But the home bullpen blinked first in what felt offensively like a hangover from Friday night’s 7-0 blowout, and Hunter Strickland (L, 3-4, 3.03 ERA) allowed the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th to hand the 2-1 victory to New York.
The Mets have been the butt of many jokes this season. They’ve lost one more game than their NL East division-leading Braves have won. They have a Cy Young candidate in Jacob deGrom who has more calculated wins above replacement (8.2) than actual wins (8) despite owning a 1.68 ERA with a 0.978 WHIP. And Noah Syndergaard even managed to contract the surprisingly not made-up Hand Foot and Mouth Disease in July.
But New York’s starting pitching at least, has been nothing to laugh at in this weekend’s series in San Francisco. In Friday’s opener, Zack Wheeler pitched seven strong, allowing one run on four hits while striking out nine Giants and Steven Matz was even more dominant Saturday afternoon.
Facing San Francisco batters Matz (ND, 5-11, 4.20 ERA) allowed just one run on three hits, and struck out a career-high 11 batters, including three of Brandon Belt‘s four strikeouts on the afternoon, notching Belt’s ninth career “Golden Sombrero.”
Said Manager Bruce Bochy:
“Their guy had good stuff, a lot of strikeouts, a lot looking. We just couldn’t mount anything offensively.”
A fourth-inning solo homer from Evan Longoria (15) was Matz’s only blemish on the afternoon.
Bochy, referring to Friday’s 7-0 victory over New York, added:
“We got some of the guys going last night and you’d like to think you could build on that game.”
But in 11 innings Saturday they mustered just three hits.
The Mets took the run back in the fifth when Tomas Nido made Holland (ND, 7-8, 3.56 ERA) pay for walking Brandon Nimmo with a double off the out of town scoreboard in right field, tying it up 1-1. That stood likewise as Holland’s only black mark on the afternoon.
He got into a little trouble in the sixth when Todd Frazier drew a two-out walk and then stole second, but it was here that some of the haplessness of the Mets carried him through. Nick Hundley‘s throw to second sailed into centerfield, but Frazier, completely oblivious, remained at second. Then, when Michael Conforto grounded to short, Frazier hesitated after rounding third by a few feet. Alen Hanson caught the misstep, and fired to Longoria who applied the tag to end the inning.
Holland was thrilled to see Hanson execute the heads-up play:
“He knows what he’s doing out there, he keeps everybody on their toes. He’s a baseball player and he’s showing that out there, that’s what’s awesome.”
Scoreless innings followed from Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Will Smith and Reyes Moronta. But Strickland was the weakest link Saturday, allowing a leadoff double to Wilmer Flores in the 11th. Flores was moved over on a ground out and scored on a sac fly.
Strickland has been back for just a two weeks since recovering from a self-inflicted hand fracture in June, but Bochy said Friday’s loss wasn’t related to a health issue:
“He’s not quite as sharp … really more than anything he was trying to find his good command. He’s healthy, he just needs some work.”
Despite the two-run drubbing they gave Mets reliever Robert Gsellman (S, 9, 3.77 ERA) Friday night, the Giants bats were helpless against him Saturday afternoon and Gsellman closed it out for New York, giving the win to Jerry Blevins (W, 2-2, 3.75).
Chris Stratton (9-7, 4.99 ERA) will take on right-hander Noah Syndergaard (9-3, 3.51 ERA) in Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. series finale on the shores of McCovey Cove. The Giants will then begin a two-city road trip, playing three-game sets in Colorado and Milwaukee.
Speaking to a crowd present after the game for the Giants annual Fellowship Day with Hundley, Melancon and Blach, Strickland shared health struggles he’s had in the last year or two that he said he’s never shared even with some of his teammates before. He said he was finally diagnosed in the offseason with Ulcerative Colitis, and trying to deal with that and find the right medication has contributed to some of his anger issues.