BY ANTHONY SOSA
An explosive seventh inning, which included back-to-back home runs from Brandon Belt and Nick Hundley, capped off an exhilarating, back-and-forth battle that resulted in a 9-5 Giants victory over their division-rival Colorado Rockies Sunday afternoon at AT&T Park. The win earned the Giants a split of the four game series and gave them a 4-3 winning record during the home stand.
All tied up at five, Belt stepped in with runners on first and second and one out. He promptly deposited a 1-0 Jake McGee fastball into the right-field bleachers for a three-run homer. It was Belt’s 11th home run on the year, and his fifth in the past seven games. After a long battle at the plate, Nick Hundley followed Belt with a home run of his own on the ninth pitch of the at-bat. It was Hundley’s fifth of the year.
“You really feel good when he’s up there,” said manager Bruce Bochy on Belt’s recent tear. “He’s really been swinging the bat so well for an extended period of time. They brought in the tough lefty and he got the job done. Right now, he’s doing a good job of carrying us at times.”
Both teams kept exchanging leads throughout the game. The Giants’ offense looked promising early. In the bottom of the first inning, Buster Posey hit a ball into triple’s alley and found himself on third base. It was Posey’s ninth career three-bagger and his first triple since Sept. 10, 2016. Evan Longoria followed with an RBI sacrifice fly and the Giants took an early 1-0 lead.
After miniscule offensive production for the Giants in the next three innings, Gorkys Hernandez stepped into the box with a runner on first and delivered his fourth home run of the season. Charlie Blackmon ranged back to the fence but mistimed his jump and just missed a shot at robbing the homer.
Giants’ starter Ty Blach looked solid through his first three innings of work, but the fourth and fifth were rough innings for the left-hander. After a Nolan Arenado leadoff single, Trevor Story laced a ball over Austin Jackson’s head for a double. Arenado raced around the bags and scored from first.
Two batters later, Noel Cuevas singled in Story. With Cuevas still at first and two outs, Pat Valaika hit a double just passed the outstretched glove of Belt. However, Belt, Crawford and Hundley teamed up on two relay throws to nail Cuevas at the plate, limiting the damage of the inning.
Despite the defensive help in the top of the fourth, Blach couldn’t help himself out in the fifth. He allowed two singles and a walk, while recording just one out, and Bochy decided he had seen enough, pulling the starter after just 4 1/3 innings pitched. Reliever Cory Gearrin followed Blach and gave up both an infield single to Story and a walk to Cuevas, allowing two runs to score before getting out of the frame.
Sunday’s outing marked the third straight start for Blach where he didn’t make it out of the fifth inning. His final line included four earned runs on eight hits and two walks. He only punched out one batter. “I felt like I had good stuff,” Blach said about his outing on Sunday. “My changeup was really good. They hit a lot of singles that just kind of found some holes there and they hit a couple of decent pitches. I thought I commanded the ball really well, and was able to move it inside-outside.”
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Giants chased Rockies’ starter Tyler Anderson out of the game. He allowed both a single to Belt and a walk to Crawford, and Rockies’ manager Bud Black turned the ball over to reliever Bryan Shaw in hopes to get out of the jam with no damage. Kelby Tomlinson spoiled those plans with a clutch two-out, two-run triple that landed into the left-center gap and helped San Francisco reclaim the lead. Anderson’s outing included 5 1/3 innings of work, where he gave up five earned runs on six hits and a walk. He struck out four Giants. “With our offense, we know we still got a chance to comeback in any game,” Tomlinson said. “We swung the bat well today, swung the bat well yesterday. The potential is there, we have a good offense.”
The lead that the Giants acquired in the bottom of the sixth didn’t last long. Reliever Sam Dyson entered in the top of the seventh and struggled right away. He walked Ian Desmond to start the inning. Desmond stole second and ended up on third when Hundley’s throw ended up in center field. Arenado followed with an RBI single, which tied the game at five. Dyson settled down after the single and managed to strand Arenado at third.
After surrendering the home runs to Belt and Hundley in the seventh, the Rockies attempted to rally in both the eighth and ninth but failed to put up any runs. The win gets the Giants back to the .500 mark at 24-24, while the Rockies fall to 25-22. With the Arizona Diamondbacks also losing on Sunday, the Giants find themselves just 1.5 games out of first place with the Diamondbacks and Rockies sharing the division lead.
“Just a hard-fought, well-played game. Great way to end the homestand,” Bochy said. “Makes for a winning homestand as we head to Houston. These guys need a day off, so it’s good to see them get a break. A much-needed day off.”
With their homestand over, the Giants now travel to Houston, where they have an off day on Monday and then begin an eight-game road trip on Tuesday. The Giants are currently 10-14 on the road in 2018. Their road travels will also include stops in Chicago and Colorado. On Tuesday, the Giants send Andrew Suarez (1-3, 4.88) to the mound to face off against the Astros Gerrit Cole (4-1, 1.75), with Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 6.30) going up against Justin Verlander (5-2, 1.05) on Wednesday.
Suarez comes off his last start against the Cincinnati Reds, where he allowed the first four batters to score, but settled in after and allowed just one unearned run the rest of his outing. As for Cole, he’s second in the Majors with 93 strikeouts in just 61 2/3 innings pitched. Meanwhile Verlander comes off a stellar outing in Anaheim, where he threw a complete game shutout against the Los Angeles Angels. He also currently owns the best ERA in baseball. The two teams start their short two-game series at 5:10 p.m. at Minute Maid Park.
Andrew McCutchen sat out Sunday’s game after suffering a bruised knee making a sliding catch in Saturday’s game. However, McCutchen should be back in the lineup on Tuesday. Bochy even said that McCutchen was available to pinch hit in Sunday’s game if it was necessary. “Probably could have a pushed him a little bit,” Bochy said before the game. “But we’ll give him a day-to-day with the day off on Monday, give him a couple days so he gets a break.”
Brandon Crawford continues to carry a hot stick throughout the month of May. He currently owns the highest batting average in all of baseball this month (.444). The last time a Giants’ player hit .440-or-higher in a month was Randy Winn, who hit .447 back in September 2005.
Both Mac Williamson and Hunter Pence are in the midst of rehab assignments at triple-A Sacramento. Pence, in 14 games in Sacramento, is hitting .321 and currently holds an eight-game hit streak. In two games, Williamson is 3-for-8 with a double, two home runs and six RBI.
Arenado, who came into the game with great career numbers against Blach (7-for-11, .636 batting average), went 2-for-3 against him with two singles. He’s now 9-for-13 for a .692 batting average against the lefty.