The Giants came into Sunday’s game with a 15-6 record in games in which they score first. So despite some ups and down over the course of the eight that followed, the first inning ultimately told the whole story of San Francisco’s 9-5 victory over the Rockies.
Ty Blach struggled through 4-1/3 innings, giving up eight hits and four earned runs to Colorado (25-22). But the Giants (24-24) offense treated AT&T Park like it was Coors Field cashing in five runs on three homers, two of them back-to-back, to end their homestead back at an even .500.
Batting uncharacteristically in the two-hole, Buster Posey launched a liner into Triples Alley in the first inning, legging out his first three-bagger of the year and ultimately making it home on an Evan Longoria sacrifice lineout.
Blach (ND, 3-4, 4.37 ERA) pitched in traffic without giving up a run until the fourth inning when he started to run out of gas. The lefty grew up just south of Denver, in Centennial, Colorado, rooting for the Rockies. Since rising to the big leagues with the Giants and putting away his purple and turquoise, he has faced his hometown team in three relief appearances and now four starts with mixed results (1-1, 2 ND).
Giants nemesis Nolan Arenado, who has made steamrolling ballplayers who deign to wear orange and black into a something approaching an Olympic sport, hit Blach hard Sunday. Arenado came in batting .636 (7-for-11) career against Blach, and he added two more before the starter was pulled in the fifth.
The Rockies Gold Glove third baseman sparked a rally in the fourth on a single and he was the last batter Blach saw in the fifth, knocking a single to left loading the bases for Trevor Story.
Cory Gearrin entered in relief of Blach and allowed two of the three inherited runners to score, one of which scored on a bases-loaded walk. When all was said and done, San Francisco got off the field to start the bottom of the fifth in a 4-1 hole.
In many of the games the Giants have played in recent seasons and even recent weeks, such a deficit past the halfway mark in a game seemed a near impossibility to overcome, but Sunday was not one of those games.
Manager Bruce Bochy was impressed but not surprised by his offense’s success Sunday:
“I really feel that this club is able to put a couple runs on the board [or] we can slug it when we need to at times. We’re better equipped to [slug] with this lineup — with getting Longo here, and Cutch and of course what Belt’s doing and the way Craw’s swinging the bat. You know it’s not one guy — Gorkys is doing a nice job too. It’s really stretched out the lineup to where we’re getting production throughout the order.”
Miguel Gómez pinch-hit for Gearrin in the Giants half of the fifth singling to set the stage for Gorkys Hernández to knock out his second home run (4) of the series, this one into the netting over The Garden in center field, decreasing the deficit to one run.
Since returning from the disabled list after a long recovery from Tommy John Surgery, lefty reliever Will Smith has quietly bolstered the Giants bullpen in extraordinary fashion. Smith directs the strongest praise for the Giants trainers when asked about his successful recovery, though:
“It feels good. I’m just glad to be back. It’s a nice sign and it just goes to show how much work the training staff put in to make sure we checked every box off.”
Smith was philosophical about how things might go in his early outings:
“After you sit out a full year, things kind of get put in perspective a little bit different for you. So if you have a few bad outings then, hey thats alright, at least you’re healthy and playing. I won’t say that I was expecting to struggle out of the gate, but I was prepared if that happened.”
But so far that hasn’t happened, and he seems to have picked up right where he left off before his injury. In eight innings of work this season he has 11 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA. Three of those strikeouts came Sunday as he struck out the side on 15 pitches in the sixth inning.
Bochy is glad to see his lefty arm’s positive performance, too:
“He’s just been throwing so well. It’s a credit to hard work and his rehab. He had a long road he had to go down and he’s come back and he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s throwing the ball the way he did before the injury so it’s nice to have another left-hander down there. He just pounds the strike zone so well with all his pitches.”
The Giants added on again in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game. Brandon Belt led off with a single and after Brandon Crawford took a one-out walk, starter Tyler Anderson (ND, 3-1, 4.74 ERA) was hooked from the game.
Rockies reliever Bryan Shaw (L, 1-2, 5.01 ERA) was brought in to mop up, but instead allowed a bases-clearing triple to left field off the bat of the speedy Kelby Tomlinson. Shaw would eventually be tagged with two runs on his own record in addition to the runs he allowed on Anderson’s. He had recorded five strikeouts in 2-1/3 scoreless innings in the series prior to Sunday.
After Smith’s lights-out inning Sam Dyson ran into trouble in the seventh giving up a leadoff walk to Ian Desmond that came back to bite him. Desmond caught Dyson sleeping and swiped second, taking third on a wild throw from Nick Hundley. The Giant-killing Arenado made Dyson pay with his third single of the day to bring Desmond home and tie it up at 5-5.
The seventh inning was a free-for-all for the Giants offense, though. Belt launched a three-run dinger (11) to right off Jake McGee, his first off a southpaw hurler this season, and Hundley came up right behind Belt and banged a solo shot (5) of his own to left, making the score 9-5.
Of note is the fact that with Belt’s team-leading 11 home runs, he has only one fewer than Rockies home run leader Charlie Blackmon (12) despite the stark differences in their home ballpark— namely that Coors Field is a bandbox and AT&T Park is a place where home runs go to die.
Bochy is glad to see the success Belt is enjoying at the plate this season:
“He’s tweaked his swing a little and he’s filled some holes there. Now he’s getting to those pitches and he’s doing some damage. This is a case where you give him credit. He’s worked hard. I could see it in Spring Training, and you really can see as the season has gone on [that he is] so much more consistent now. I mean this guy has got such a ceiling on him and we’re seeing it.”
The Rockies were never to score again Sunday, and the out Arenado made by way of a harmless popup to Hundley in the top of the ninth may have been a little cathartic for the Giants as Hunter Strickland sealed the series split with a scoreless ninth.
The Giants will enjoy their first off-day in 17 days Monday in Houston before gearing up to face the defending World Champion Astros (47-29) Tuesday. Rookie Andrew Suarez (1-3, 4.88 ERA) will take the mound against Gerrit Cole (4-1, 1.75 ERA), who was traded to Houston in the offseason for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, and a pair of minor leaguers. Cole is currently second in baseball with 93 strikeouts while the Giants offense has whiffed more than all but two teams in the league (455).
Andrew McCutchen is day-to-day with a bruised knee sustained in a slide into second base several days ago. … Pablo Sandoval was seen Sunday taking grounders at second base under the tutelage of the Giants regular All-Star second baseman Joe Panik, who is currently shelved recovering from a torn ligament in his left thumb. … The Giants currently lead the major leagues in turning double plays (54).