Derek Holland got to face his former team, the Rangers, Sunday in the series finale at AT&T Park. It’s been almost two years since Texas declined the final option on his contract, but two days ago he said he planned to go into the game as if he was facing any other club.
And he did to them what he’s done to most of his opponents this season. His ERA has been on a steady decline since early June and whether there was extra motivation or not, that trend continued just the same with 6-1/3 innings strong allowing just one run on three hits in the Giants (65-67) 3-1 victory over Texas (58-74).
For the third day in a row the Giants faced a starter with an ERA above 5 in Yovani Gallardo (L, 7-3, 6.01 ERA). For the third day in a row they put a run on the board in the first inning. While they relied on leadoff fire from Andrew McCutchen Friday and Saturday, it was some two-out thunder from Evan Longoria with a liner out to the 421-mark in right-center field good for three bags that got things going Sunday.
“Longo” took advantage of a passed ball by Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who lost track of a pitch in the dirt, to scratch the first run across. It turned out Kiner-Falefa’s miscue actually stole an RBI from Brandon Belt, as he slapped a single to right field on the very next pitch which could’ve just as easily scored Longoria.
Holland (W, 7-8, 3.65 ERA) breezed through most of Sunday’s matinee, allowing just one hit through the first six innings. Despite going into the game with the intent of facing Texas like any other team, on some level it was hard to avoid the history.
He noted that it felt good to wash away his previous two outings against the Rangers in a different uniform. Shortly before the White Sox released him last fall his former teammates shelled him for six runs on seven hits in 2-2/3 innings, so Sunday represented a retort to both that and the naysayers who believed his career was over:
“That was one of the places they let me go as if they didn’t see much of me continuing, so I wanted to make sure — not this start — but going into in general this season and obviously last season, I wanted to be able to show that I was healthy. I did that first part of being healthy and continuing with that, I wanted to be able to show that I can still pitch.”
Manager Bruce Bochy noted that it can be inspiring to see the kind of turnaround Holland has pulled off:
“It’s great to see players like Derek, who look like they may be toward the end of their career bounce back and show that there’s a lot of a game left in [them]. … You always pull for guys to have a bounce back year [when they] go through struggles. It’s all about dealing with adversity as a good athlete. He’s very determined to show that he can pitch and he’s more than done that.”
Holland gave up the first of three hits Sunday in the third inning when Rougned Odor, in the leadoff position after tormenting the Giants in the first two games of the series from the No. 2 hole, drew a walk to bring up Elvis Andrus.
Andrus is the only remaining teammate of Holland’s from the 2010 World Series run he was a part of with Texas, but that was all forgotten when Andrus slapped a double into the left field corner. Pence bobbled the ball, though no error was called, and Odor scored giving Holland his only earned run on the afternoon.
And in yet another play the Giants have become so accustomed to from the Gold Glove infielder, Brandon Crawford made a run-saving, diving play to his right to stop a sharp grounder off the bat of Adrian Beltre squelching the threat for good.
Holland was grateful for Crawford’s play:
“That was huge. That could’ve changed momentum big time. Knowing the runner and everything, I thought he did a great job of getting up and making the play.”
The Giants notched two more on Gallardo with a second bout of two-out thunder in the fourth, this time led by Hunter Pence, in the lineup a day after hitting his second homer of the season.
On the first pitch he saw, a middle-in slider, Pence singled to left. Nick Hundley took a walk to follow and with two on, rookie center fielder Steven Duggar took the opportunity to show off some power, swatting a liner to deep-center field to clear the bases on the Giants second triple of the afternoon, taking back the lead, 3-1.
Duggar said he was surprised Gallardo pitched to him with a base open and Holland due up:
“I went to the plate and there was a base open [and] obviously there’s guys on first and second, but I knew with Holland behind me that I would have to really just hunt a certain pitch [and] try to get ’em out over the plate … but I thought that they were gonna selectively pitch around me. [I’m] not saying that I’m the best hitter in the world, but you got Holland behind [me] and he can swing a little bit, too, but in that situation I didn’t [think they’d give me anything to hit].”
When asked if going for an inside the park homer was something he considered the rookie said:
“If it was a little bit more to the right and it got back in there — potentially — but as soon as I saw where the centerfielder was at, I knew three was a definite possibility.”
He said he hasn’t earned a four-bagger since high school, noting that minor league ballparks aren’t conducive to inside the parkers.
Bochy was impressed with Duggar’s triple, joking that he wished he had that kind of speed:
“He can fly. It’s a gift and he’s a gifted defender, [too]. The bat’s only gonna get better and that was a great at-bat, a clutch triple there. It’s only gonna get better with this kid.”
Entering into the seventh inning at 88 pitches Holland seemed to run out of gas, allowing two singles—66 percent of the Rangers offensive production against him on the afternoon— to lead off the inning. After Carlos Tocci hit a successful sac-bunt to move the runners over, Bochy hooked Dutch at 93 pitches with one out for Tony Watson (H, 27, 2.73 ERA).
Holland looked somewhat disappointed with the way the inning went on his way to the dugout punching his glove, but as the 39,260 fans at the yard got on their feet to give him a loud sendoff he looked up and acknowledged their support with a wave.
Referring to an appearance on MLB Network’s Intentional Talk earlier this week in which he mimicked a racist caricature of Asian culture, for which he has since apologized, Holland said he really appreciated the gesture from the fans:
“With the stuff that happened off the field, that meant a lot to me for the fans to have my back in that and understand. And hopefully with my apology to them they have my back and they understand that those were not the intentions. But to have that ovation that felt very good and I appreciate them for doing that.”
Watson then worked a magic trick whiffing pinch-hitter Robinson Chirinos and inducing a bunt ground out from the dangerous Odor, to snuff the rally without allowing a run.
After three-straight days of pitching the ninth, Giants closer Will Smith was granted the day off. Mark Melancon ended up recording the final out for his second save of the season Saturday, after a high-tension ninth for Smith, and Bochy opted to give him another save opportunity with Smith out of commission Sunday.
Melancon (S, 3, 2.83 ERA) allowed a one out single to pinch-hitter Shin-Soo Choo but managed to avoid too much further nail-biting as he then struck out pinch-hitters Ronald Guzman and Drew Robinson to cash-in on a series victory, the team’s first since the Giants faced the Dodgers nearly two weeks ago.
With the series win over Texas, the Giants will take on the division-rival Diamondbacks in game one of three. Chris Stratton (8-7, 5.37 ERA) will face Patrick Corbin (10-4, 3.17 ERA) in the 7:15 p.m. opener at AT&T Park Monday.
The Giants will get a second opinion on Jeff Samardzija’s shoulder injury from Stanford orthopedic surgeon Dr. Timothy McAdams, Wednesday. …Hundley suffered a blow to his protective cup in the sixth inning on a ball that appeared to deflect off of Nomar Mazara’s bat, but was ruled a hit-by-pitch. Hundley remained in the game, but it was cause for concern just a day before Buster Posey is set to undergo season-ending surgery. …The Giants have brought rookie catcher Aramis Garcia up from Triple-A to serve as backup to Hundley for the final month. Garcia started the season in Double-A and has made a quick ascension:
“Obviously I’m really excited to be here and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
He added that his goal with the big league club is to learn as much as he can:
“[I’ll] just [be] keeping my ears open and just watching how things are done here and just trying to soak it all in and absorb as much as possible.”
Among the facets of Players Weekend is the option for players and coaches to write the name of someone who helped them on their journey to the Major Leagues on a patch on the right shoulder of their jerseys. For Bochy that patch read ‘Mom’ this weekend:
“You look back at what your mom has done for you, and for me how supportive she was and spent a lot of time with [me]. My dad being in the service, he was gone quite a bit. She was out there playing ball with us and all the little things that your mom does for you, so that’s why I have this patch [because of] what she meant to me, it was my way to honor her.”