BY ANTHONY SOSA
The San Francisco Giants capped off an impressive homestand with an offensive explosion on Wednesday as they took the rubber match against the San Diego Padres in a 9-4 victory. The Giants finished 7-3 during the home stand, winning all three of their series.
Padres’ starter Clayton Richard found himself in early trouble as the Giants’ bats came to life right from the start. Following a single by Andrew McCutchen and an error by Padres’ third baseman Christian Villanueva that allowed Evan Longoria to reach, Nick Hundley delivered the first run of the game with an RBI single. Two batters later, Austin Jackson added another two runs as he roped a double down the left-field line.
It was a rough outing overall for Richard, who came into the game with a 5.35 ERA. He allowed two more runs to score in the third. Hundley led off that inning with a double. With walks to the next two batters, Brandon Crawford stepped in with the bases loaded and capitalized with a base hit that plated both Hundley and Brandon Belt.
Hundley, who was Monday night’s hero with a pinch-hit, two-RBI walk-off single, had a huge day at the plate. In the bottom of the fourth inning, he hit a two-run opposite field home run. It was his third homer of 2018. “Obviously, you’re always adjusting,” Hundley said about the improvements he’s made early in the season. “A couple days ago I was in there with Zo (Alonzo Powell, Giants’ hitting coach) and we talked about a little something with my leg kick, and it really got me back to the swing where I feel like I could deliver a blow again.”
The Padres went to the bullpen in the fifth inning. Richard finished with four innings pitched, allowing seven runs on eight hits with six strikeouts to go along with four walks. His ERA sits at an abysmal 6.21. However, the Padres’ bullpen had trouble containing the Giants’ hitters as well.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Hundley hit yet another double. Belt drove him home with a single. The Giants added to their lead with a sacrifice fly by Crawford. Hundley completed his day by going 4-for-5, where he finished just a triple shy of a cycle. He also contributed three RBI and scored four times.
“Hundley, what a day he had,” said manager Bruce Bochy after the Giants’ offensive onslaught. “Really everybody did something today. That’s a great way to hit the road.” Each of the Giants’ offensive starters recorded at least one hit in the series finale. “I’m seeing what we think we can be,” Bochy said about the team’s offensive potential. “Keeping the line moving, guys having great at-bats, long at-bats, it’s paid off with more length to our lineup.”
Giants’ starting pitcher Derek Holland, who entered the game with an 0-3 record, earned his first win of the season and first as a Giant. He pitched five innings, allowing three runs on four hits with four strikeouts while walking only one. He surrendered a two-run double to Eric Hosmer in the third and a solo shot to Matt Szczur in the fifth inning. Besides for those two mistakes, it was a relatively good outing for the left-hander.
“The most important thing is we got the win and the series,” Holland said. “That’s what we are trying to gain every time we go out there. We are trying to win the series, no matter who we are playing. To get the first win, though, that’s definitely huge. Finally get that over with. I was happy with how everything was going. Obviously, a couple pitches didn’t go the way we wanted them to, but at the end of the day, we got the win, I kept us in the game, kept the momentum on our side this time.”
With their win on Wednesday, the Giants improved to 16-15 on the season. They’ve now won four straight series, after failing to win any of their first six. Scoring first continues to help the Giants as they are now 13-3 when doing so, compared to 3-12 when their opponents score first.
The Giants now set out on a 10-game road trip that starts in Atlanta on Friday. They also have stops in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Giants are currently 6-8 away from home this season. On Friday, Chris Stratton (2-2, 3.90) gets the start against the Braves (17-11), who find themselves just a 1/2 game back of the NL East lead. Mike Foltynewicz (2-1, 2.53) takes the hill for the Braves. The game takes place at 4:35 p.m. at SunTrust Park.
In the second inning of Wednesday’s game, McCutchen got hit by a pitch in the elbow. He exited the game in the fourth inning with an elbow contusion. “It caught him pretty good,” Bochy said. “He had x-rays, they are negative. We’ll see how he’s doing Friday. He tried to keep going but he couldn’t straighten out his arm there.”
The Giants activated Will Smith from the 10-day DL. He missed all of 2017 and the first month of this season due to Tommy John surgery. With Smith joining the club, the Giants optioned Austin Slater back to triple-A Sacramento. “It’s a long road you’re going down with that Tommy John rehab,” Bochy said about Smith’s track back to majors. “He’s worked hard to get back here. We’re pumped to have him back. He’s going to make our bullpen better.”
Smith pitched one inning out of relief, where he punched out two batters. He displayed a huge smile coming off the field after completing that inning of work. “It felt awesome,” Smith said. “Sitting out a full year, so you kind of have a new delivery, a new body. It’s going to take some time to play with that and fine tune some things, I’m sure, but for the first one, I was pretty happy with it.”
On Tuesday, the Giants placed right-handed starter Johnny Cueto on the 10-day DL with right elbow inflammation. This is Cueto’s second DL stint of 2018. He missed a start in April due to an ankle injury. In five starts this season, he owns a 3-0 record with a 0.83 ERA and 26 strikeouts. Bochy said before Wednesday’s game that there was no new news to report on Cueto’s injury. “I don’t think you can rule out anything, that’s why we are looking at the MRIs and getting different opinions,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of putting our heads together, I’m talking about our medical people. Deciding what type of rehab and what needs to be done.”
Outfielder Hunter Pence continues to rehab in triple-A Sacramento. Pence is recovering from a right thumb sprain that he suffered in April. Bochy also mentioned that Madison Bumgarner and Mark Melancon will travel with the team on their road trip. The plan is to have both pitcher’s throw while out on the road.