BY ANTHONY SOSA
Buster Posey ripped a ball off the right field wall over the head of Kris Bryant on a 2-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning to drive in the winning run and deliver a 5-4 San Francisco Giants walk-off victory over the Chicago Cubs Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park. It was the second walk-off victory for the Giants in the series following Pablo Sandoval’s exploits on Monday night.
The Giants started the game off by putting up four runs in the bottom of the first inning, but then proceeded to go 11 innings without scoring again. As the Cubs chipped away, and eventually tied the game, the Giants did just enough to pull off the win and the series victory.
Posey, who is dealing with a hip injury and awaiting an injection to decrease the inflammation from it, delivered the game-winner after putting in 13 innings of work behind the plate. “It’s something I’ve been dealing with throughout the year (hip injury), so it’s not anything new so I know how to go about it,” Posey said.
The bottom of the first inning started with a bang for the Giants. Chase d’Arnaud lasered a ball over the left-field wall for a leadoff home run. It was just d’Arnaud’s third career home run in 463 at-bats. The offense also put together some good two-out at-bats to score three more runs. With Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Crawford on base, Gorkys Hernandez hit a double off the right-field wall that drove in both runners. Steven Duggar followed with an RBI single into center field.
Johnny Cueto summoned the start for the Giants. In his second outing since coming off the DL, the right-hander turned in a better performance than his previous start. He provided five innings of work, allowing three runs on six hits with three walks. However, his pitches showed plenty of life and movement as he punched out seven hitters. “I felt really good and I’m really happy about my outing,” Cueto said.
Cueto struggled to find his command early on. In the top of the first inning, he hit Ben Zobrist and walked Jason Heyward. The following batter, Kris Bryant worked a 3-0 count before Cueto bounced back and struck him out. He managed to keep the Cubs from scoring in the first inning. Then the top of the third inning, Cueto hung a slider in the strike zone that Jason Heyward got a hold of and deposited into the right-field seats for a solo home run. It was Heyward’s sixth homer of 2018. Cueto surrendered another home run in the top half of the fifth frame. Kris Bryant unloaded on an 89-mph fastball and hit a 409-foot, two-run homer to straight-away center field.
Cubs’ starter Mike Montgomery, who allowed the four early runs, settled in after a rough beginning. He managed to pitch through five frames without giving up any runs after the first inning. The left-hander’s final line included five innings of work, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and a walk. He struck out just one batter. His ability to keep the Giants off the board allowed the Cubs to get right back into the game.
With Bochy turning to his bullpen in the top of the sixth inning, the Cubs threatened to score again. Reliever Ty Blach allowed back-to-back two out singles to Zobrist and Heyward. Reyes Moronta relieved Blach and promptly walked Bryant to load the bases. Although, he got Anthony Rizzo to hit a slow roller to third base, and d’Arnaud made a stellar throw across his body while on the run to end the inning. But in the top of the seventh inning, Tony Watson entered and gave up a home run to Javier Baez to leadoff the frame and tie the score at four. The 408-foot bomb was Baez’s 18th of the season. It also ended Watson’s streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings.
Overall both bullpens pitched really well. The Giants’ bullpen provided eight innings of work and allowed just one earned run. While the Cubs’ bullpen pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed one run. “What a job the bullpen did, one run in eight innings,” Bochy said. “They’re fighting that’s all you can ask.”
In three consecutive innings, the Giants had runners on first and second with a chance to regain the lead. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Giants missed a golden opportunity. Brandon Belt led off the frame by reaching on an error. McCutchen was then hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs and Buster Posey and Crawford due up. Posey struck out and Crawford hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Once again in the eighth, the Giants had runners on first and second, but failed to score. In the ninth, Hernandez stepped up with a chance to walk it off but grounded into a 4-6 putout. They finished the game 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left 15 runners on base.
Heading into the 11th inning, Bochy decided to send Dereck Rodriguez out to the mound, having used a majority of the bullpen and with the All-Star break nearing. It was the 26-year-old’s second appearance out of relief this season. He came in as a reliever in his MLB debut on May 29 against the Colorado Rockies. Pitching a scoreless 11th, 12th and 13th, Rodriguez earned the win after Posey won it for the team in the bottom half of the 13th. “It’s a lot of fun,” Rodriguez said about being a starter but coming in as a long reliever when called upon. “It’s a little different then starting. Starting you get to set the pace. Here you just go with the flow and shut it down… All in all, it was a good day.”
With the win, the Giants took two out of three from the Cubs and earned another series win at home. They’ve won or split their past 12 home series (10-0-2). They are now 7-3 in extra innings this season, and they’ve won eight games via walk-off fashion. “It was a good series win for us,” Posey said. “I thought all our pitchers threw the ball extremely well, all three games. That’s a really good team over there and it’s nice to come through with the series victory.”
The Giants now prepare for their final series before the All-Star break, as they take on their Bay Area rivals, the Oakland Athletics. The Battle of the Bay starts on Friday and will begin a stretch of six straight games between the two clubs (three before the break followed by three after the break in Oakland). The Giants will send Madison Bumgarner (2-3, 3.09) to the mound to start the series. As for the A’s, veteran Edwin Jackson takes the bump. In his three starts with the A’s this season, Jackson has pitched well, posting a 2.45 ERA. The series opener is set for 7:15 p.m. at AT&T Park.
Bochy talked about recently called up rookie, Steven Duggar, and his potential to hit well against lefties. He mentioned that Duggar is not here to platoon but play against both left and right-handed pitchers. “We’re going to find out how he (Duggar) handles lefties,” Bochy said. “If you look at his numbers in Sacramento, they were a little low this year, but his history is he hits lefties pretty good. He’s patient. Hangs in there, uses the whole field… This isn’t a case where he’ll strictly platoon. He’s going to play against lefties.”
Since the promotion of Duggar, Austin Slater’s spent a majority of the time on the bench. Although Bochy plans to keep working Slater in the outfield, he does have other plans on how to get him more playing time. “I know he (Slater) hasn’t had a start in a while. That’s the tough part,” Bochy said. “Where we are at right now, with Duggar being here, and Gorkys and Cutch are going to play. Occasionally, if we feel comfortable, you could see him (Slater) at second base.”