BY ANTHONY SOSA
Rebounding nicely after a brutal road trip that resulted in the Giants dropping six out of eight games, San Francisco returned home and swept the Philadelphia Phillies, scoring a 6-1 victory Sunday over Jake Arrieta, one of the top pitchers in the game.
Arrieta, who came into the game with the fifth best ERA in baseball (2.16), exceled through his first five innings of work, where he faced the minimum. He allowed three singles in those five frames but induced two ground-ball double plays and also combined with catcher Jorge Alfaro for a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play.
With the offense looking bleak for the Giants, Arrieta looked like he might cruise throughout the rest of the game. However, in the bottom of the sixth, a one-out rally resulted in a five-run inning. A broken bat bloop single by Gorkys Hernandez and a pinch-hit infield single from Alen Hanson got the rally started. Joe Panik and Buster Posey provided back-to-back RBI singles. Andrew McCutchen then stepped up and promptly unloaded on a curveball from Arrieta. He drove the ball into the right field stands for an opposite-field, three-run homer. It was McCutchen’s fourth home run of 2018.
“Just really good at-bats, guys battling up there,” Bochy said about the Giants’ strong offensive sixth inning. He credited Hanson’s speed, and speed in general being a big factor in the inning. “We got a break on Hanny’s (Hanson) ball, but that’s what speed does. We’ve talked about this before, sometimes good things happen, just put it in play and he beat it out. That really got things going. Then Joe came through there and it just got contagious.”
After a disastrous sixth inning, Arrieta finished his outing with six innings pitched, allowing five runs on eight hits. He also struck out four batters. This was just the second outing of the season that Arrieta allowed more than two earned runs. Before the Giants’ offensive onslaught, Arrieta had pitched 19 consecutive innings without allowing a run, dating back to May 23. His ERA now sits at 2.66, as he took his third loss of the season.
Derek Rodriguez, the son of MLB Hall-of-Fame catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, made his first big league start Sunday. He grooved through the first two innings and managed to retire the Phillies in just five pitches in the second frame. Although the rookie hit a rough patch in the third. He gave up a 375-foot, solo home run to opposing pitcher Jake Arrieta to start off the inning. He also allowed a single and a walk in the third but managed to escape anymore damage by inducing a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Besides giving up the home run, Rodriguez looked solid throughout the game.
“We had our hands full because he (Arrieta) was really throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “For Dereck, what a job he did. His first start, he really pitched well. Four pitches, he mixed it up well, hit his spots. Really impressive job by the kid.”
Rodriguez managed to scatter five hits and two walks throughout six innings while giving up just the lone run. His off-speed pitches proved quite effective against the Phillies’ bats. Rodriguez punched out six hitters. His strong efforts earned him his first career win and quality start.
“It’s awesome,” Rodriguez said about earning his first big league win. “It’s a great feeling knowing we battled out there. Today, I felt fine. I felt like I was just going out there like any other start that I was doing down in triple-A.”
The Phillies attempted to comeback in the top of the eighth inning. After Will Smith gave up a leadoff single to Odubel Herrera and followed that up with a walk to Carlos Santana, the Phillies looked poised to do some damage. Smith managed to tight-rope out of danger by retiring the next three batters. In the bottom half of the eighth, Posey added an insurance run with a solo shot into the left-field bleachers. It was Posey’s fourth home run of the season.
The Giants’ pitching looked stellar in this series. In the first two outings, the Giants shutout the Phillies in both. They followed up in the third game by giving up just one run. The three starters in the series, Stratton, Suarez and Rodriguez, combined to pitch 19 innings and allow just the one run. Each of the three earned a quality start and a win.
“Get those guys going (Stratton, Suarez and Rodriguez) and it’ll be big,” Posey said. “I think if you are around this game long enough, you know ultimately, to win, you’re going to win with pitching and defense.”
After finishing up the sweep, the Giants welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks back into town for the second time this season. The three-game series starts on Monday with Derek Holland (3-6, 4.94) toeing the rubber for the Giants. Right-hander Zack Godley (5-4, 4.38) opposes Holland, as he takes the ball in the series opener for the Diamondbacks. The two teams are separated in the standings by just 2.5 games. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. Monday at AT&T Park.
Mark Melancon made his 2018 MLB debut in Sunday’s game. He pitched a perfect seventh inning, striking out the side in order. It was the first outing for Melancon since Sept. 5, 2017. “Obviously, it’s been a long time, so it’s always nice to get out there and back with the boys,” Melancon said after the game. “You know, help get some good outs, some big outs.” Bochy stated after the game that Melancon will pitch in roles similar to the one he did on Sunday, which means Hunter Strickland should remain in the closer’s role.
Hunter Pence received a pinch-hit at-bat in Sunday’s game, flying out to the warning track in center field. It was the 35-year-old’s first at-bat since April. He missed a good portion of the first two months of the season due to a sprained thumb. After flying out, Pence returned to the dugout and earned a standing ovation and loud roar from the crowd. “He’s loved by the city and all of us,” Bochy said about Pence. “He’s special and what he’s done here, the way he plays and the way he is in this clubhouse. He walks in every day, he’s just so well respected and loved by everybody. It’s pretty cool to see.”
Giants ace Madison Bumgarner looks to make his 2018 season debut in the upcoming series against the Diamondbacks. He gets the ball Tuesday night. Bumgarner made a pair of rehab starts. In Triple-A Sacramento last Saturday, he pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing just one base runner on a walk while displayed his dominant arsenal by punching out eight batters in the outing. On Thursday, pitching for the Giants Class-A team in San Jose so he could throw on normal rest, he surrendered two hits, one a homer, in 4 2/3 innings, striking out seven.
The return of Bumgarner helps a young Giants’ rotation find a strong veteran presence. For a majority of the season, they’ve gone without their three top pitchers (Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija). In 2018, Giants’ starters own a combined ERA of 4.59. That ERA should decline as they regain a four-time All-Star. In 2017, Bumgarner pitched in 17 games and sported a 3.32 ERA and 101 strikeouts.
Before Rodriguez surrendered a home run to Arrieta in the third inning, Giants’ pitchers had combined to go 27 straight innings without allowing a run. The previous run they allowed was in the third inning of Wednesday’s game against the Colorado Rockies.