The San Francisco Giants, mired in a season in which they appear destined to dwell in the NL West's cellar, showed signs of life on this past week's homestand. Winners of four of their last five, the Orange and Black enjoyed a successful 5-3 record in eight games at Oracle Park.
The G-Men began with a three-game series against the NL West-leading LA Dodgers. Riding much-improved starting pitching, San Francisco ended up losing the series (2-1), yet were competitive in each contest. Drew Pomeranz (5 IP, 0 R, 7 K), Jeff Samardzija (5.1 IP, 3 ER, 5 K), and Madison Bumgarner (7 IP, 1 ER, 5 K) handled the starting duties, each contributing solid outings.
In the short series with the San Diego Padres, the Giants got it done with late offense, stellar bullpen support, and a magnificent outing by their rookie right-hander Shaun Anderson, en route to a two-game sweep. Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning of game one, San Francisco received a two-run double from Evan Longoria and a Pablo Sandoval sacrifice fly, taking the lead 6-4. The bullpen came in and rescued a subpar Tyler Beede start (4.2 IP, 4 ER, 7 K), tossing 4.1 innings of one-run ball, preserving the 6-5 victory.
In the second game, Anderson took the mound and spun a gem in the 24-year-old's sixth career start: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 ER, 6 K, (W). Finding themselves trailing 2-1 in the fifth, San Francisco's Donovan Solano and Longoria helped snatch the lead 3-2 with an RBI-single apiece. Solano would double-in an add-on run in the seventh, pushing the Giant lead to 4-2. Once again, manager Bruce Bochy's stout bullpen came in and slammed the door shut on the Padres, placing an exclamation point on the mini-sweep with three scoreless innings of relief.
Finally, the NL Central's first place team, the Milwaukee Brewers, came to town for a three-game weekend (Fri-Sun) series. Pomeranz, the lefty, was surprisingly dependable for a second start in a row, holding the Brew Crew to two unearned runs, through five innings, and striking out five. The Giant offense flexed their muscles a bit, slugging three homers: one each from Mike Yastrzemski, Sandoval, and Kevin Pillar. Four relievers combined to keep Milwaukee from staging a comeback: Reyes Moronta (1 IP, 0 R), Sam Dyson (1 IP, 0 R), Mark Melancon (1 IP, 1 ER), Will Smith (1 IP, 0 R, 2 K, (SV)). San Francisco prevailed 5-3.
Saturday's game was exciting, as the G-Men clawed back from two separate deficits. It was a game in which Bumgarner was not as sharp as usual, allowing five runs (3 ER) over six innings, punching-out six Brewer hitters. Down 5-1 in the fifth, the Giant offense got the "ground attack" going, as a "bases loaded, no outs" situation was capitalized-upon with a Brandon Belt walk, Sandoval RBI-groundout, and Stephen Vogt sacrifice fly (5-4 Milwaukee). Joe Panik's sac fly tied the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth.
After falling behind 6-5, San Francisco scored two in the seventh (Pillar RBI-single, Brandon Crawford RBI-double) and a run in the eighth (Vogt RBI-single), eventually assuming an 8-6 advantage. MLB's homerun leader, 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich, knocked one out of the park off of closer Will Smith in the ninth. However, the bleeding would stop there, and the icing would be slathered on the winning-cake 8-7 (Giants).
Sunday's matchup included Samardzija on the hill for the Giants, who would remain in the game from start to finish. The "Shark" Samardzija helped out his own cause with an RBI-single in the bottom of the second, which, when paired with Pillar's RBI-double, tied the score at 2-2. The Crew would then proceed to chip away at Samardzija and the rest of the Giant 'pen, scoring a single run in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. The Milwaukee lead was cut to 4-3, following Belt's fifth inning sac fly. An add-on homerun by the Brewers' Jesus Aguilar put the game, and the potential three-game sweep, to bed at last.
This is, after all, Bruce Bochy's final season. While the Giants have practically no chance to catch the first place Dodgers or seriously contend for a Wild Card berth, there is still something to be said about fighting until the bitter end. Even if the ship is going down, this team is full of veterans who know how to win. Therefore, the Giants of this past week should be a bit more representative of the true capabilities of the team that has struggled mightily, at times, throughout this 2019 campaign.
Photo: Jake Weirick