The Giants unearthed perhaps the biggest find of their season in Dereck Rodríguez, and the young right-hander spent another seven innings Monday night advancing the case he may deserve one of the few titles his father never earned: Rookie of the Year.
A Brandon Crawford home run to Levi’s Landing (11) got the Giants on the board in the sixth, but an extremely uncharacteristic ninth inning from Will Smith served up a two-out, game-winning home run to Marwin Gonzalez (10), handing the 3-1 victory to Houston (72-42) Monday night.
Houston’s divisive new closer Roberto Osuna (W, 1-0, 2.76 ERA) picked up the win in his first appearance as an Astro and his first since receiving a 75-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy in May.
Whether he’s facing the last-in-the-NL-West San Diego Padres or, as it was Monday, the defending world champion Astros, Rodríguez (ND, 5-1, 2.34 ERA) is capable of maintaining a level of calm quite uncommon in a rookie, specifically for its consistency. The kid does’t rattle. He said:
“That’s how I am, [I’m just] very calm. I don’t like to show a lot of emotion. When I’m out there I just try and concentrate on what I’m doing. If I throw a bad pitch where I don’t want it, I try to not let the other team know that that wasn’t where I wanted it.”
The Astros came into town 29 games over .500 leading the AL West, but these are not things Rodríguez thinks about when he’s on the mound:
“When I’m out there, it’s just me, Buster [Posey] and the hitter.”
Rodríguez can count Houston as yet another victim to this recipe for success, as he tossed a three-hit shutout against a team that came to San Francisco with a +199 run differential, matching his season-high with seven strikeouts.
Manager Bruce Bochy glowed over his rookie’s performance:
“I couldn’t be prouder of him, how he’s been handling everything thrown at him up here. And you know he’s going against the reigning World Champs, and he goes up here and throws a beauty.”
Morton pitched a tough game, too, though. He made only the one mistake to a guy who was due. Crawford was riding an 0-for-13 streak in the sixth inning Monday, and, after whiffing on an 80-mph curveball, Morton (ND, 12-3, 2.81 ERA) threw him a second curveball and he didn’t miss, planting it over the right field wall for a solo shot.
Rodríguez acknowledged the All Star caliber of his opponent, Morton:
“I mean that guy’s unbelievable, he’s nasty, [but] every pitcher I go against, I feel like is a challenge. I just go out there and compete and give my team a chance to win.”
And he did indeed give his team a shot at victory Monday. After seven solid innings and 94 pitches, Bochy had exactly the guys he wanted ready to go, pivoting to perhaps his two strongest bullpen arms to protect the 1-0 lead.
More often than not, Reyes Moronta has been used as a fireman in the sixth and seventh innings this season. But Bochy gave him a rare late inning appearance Monday night, and he did not disappoint, offering a scoreless eighth.
But Smith (BS, L, 1-2, 1.98 ERA) struggled in a big way, blowing his first save in surprising fashion. In his first season since recovering from Tommy John surgery, Smith entered the game with an 1.27 ERA, having allowed just six runs in 35-1/3 innings and striking out 50.
Smith said he went into the game feeling the same as always:
“I felt fine [coming out] normal routine, everything felt fine … I just lost command of the fastball tonight.”
After getting Tony Kemp to pop out to second, Smith walked Alex Bregman, the first red flag. Before Monday, Smith had served just seven walks on the season. He induced a fly out to center from former Oakland Athletic Josh Reddick, but added another base runner by walking Yuli Gurriel. Still, the three-run homer that followed off the bat of González came as a surprise, as it was the first Smith has allowed since July 30, 2016 when he was still with the Brewers.
“Two-out walks — any walk is — gonna kill ya, but yeah [I] just didn’t have the control I usually have tonight. D-Rod pitched his ass off — nobody feels worse than me giving that great start up.”
And in a quiet moment, after Rodríguez spoke to reporters, Smith stopped him on his way to the showers to make sure the rookie knew that he knew:
“You deserved that win.”
But Rodríguez is level-headed on and off the field, and for his part, he unsurprisingly took it all in stride:
“That’s baseball — sometimes you’re dominant and sometimes it’s just one bad pitch. Everybody’s trying. The great thing about this sport is that tomorrow he’s gonna get the ball again when we’re in the lead in the ninth inning, you know, that’s part of the game and that’s why we play it.”
The Giants attempt to fend off a sweep of the season series with the Astros in the series finale Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. and San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner (4-4, 2.97 ERA) will take on Houston southpaw Dallas Keuchel (9-9, 3.61).
The Giants have coincidentally now given wins to two of the season’s most controversial bullpen arms during the peak of their controversies, adding Osuna’s to a win of Josh Hader‘s over the Giants from a few weeks ago. Hader sent out racist, homophobic and misogynistic Tweets as a teenager, which came to light during his All-Star Game performance this year. … Bochy said Pablo Sandoval will undergo surgery Tuesday morning to repair his torn right hamstring:
“He’s a big part of this club — his energy, his passion. So we’re gonna miss him. Once he gets through the surgery tomorrow morning, hopefully he’ll be around and just keep the guys upbeat and going, because he’s so good at it. He’s a little down because he’s gotta go through this. He misses playing, this is what he loves to do and now he can’t do it for a while, so he was a little down about it.“
Bochy said Brandon Belt is about one week away from returning from his hyperextended right knee, which he sustained in Seattle. He has done some running on a treadmill, taken swings indoors and grounders on the field. The team is undecided as to whether he will go through a rehab. …Jeff Samardzija (right shoulder) threw 30 pitches Monday and will throw another bullpen Thursday. Bochy said Samardzija will face hitters in a simulation game next Monday in Los Angeles and if all goes well he may begin a rehab the following day.