Giants lefty Drew Pomeranz (ND, 2-8, 6.25 ERA) pitched five shutout innings against Arizona Saturday night at Oracle Park, striking out seven and performing a few Houdini acts along the way.
But the usually reliable San Francisco bullpen sprung a leak putting a damper on Pomeranz’s gem, and in a more familiar pattern, the Giants (35-47) offense had too little too late as they fell 4-3 to Arizona (43-42).
Pomeranz matched Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke (W, 9-3, 2.90 ERA) goose-egg-for-goose-egg, as Pomeranz continues to pitch with authority after adjusting his mechanics in early June. He finished April with an ERA just over four, and his May ERA, coupled with injury, was nearly 20.
“Sometimes this year I felt like I was throwing different from start-to-start— completely different every time — but I’ve been able to string this consistent release point these last few [starts] and I’m just gonna try and keep that and run with it.”
He capped off June with his fourth strong outing of five since raising his arm slot ahead of a June 7 home start against the Dodgers, letting the ink dry on a 3.33 ERA for the month. In total he’s allowed just nine earned runs in June, and seven of them came in one bad outing in Los Angeles.
He had high pitch-count, high stress innings aplenty Saturday night, scattering seven hits and two walks so that he was in the stretch every frame. But he figured a way to gut it out anyway, through five shutout frames on 103 pitches, and skipper Bruce Bochy applauded his effort:
“His count got up there, he gives up a lot of foul balls and that’s usually because of his stuff, the life on the fastball. …He gave us what we needed, he shut them down going against agood pitcher, and that’s what has to happen.”
Pomeranz said the next step he wants to take in continuing to improve is to be able to provide longevity. Even as his performance elevates, he’s pitched six innings just once this season and mostly hovers arond five. He said:
“Part of that is landing my curveball. I have the fastball now. The curveball shows up every now and then but I need that to be as consistent as possible right now. I think that’ll help me lower that pitch count and get deeper into these games.”
The first inning set the stage for the rest of Pomernz’s outing Saturday. Diamondbacks right fielder Adam Jones opened by drawing a walk and Ketel Marte wrapped a liner to left for a double, so before fans had even found their seats Pomeranz was in trouble.
But he didn’t lose his cool. When the chips were down, he located pitches and got the job done, promptly striking out three straight D-Backs and calmly walking off the mound. No problem.
He said since he changed his mechanics these kind of pressure situations haven’t been a problem for him:
“Earlier this year, when I’d get in those tight spots, I wasn’t getting the strikeouts or I wasn’t making pitches where I needed to and because I’ve been able to locate a little better I don’t care about those situations. When I’m doing good, I’m fine. I can get the strikeout when I need to and just focus on making pitches and staying ahead and just kind of reading what the hitters trying to do in the situation.”
He opened his performance in a high-stress frame and ended on the same note, trying to protect a scoreless tie in the fifth. After allowing a one-out single to Jones, Marte lined out to right and he appeared back on track. But after Escobar singled up the middle Bochy met with the left-hander on the mound. Whatever the conversation, Bochy gave Pomeranz another batter, and he didn’t make his skipper regret the confidence. He struck David Peralta out swinging to get his team off the field.
When in doubt, strike ’em out, right? Well actually Pomeranz said his mindset wasn’t necessarily to strike guys out in any of these spots. He said:
“I wasn’t really thinking strikeout, I was just thinking, ‘Just make pitches. If you make pitches you’re going to get out of it,’ and I did.”
The Diamondbacks finally put a number on the board after Pomeranz departed.
In the seventh Sam Dyson (L, 2-1, 2.54 ERA) caught a weak grounder on a hop from Tim Locastro, but in trying to make the off balance exchange to his throwing hand, he dropped the ball and Locastro was safe at first.
Greinke successfully bunted Locastro over to bring up Jones, who had reached in each of his previous three plate appearances. Jones appeared poised to finally make an out when he hit a fly ball out to deep center that Kevin Pillar chased down, but Pillar dropped it, moving Locastro to third and placing Jones on second.
Bochy was philosophical about Pillar’s flub, he said:
“He had a long ways to go and he just dropped it, you don’t see it very often but it’s gonna happen.”
Marte grounded another ball back to Dyson, and the pitcher tagged Locastro out between third and home, allowing Marte to reach first on the fielders choice. Escobar got the run in, though, slapping a single up the middle to put Arizona up, 1-0.
The D-Backs did the meaningful damage against Mark Melancon. The veteran reliever gave Walker a free pass to open the frame, followed by two straight singles to Nick Ahmed and Alex Avila to stack the bases for Arizona. That set the stage for back-to-back RBI singles from Ildemaro Vargas and Jones to give the Diamondbacks a 4-0 cushion.
Bochy was disappointed the Giants couldn’t manage to turn double plays on any of the four ground ball singles, two of which remained in the infield. He said:
“[The walk] started it, but four ground balls and we couldn’t get two [on any of them]? And that led to three runs there.”
The Giants didn’t go down without a fight though. Leading off the ninth Pablo Sandoval singled off Andrew Chafin, chasing him from the game for Yoshihisa Hirano. Alex Dickerson, seemingly at the center of all things rally since joining the team this month, forced a throwing error from Hirano to get on base behind the Panda.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo wasn’t taking any chances and decided to swap Hirano out making another call to the bullpen for Greg Holland (S, 12, 1-0, 2.33 ERA). But Stephen Vogt was unimpressed, taking Holland deep (2) over the right field wall to put the Giants within one on a three-run shot.
It wasn’t enough to compensate for Melancon’s meltdown, but Bochy said he was glad to see the team’s spirit anyway. He said:
“You have to like the way they did battle back there in the ninth — you’re down four and you get the tying run up there, that’s pretty good.”
Southpaws Madison Bumgarner (4-7, 4.21 ERA) and Robbie Ray (5-5, 3.90 ERA) will toe the rubber in the series finale Sunday afternoon between the Giants and Diamondbacks at Oracle Park. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.
Steven Duggar went 1-for-3 with a triple in his first rehab outing with the River Cats Saturday as he recovers from a lower back strain.