Giants strike early and often, top Rockies to snap streak
The Rockies opened up Saturday with one-run rallies in the first and second innings, and after Colorado wins Thursday and Friday, it was beginning to seem like they had a firm grip on the weekend’s good juju.
But San Francisco shot off their first salvo in the second inning and never looked back, breaking a three-game losing streak to take the third of four games, 9-4.
Chris Stratton (W, 5-3, 4.92) scattered eight hits across five innings, but much like the Giants (23-24) Friday night, the Rockies (25-21) could never string enough of them together to do real damage.
In a bid to shake off their skid, however, the Giants put on an offensive show for the 39,195 fans who made it to the park Saturday, with nine runs on 17 hits, chasing Colorado starter Jon Gray (L, 4-6, 5.34 ERA) from the game after just 3-1/3 innings.
Through the first six frames not an inning went by without one or both teams adding on. The difference was that the Rockies never cashed in more than one run during any of their four rallies, while the Giants, in addition to solo-run rallies in the second and fourth, put up a three-spot in the third and deuces in the fifth and sixth.
Manager Bruce Bochy was pleased with Stratton’s performance:
“Stratton was battling and gave up some tough runs and balls we couldn’t quite get to, but he found a way to give us five.”
A small-ball rally in the second, with a little help from a miscommunication between Colorado outfielders Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra, led to the first San Francisco run. What looked like a run-of-the-mill fly ball off the bat of Brandon Crawford fell in between the two, and woke San Francisco bats. A couple of batters later, Stratton earned his first big league RBI.
But it was Crawford who had the biggest day against the Rockies, going 3-5 with four RBIs including a 374-foot home run to right good for two of those RBIs.
After finishing the month of April batting .190 and watching hours of video, two longtime teammates, Grégor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval approached Crawford and made the observation that he seemed to be holding his hands a little lower on the bat than he used to. The difference was so minute, just a few inches, that Crawford said it wouldn’t have been visible on the video.
The Silver Slugger said:
“My approach hasn’t changed a whole lot. I just changed my load a little bit, got my hands a little bit higher and started it a little bit earlier. [I’ve] been able to use my hands a little bit more and kinda take what [pitchers] give me.”
His first at-bat after reverting his swing shortly before the team’s recent road trip produced a home run and he’s stuck with it ever since. Two-thirds of the way through the month his May batting average is .438.
“I was hitting the ball harder [after I made the adjustment] and then we went on the road trip and I started finding holes whether I was hitting the ball hard or soft. I just kind of found some hits and it kinda took off from there.”
The other Brandon had a good day, too, hitting 2-4 with a walk, and manager Bruce Bochy commented on the first baseman’s strong potential this season.
“Brandon [Belt] has really just picked up his play this year and you could see it in Spring Training between attitude and the little adjustment he’s made in his swing. He’s really become a force and this guy is primed to have a really, really nice year. He’s doing that — lefties, righties — he’s just throwing out good at bats. I think he’s determined to go out and have a big year this year.”
Bochy was elated with the performance and consistency of his bullpen:
“[The pen has] really done a nice job. The back end of our bull pen really, sixth, seventh inning—Smitty—he’s been a shot in the arm for this pen. Dyson’s throwing the ball well, all of ’em really. It’s great to have guys that go out there and give you a clean inning and stop the momentum because they kept nicking us for runs there [early in the game.]”
There appeared to be a discrepancy between what people who watch and play baseball generally consider a strike zone and what was called by home plate umpire CB Bucknor on Saturday.
Bucknor was equally erratic with both teams, calling balls on pitches that MLB’s Statcast displayed so far within the strike zone that they weren’t even touching the black, and strikes on pitches equally outside of the strike zone. Crawford’s second career ejection Thursday night illustrates ongoing frustrations the Giants have had with umpires in the last several games.
San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner, who is rehabbing from a fractured left pinkie knuckle he sustained in Spring Training, threw his third bullpen Saturday, this time throwing 40 pitches. His knuckle remains somewhat swollen but he says he has no pain.
“When it comes to hitting, throwing & catching —any baseball stuff feels normal.”
Bumgarner is expected to throw to hitters for the first time next Saturday, May 26. … Andrew McCutchen bruised his knee sliding into second base and is day-to-day, according to Bruce Bochy.