding with a laugh:
“You don’t learn that, you’re born with it.”
In all seriousness, Sandoval was glad to help the team out in any way he could:
“Bochy asked me about it in the seventh when we were hitting. He said, ‘Can you pitch one inning?’ and I said, ‘For sure, I’ll do it.’ I always tell the other guys, ‘We come here to play our game, but it’s a fun game, it’s a professional game, but at the end of the day we need to try to have some fun.”
Sandoval says he’d like to maintain his cool 0.00 ERA, but if Bochy asks again, he’ll be ready.
Bochy, for his part, appreciated Sandoval’s willingness to plug the hole and instill a little mirth into an otherwise trying situation:
“It did bring some levity to a real long game. I knew he had a pretty good delivery, I didn’t know it was quite this clean or that he has a breaking ball like that. I mean it was legit, 87 is pretty impressive. I knew without question that he would want to do it, he just loves playing baseball and he’s ready to do anything. He’s the perfect guy for today.”
The marathon Giants loss lasted three hours and 53 minutes, but at least there was some comic relief at the end.
Game two of the doubleheader starts at 7:05 p.m. and Bochy said the team made a call to Sacramento midway through the lengthy afternoon game to get Triple-A pitcher D.J. Snelton in transit to San Francisco to add additional support in the pen for the second game of the double-header. Gómez was optioned to Sacramento to make room for the lefty reliever.