‘Shark’ battles and Belt homers again but Giants tossed in extras

After more than a month and a half, the Giants and Rockies finally faced off for the first time of 2018 Thursday.

The outcome of the first game of the season series between the NL West divisional foes was to be determined in extra innings. And after the high-drama extras, the Giants (22-23) who were unable to match a two-run twelfth losing their composure and the game to Colorado (24-20), 5-3, to begin a four game set at AT&T Park.

Rivalries from what has long been the most hotly contested division in the National League manifests an aura of animosity between opposing teams, and creates a chance for players to walk-the-walk. San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt got the memo and continued his onslaught of home runs hitting number 10 on the season. But it was Colorado’s Carlos González who countered in the top of the 12th inning, singling to center scoring a pair.

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

Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (ND, 1-2, 6.30 ERA) could not take advantage of Belt’s bomb, surrendering three earned runs in the second inning and ultimately giving up five hits, three walks. He did, however, battle back from the early trouble to last 6-2/3 innings. He said:

“I felt like I had good stuff. My velo was there tonight and coming off of rehab it’s kind of hard getting back into the swing of things, but I felt good out there tonight. My slider was on point tonight and it felt good.” 

Samardzija looked like the No. 3 pitcher, after Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, the Giants were hoping to lead the charge with the other two down but had yet to see. It helps to have an All-Star and Gold Glove-winning shortstop like Brandon Crawford making difficult plays look easy, like he did on at least four occasions Thursday.

After Colorado shortstop Trevor Story singled to start the second inning, Samardzija walked Ian Desmond, who is batting just .171 this season. Daniel Castro followed with a double to left field scoring both.

Rockies starting pitcher Chad Bettis (ND, 4-1, 3.27 ERA) followed with a single to center scoring Castro and “The Shark” looked like he was left out of water during the three-run inning.

Before Belt’s mammoth shot, his fourth homer in as many games, the Giants made some noise in the bottom of the third. A rally started with an Austin Jackson double received a turbo boost when Samardzija tagged a bullet single to left. Jackson was unable to score on the liner that off his pitcher’s bat, but was chased home with a Gorkys Hernández sacrifice fly.

Said Jackson:

“I try to be aggressive and get those hits and wins but it’s tough sometimes. It’s baseball. I just have to be ready and that’s how I kind of approach it. Playing a team in your division you are always trying to get those wins so you play hard and try to separate yourselves in the division.”

Samardzija weathered the storm from the second inning and was solid until his dismissal in the top of the seventh inning.

It was Belt’s home run in the bottom of the sixth, following a Buster Posey walk, that wiped away Samardzija’s second inning woes, clearing the board and letting him advance into the seventh.

Belts homer came on a 1-2 changeup down and away from Bettis and bounced off of the green railing at the top of the wall — beyond the rule-book filed of play — at deepest part of the ballpark in Triple’s Alley, tying the game. It was ruled an RBI double on the field, but after an umpire review determined it was in fact a home run the team leader in home runs went around third base with a big smile on his face.

This was the second time this season Belt has homered in four consecutive games (April 14-17).

The bullpen was solid as relievers Will Smith, Sam Dyson and closer Hunter Strickland pitched a stout 2-1/3 innings, striking out two and yielding zero hits.

The bottom of the ninth inning led things off with Belt but he struck out to Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino, who worked cleanly through the middle of the Giant lineup.

Evan Longoria flied out and Crawford followed with an infield single then stole second (1), but Jackson grounded out and could not end the it, instead sending the game into extra innings.

After the Rockies took the lead in the 12th inning, Crawford struck out on what appeared to be ball four below the zone. Instead, it was called strike three by home plate umpire Chris Segal — one day after Belt questioned the integrity of Wednesday’s home plate umpire, Doug Eddings, following a similar call in a similar situation. Making the call tougher to swallow for Crawford, was the fact a similar pitch two throws prior had been called a ball. 

Following a discussion between the three parties, manager Bruce Bochy and Crawford were each ejected — the latter for leaving his bat near home plate.

Said Crawford:

“I wasn’t trying to get ejected but for a ball to get called a strike that was lower than the pitch before is what I have a problem with. He [Segal] told me to pick up my bat and I was already on my way to the dugout, and I never heard of someone getting tossed for not picking up their bat. It was a surprise.”

Bochy added:

“This game was a hard-fought game and it’s frustrating when you get a lead-off hitter on and those were balls. We were trying to come back and win a ball game but the calls went their way. Our guys tonight did a good job laying off those pitches but we got rung up.”

Jackson and Pablo Sandoval then walked to put the tying run on base, but Bochy’s boys ultimately fell short with Grégor Blanco flying out on the first pitch he saw following a four-pitch walk of the aggressive Sandoval to put the loss to bed right at the four-hour mark.

In the end, Pierce Johnson (L, 2-2, 5.32 ERA) was tagged with the loss for his two runs surrendered. The winning pitcher was Jake McGee (W, 1-2, 4.86 ERA) with Wade Davis (S, 16, 2.79 ERA) working around the distraction and lackluster command to seal his league-leading 16th save.

Up Next

The second game of a four-game series will showcase two southpaws. The G-Men will trot out 33-year-old veteran lefty Derek Holland (2-4, 4.79 ERA) against a youngster in Rockies Kyle Freeland (3-4, 3.42 ERA). In his eight starts this season, Holland has thrown 41-1/3 innings while allowing seven home runs, the most among San Francisco’s starting pitchers. Freeland, who just celebrated his 25th birthday on Monday, has only pitched once at AT&T Park and has a 4-9 lifetime record in night games.

Notes

Before the game, manager Bruce Bochy said Madison Bumgarner (left pinkie surgery) threw 20 pitches Thursday and is expected to throw about 40 pitches on Saturday in a bullpen session. … Joe Panik (sprained left thumb) swung the bat Thursday prior to the team’s batting practice session. Bochy said he also did some soft tossing around the batting cage. … Hunter Pence (sprained right thumb) is in the middle of altering his swing in hopes of raising his .172 batting average. The skipper approves of Pence’s decision, saying it is important that during a player’s MLB career they “make some tweaks and changes.” … Former Giants Manager Dusty Baker visited the team before the game and embraced hugs and with his former infielder Shawon Dunston. … Golden State Warrior guard Klay Thompson took advantage of the break between Game 2 and 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals to take in a Giants-Rockies game, dawning a Giants hat.