Giants ride Hundley’s bat to fourth-straight series win

With Johnny Cueto and Joe Panik added to the shelf, the Giants are going to need all 25 guys on the roster to contribute.

Wednesday was Nick Hundley and Derek Holland‘s turn to spur the Giants to their fourth-straight series victory, by way of a 9-4 win over the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park.

The Giants (16-15) signed Hundley to a one-year $2.5 million deal in December to be Buster Posey‘s caddy, and it took him a handful of at-bats against the Padres (11-21) to earn it and then some. After a walk-off single on Monday, Hundley went 4-for-5 with two doubles, an opposite-field homer (3) and three runs driven in.

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

In 32 at-bats since April 12, Hundley has 15 hits and three home runs. His torrid three weeks will likely earn him a few more starts than usual on the team’s upcoming three-city road trip. Holland lauded his catcher after the game:

“I mean, he is hot right now. Let’s keep that going. That’s what’s great about the game is when one guy gets hot, another guy gets hot. So they’re feeding off each other and that’s what we like to see. The offense is picking up.”

Hundley put the Giants on the board in the first inning with an RBI single off lefty Clayton Richard (L, 1-4, 6.21 ERA), scoring Andrew McCutchen. A walk and an error loaded the bases for Austin Jackson, whom the team signed to mash lefties as he did to a .352/.440/.574 clip in 2017. Jackson promptly doubled to left-center, scoring two and giving Holland (W, 1-3, 5.76 ERA) a 3-0 lead.

Holland allowed a pair of runs on an Eric Hosmer double in the third, which pulled the Padres within a run, but a rally in the inning’s bottom half, featuring Hundley of course, returned the Giant advantage to three almost immediately. Hundley’s double and a pair of walks loaded the bases for Brandon Crawford, who entered the game with only three RBIs to his name in 2018. Crawford pulled a single past Hosmer to score two and make it 5-2. Manager Bruce Bochy said Crawford’s 2-for-3 day should help him get into a bit of a rhythm:

“It’s good for him. He’s probably been pressing a little bit to be honest. Such a good hitter. I said it’s a matter of time with a lot of these guys and you try to look at the silver lining. Numbers when they may be down, you know they’re going to get back to where they normally are. He had a good game. A lot of guys did.”

One inning later, Hundley clanged his third home run of the season off the arcade, making it 7-2. Two more runs in the sixth — a rally sparked by, yes, Hundley — widened the lead to 9-3. Was Hundley thinking he could leg out a triple to complete the cycle when he hit his sixth inning lead-off double?

“Yeah. And then I almost got thrown out at second.”

While Hundley knocked balls all over the park, Holland did his job as the team’s fifth starter, allowing three runs on four hits and striking out four over five innings to earn his first win as a Giant. It’s also his first win as a starter since last August, when he was a member of the White Sox. Holland is likely to get at least another month of starts with Cueto’s timetable remaining a mystery and Madison Bumgarner rehabbing until the end of May. Holland wasn’t as concerned with his win as he was with the series win:

“[Winning the series] is the most important thing. We got the win in the series, that’s what we’re trying to do every time we go out there … no matter who we’re playing. To get the first win though, that’s definitely huge. Finally get that over with. Now we just have to get that touchdown ERA down.”

Five-and-dives aren’t always pretty, but as long as they set up for Giants win they will certainly keep Holland in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

The bullpen held steady after Holland departed, holding the Padres scoreless over the final four frames. Pierce Johnson, Cory Gearrin, D.J. Snelten and Sam Dyson combined to only allow one run. But the real story out of the bullpen was southpaw Will Smith, who made his first appearance since the 2016 NL Division Series.

Smith spent all of 2017 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and topped out at 94 mph while striking out two in a scoreless seventh inning. Smith said it felt like “stepping back in there:”

“Felt fine. I’ve said during this whole process, [Director of Athletic Training Dave Groeschner] and [Head Athletic Trainer Anthony Reyes] and all those guys in that room have done an unbelievable job to make sure every box has been checked off and we didn’t miss any steps so I had no problem out there throwing sliders and curveballs because we’ve put the work in back there.”

The Giants finish the home stand 7-3 and are a game over .500 for the first time since April 7. Wednesday’s win also gives the team just its second series win against the Padres since July, 2016. “Great home stand,” Bochy said after the game:

“The guys really played well. It’s good to get another series (after losing three of four in San Diego). … Really, everybody did something today and it’s a great way to hit the road.

Up Next

After an off-day Thursday, the Giants begin a 10-game, three-city road trip in Atlanta on Friday. Chris Stratton (2-2, 3.90 ERA) and Mike Foltynewicz (2-1, 2.53 ERA) are scheduled to start.

Notes

After getting hit by a pitch on his elbow, Andrew McCutchen came out of the game after the third inning. McCutchen has a contusion but X-rays were negative and he should be ready for Friday’s game. … It’s still unknown how severe Johnny Cueto’s elbow injury is. He’s likely to seek second and third options in Atlanta, possibly including Dr. James Andrews, who is notorious for diagnosing elbow issues. … Mark Melancon will throw a bullpen on Saturday as he rehabs a forearm injury. … Madison Bumgarner will begin throwing on flat ground in Atlanta as he rehabs a broken hand. … The Giants optioned outfielder Austin Slater to triple-A to clear a roster spot for Smith.