Saturday felt like a do-over for the Giants. After Friday night’s waste of a spectacular performance from rookie Dereck Rodríguez and solid offensive output from chronically quiet bats á la bullpen meltdown, they needed redemption.
And so in what turned out to have a touch of deja vú, the rookie on the mound Saturday, Andy Suárez (W, 5-9, 4.42 ERA), matched Rodríguez’s performance — and then some — tossing a seven-inning, three-hit scoreless gem. And the Giants offense beat up on another hapless Texas starter to put up a crooked number early.
What was different Saturday? Despite its best efforts, the Giants bullpen managed to preserve Suárez’s hard-fought 5-3 victory over Texas (58-73) by the skin of its teeth.
Pérez (L, 2-6, 6.95 ERA) is having a season perhaps more dreadful than Friday’s starter, Drew Hutchison, the only difference being that he hasn’t been released twice this year. Entering Saturday’s matinee, Pérez’s ERA was flirting with seven and Saturday did nothing to help that. Like Hutchison before him, he allowed a four-spot including a homer, in the first inning.
In one of many echoes of Friday, Andrew McCutchen led a first inning insurrection with a double into the left field corner to open up the free-for-all on Pérez. He opened the game against Hutchison in the series opener with his 10th career leadoff home run.
McCutchen said he hasn’t hit in the leadoff spot since around 2010, but he’s been penciled in there for the last three games and he’s enjoyed it:
“In a sense it’s kind of exciting ’cause I’ve always been kind of a middle-of-the-order guy for the last few years or so and to get back leading off makes you feel like you can really start things off for the team—hit an occasional leadoff homer [or] get on base—that feels like a pretty big thing to really energize the team, so I enjoy it.”
Brandon Belt followed Cutch’s two-bagger with with a single to move him to third, and Evan Longoria got AT&T’d on what turned out to be a sac fly to deep center to score McCutchen and move Belt over. Nick Hundley then drew a walk, and a batter later Brandon Crawford launched a 95-mph cookie right down the middle for a three-run big fly (12) to deep center to match Friday’s first inning production with a four spot.
From the bench Hunter Pence was impressed by the way the Giants kicked off Friday’s contest:
“To bounce back and get another four runs after a tough loss last night in the first inning, I think that speaks a lot to the character of this team, and it really put a charge into this game.”
To Pérez’s credit he got into a rhythm after the first, but he’d already given the Giants the cushion they would need to bounce back from Friday night’s heartbreaker.
Suárez, meanwhile had no struggles to make up for. His highest leverage inning came in the fourth when he allowed just the second hit of the game, a one-out single to Rougned Odor followed by a walk to Elvis Andrus, before notching two of his five strikeouts of the afternoon, to shut the inning down.
After a bumpy outing in Cincinnati, Suárez said he looked at a lot of video in the days that led up to Saturday’s start.
Pointing to his midriff the rookie said:
“I was starting down here with my hands and it wasn’t letting my arm catch up. And then I was just lazy with my front side, so that’s why a lot of balls were just going down into the middle of the plate [in Cincinnati]. I just made sure to go through the ball [instead this time].”
Suárez tossed a season-high 106 pitches and left the game with a four run margin for the bullpen to work with.
After he left, Pence even tacked on a fifth run with his second homer on the year, this one a shot to left off former-Giant Matt Moore.
But in yet another repeat of yesterday’s ill-fated match, the bullpen faltered and Odor tried to play spoiler.
With Hunter Strickland (H, 2.97) pitching the eighth a two-out Gorkys Hernández error placed pinch-hitter Joey Gallo on first. Strickland then allowed a single to Shin-Soo Choo bringing up apparent Giant-killer Odor who took an 87-mph changeup in his happy zone and swatted a three-run dinger (17) to right to get the Rangers on the board, 5-3. Just the night before a two-out error from Joe Panik preceded a Splash Hit from Odor off of closer Will Smith (H, 1.84) to tie the game up.
Said the skipper:
“It’s really incredible how similar the two games were, but we found a way to get the last out today.”
In a penultimate Groundhog’s Day moment, the Giants started a rally in the eighth with leadoff singles from Hundley and Slater and even had Slater steal second, but they were unable to scratch across another run.
Bochy expressed some frustration with what he views as the identity of the 2018 Giants:
“It’s really unbelivable, no matter what the score is we seem to make it close, or there’s not a lot of runs scored. Those are the type of games we play, it just seems like that’s who we are. …You get used to it, [but] it doesn’t mean you have to like it. I’d love to sit and relax in the ninth with a nice lead, but that’s not our way.”
The final deja vú came when things got so dicey in the ninth with Smith that Bochy sent Mark Melancon down to the bullpen to start getting loose. Smith, who took on closing duties nearly two months ago to overwhelmingly positive results, allowed a one out walk to Jurickson Profar and a single to Robinson Chirinos, then threw a wild pitch that allowed both runners to advance. He seemed to get himself into gear striking out pinch-hitter Adrian Beltre, but Isiah Kiner-Falefa drew a walk to load the bases and Bochy had seen enough:
“Smitty, that was his third day in a row that’s why he was done after that last walk. Mark found a way to get that last out for us.”
In just his second save of the season, Melancon (S, 2, 2.93 ERA) showed the elite caliber that made him so sought after before his pronator syndrome cropped up last year, drawing a pop up from Carlos Perez to make the most important contrast between Friday and Saturday’s contests, recording the last out with the lead in tact and allowing Suarez a well-earned victory.
Bochy noted that the Saturday’s contest was apt as it was the setting for a pre-game ceremony honoring the players of the 2010 World Champion Giants, known as the ‘torture’ team:
“It was good to see those guys—the 2010 team—great memories, and it was good to visit with them. [We] had a little fun there. The torture was back.”
Bochy announced Saturday that the Giants would be seeking a second opinion on the condition of Jeff Samardzija‘s right shoulder. After his most recent rehab start with the River Cats he experienced discomfort. For now he has been prescribed rest and Bochy said he’s a long way off from pitching again. … The Giants honored members of the 2010 World Series team ahead of Saturday’s game, including Andres Torres, Pat Burrel, Cody Ross, Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Matt Cain and Edgar Renteria. … Buster Posey took Saturday off and is scheduled to fly to Vail, Colorado Sunday for season-ending arthroscopic hip surgery scheduled with Dr. Marc Philippon, Monday.