BY ANTHONY SOSA
An early first-inning offensive outburst by the Cincinnati Reds proved to be too much for the San Francisco Giants to overcome and thus kept them from completing their second sweep of the season. The Reds salvaged the third game of the series by defeating the Giants 6-3, Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park.
Andrew Suarez’s outing got off to a shaky start. He allowed the first four Reds’ batters to reach base. Joey Votto knocked in Jose Peraza with a slap single to left field. However, the big blow in the inning came when Adam Duvall launched a fastball deep into the left-field bleachers for a three-run home run and the Giants found themselves in an early 4-0 hole before they had even come up to bat.
“I think my adrenaline was pumping too much in the first (inning),” Suarez said. “Once the home run happened, I just tried to settle down. Made sure to get some ground balls and try to minimize my pitch count.”
Despite the early struggles that Suarez faced, he bounced back nicely and managed to get through five more innings and didn’t allow another earned run after the first. What looked to be a short outing for the left-hander, turned into quite a productive one as he kept the team from having to burn through the bullpen for a third-straight game. Suarez finished with six innings pitched, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk. He also struck out five batters.
“Really in the first inning he had good stuff, he was just overthrowing,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “He had a good fastball, maybe tried to power his way through it a little bit instead of working ahead just maybe a little bit more. But he settled down and pitched a great ballgame.”
The Giants quickly bounced back from their early deficit and put up two runs against Reds’ starter Matt Harvey, who entered with a 6.10 ERA. Wednesday’s start marked Harvey’s second appearance in a Cincinnati uniform since being acquired in a trade with the Mets. Back-to-back doubles by Gregor Blanco and Andrew McCutchen got the Giants on the board. Later in the inning, Pablo Sandoval drove in McCutchen with a sacrifice fly. Although the ball Sandoval hit originally looked destined to fall, Duvall made an impressive sliding catch on the left-center warning track to limit the damage.
Another run was put on Harvey’s line when Brandon Belt launched a solo shot into the right-field seats for his ninth homer of the season. Belt homered in every game of the three-game set and continues to swing a hot bat. He’s now hitting .301 on the season and leads the Giants in both home runs and RBI (23). “Honestly, right now, I think I’m just seeing the ball well,” Belt said. “Coming into this year, I knew I had a good approach. I knew I had a good idea of what to do at the plate and just kind of stuck with it.”
The Reds removed Harvey after four innings of work. The right-hander, who continues to try to revamp his career, allowed three runs on seven hits, while striking out five batters. His ERA now sits at 6.17. “He’s in the process of getting in shape,” Bochy said about Harvey’s outings with the Reds. “You look at the velo (pitch velocity) and it’s pretty good. He must have hit up to 95 there. Probably wasn’t as sharp with his command. We had some good at-bats, really some great at-bats against him, we just couldn’t cash in.”
Cincinnati added another run in the top of the fifth inning when Votto scored on a passed ball by Giants’ catcher Nick Hundley. In the seventh, the Reds extended their lead to three when Scooter Gennett knocked a 377-foot shot to deep right field for his seventh home run of the season.
Despite having a few good opportunities to add runs, the Giants failed to capitalize on three separate occasions. In the second inning, they had runners on second and third with no outs but failed to score. In the sixth inning, the Giants loaded the bases with just one out but again failed to score. They showed life again in the seventh inning when Belt and Evan Longoria singled with just one out. But Sandoval grounded into an inning-ending double play and once again the Giants couldn’t put any runs on the board. “We had a couple of great chances there,” Bochy said. “Second and third nobody out, bases loaded one out, we we’re just missing a big hit.”
San Francisco finished 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday. They also left nine runners on base. Hitting with RISP continues to be a key flaw for them this season. They entered the game hitting just .235 with RISP.
The Giants’ homestand continues as they take on the Colorado Rockies in a four-game series starting on Thursday. It’s the first time this season that the two division foes will see each other. They are currently separated by just 1.5 games for second place in the NL West. On Thursday, Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 6.94) takes the hill for the Giants. He looks to bounce back after two consecutive rough outings, allowing five earned runs in each. For the Rockies, right-hander Chad Bettis (4-1, 3.12) gets the ball. He’s coming off his worst start of the season, where he allowed seven earned runs to the Milwaukee Brewers in five innings of work. The two teams are set to square off at 7:15 p.m. at AT&T Park.
After the game, Belt had some strong criticism of home plate umpire Doug Eddings. Eddings called Belt out on strikes to end the game on an outside pitch. Belt was not pleased about the call and showed his frustration as the at-bat ended. “It’s tough because you hope that an umpire doesn’t affect the game like that, but he did and you’re not sure if it’s on purpose either,” Belt said after the game. “We’ve heard that guy multiple times say that or insinuate that he’s trying to get through the game fast, and then he makes calls like that, that I can’t imagine that he really thought was a strike. You got to wonder.”
With Belt’s homer on Wednesday, it marked the fifth-straight game he’s homered against the Reds. It’s also the second time this season that Belt has hit home runs in three-consecutive games.
Gennett, who took home NL Player of the Week honors last week, finished 4-13 in the series with a home run and a double. He leads all NL second baseman in batting average (.327).
With Suarez going six innings in Wednesday’s outing, it was just the fourth time in the past 11 games that a Giants’ starter has made it past the fifth inning.