BY ANTHONY SOSA
Jerry Sands didn’t enter the game until the eighth inning, but he came through with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning during his only at-bat of the game to give the San Francisco Giants a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night in front of a sold out crowd at Scottsdale Stadium.
Giants’ starting pitcher Chris Stratton shook off a rough start and finished with a quality outing after struggling to get the final out of the first inning. He allowed a double to Anthony Rizzo then walked Willson Contreras before giving up an RBI single to Addison Russell. During the following at-bat, Stratton threw a wild pitch that allowed Contreras to score. However, Stratton settled in after the first. He allowed just one hit and one walk in the following four innings and would give up just one more run in the outing. He finished his evening having pitched six innings, allowing three runs on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
The Giants put together a rally in the bottom of the third inning. After Austin Jackson and Andrew McCutchen each singled, Buster Posey hit a three-run opposite field home run to give the Giants a 3-2 lead. The Giants’ offense managed to score three runs off Cubs’ starter Jose Quintana, who came into the game having allowed just two runs in his previous 9.1 innings this spring. Quintana pitched six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
A sacrifice fly by Jason Heyward would tie the game for the Cubs in the bottom of the sixth inning. The game remained tied until Sands’ walk-off single that ended the game. The Giants move on to their final game in Arizona tomorrow as they take on a split-squad Kansas City Royals’ team. They’ll hand the ball to ace Madison Bumgarner as they look to leave Scottsdale with a three-game win streak.
During pregame interviews, manager Bruce Bochy announced that starter Jeff Samardzija was undergoing an MRI on his shoulder. Following the game, it was announced that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle. It’s expected that he’ll start the season on the DL.
This throws a wrench into the Giants’ rotation plans going forward. Bochy made it clear that he could not announce the starting rotation with Opening Day less than a week away. Before the injury announcement, Samardzija sat as the Giants probable No. 3 starter.
Last season was full of ups and downs for the 33-year-old right hander. He posted a 9-15 record with a 4.42 ERA and 205 strikeouts. However, Samardzija provided the Giants with a durable arm all year long. He started 32 games and gave the club a league leading 207.2 innings of work.
Bochy said that the team won’t recall any pitchers that were optioned down.
Brandon Belt, who did not play in tonight’s game, could see some time in left field this season, according to Bochy. “I’d like to get him out there,” he said. “You just want to keep your flexibility with some of these guys. ”With Belt in left field, it allows the Giants to deploy Buster Posey at first base. This line-up would also shift the outfield around too, sending McCutchen into center and Pence to right.
The Giants’ center field situation continues to garner attention as we near the start of the season. Both Austin Jackson and Steven Duggar are battling for the starting spot. With Jackson being a right-handed hitter and Duggar hitting left-handed, that creates the opportunity for Bochy to platoon the two players based on who’s on the mound. “We’ll have to make a move pretty soon there in center field,” Bochy said. So far this spring, Jackson’s hitting .333/.405/.378 with four RBI and five runs in 37 at-bats. While Duggar’s hitting .244/.346/.533 with four home runs, 10 RBI and seven runs in 45 at-bats.