30 runs. 3 wins. Hunter Pence returns. Not a bad weekend for the Giants.
This is your World Champion San Francisco Giants. The G-men won their third straight over Cincinnati, taking the series three games to one and finishing the short road trip at 4-2. The Giants, who have now won 16 of their last 24, head home to San Francisco where they’ll take on the first place Dodgers on Tuesday night, after an off day on Monday.
For the sixth consecutive game, the Giants scored first in this one, scoring four times in the top of the second inning. However, the pitching staff would not provide the Giants a torture-free game as they did in the last two victories (10-2 and 11-2 wins), with the Reds coming back from a 6-1 deficit to score four runs in the bottom of the third, closing the gap to 6-5. The teams traded runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings, and the Giants were able to preserve their 9-8 lead in the bottom of the ninth as Santiago Casilla came in to close it out, throwing nine pitches, getting nine strikes and three strike outs for his ninth save. Yes, tonight’s plane ride to San Francisco will be upbeat to say the least.
For the second consecutive night, the Giants hitters knocked 16 hits, five of them for extra bases, including two home runs. The G-men have struck seven home runs in their last three games, after hitting just 21 in their first 35 games. By accumulating 45 hits in their past three games, the Giants raised their team batting average to .269 on the season, good for 3rd best in all of MLB. But the most important statistical improvement, and the one that this writer believes is most responsible for the Giants three game win streak and offensive turnaround, is their average with runners in scoring position over the past three games – .375. “That’s what happens when you’ve got four or five guys swinging the bat well,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “This is a little bit more like who we are. We’re going to be more consistent than we were early in the season.”
Those four or five guys are Nori Aoki (.291 average), Joe Panik (.279), Buster Posey (.287), Brandon Belt (.321), Hunter Pence (.500 in his first two games of the season), Brandon Crawford (.285), Gregor Blanco (.266), and Matt Duffy (.304). Not to mention Angel Pagan, who is hitting .324 and sat out today’s game to rest his ailing back. Wait, that’s nine Giants that are swinging the bat well right now! Yes, that’s why their team batting average is suddenly third best in MLB and why they’ve scored 30 runs in three games.
Aoki returned to the starting lineup going 3 for 6 with 3 RBIs, including a perfectly placed bunt single down the third baseline in the seventh inning that scored Crawford and put the Giants ahead 8-6. This was certainly was one of the key plays of the game. Brandon Belt continued to absolutely tear the cover off of the ball, going 3 for 4 with a home run (his third in three games), double, RBI, and three runs scored. Pence went 2 for 5 in his second game back from the DL, hitting his first home run while driving in two runs and scoring two runs. Brandon Crawford also continued his hot hitting, going 2 for 4 with a double, walk, RBI, and three runs scored. And Matt Duffy got the start at third base over the struggling Casey McGehee, going 2 for 5 with an RBI. McGehee did enter the game in the eighth inning as a defensive substitution, and singled in the top of the ninth, raising his average to .202, above the Mendoza line.
Giants starter Chris Heston struggled early in this one, giving up a run in the second inning and four in the third. He allowed seven hits, two walks, and struck out two in two official innings, failing to get anyone out in the fateful third inning. It was his worst outing of the season, following an impressive complete game victory against the Astros on Tuesday when he gave up just two hits and one run.
After an off day for the G-men on Monday, they’ll face the first place Dodgers in a short three game home stand starting Tuesday night. The second place Giants trail the Dodgers by 4 ½ games entering the series, with thoughts of a sweep obviously top of mind. Tim Hudson (1-3, 4.57) will oppose Dodgers starter Carlos Frias (3-0, 2.89). Hudson is 6-6 with a 4.03 ERA in his career against Los Angeles. The Giants are 4-2 against the Dodgers thus far in the 2015 campaign, including a three game Giants sweep when Los Angeles visited AT & T Park last month. Beat LA!