BY ANTHONY SOSA
Facing a potential four-game sweep at home by the Milwaukee Brewers, the San Francisco Giants put on a strong offensive day at the plate and captured an 8-5 victory Sunday afternoon at AT&T Park. The Giants’ eight runs scored in the series finale were more than they scored in the first three games of the series combined (7).
However, the Brewers fired with the first runs of the game. Ryan Braun got Milwaukee on the board early in the top of the first inning. He delivered a two-run, opposite-field home run into the right-center bleachers to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead. The 373-foot bomb was the left-fielder’s 11th round-tripper of the season.
Brewers’ starter Junior Guerra eased through his first two innings of work but struggled with his command in the third. After getting Alen Hanson to ground out to start the bottom of the third frame, Guerra walked three consecutive batters including Giants’ pitcher Andrew Suarez, who was giving himself up by attempting a sacrifice bunt. During the three consecutive walks, Guerra through nine straight pitches out of the zone.
With the bags full, Buster Posey stepped in and unleased on a 1-2 two-seamer that shot into the left-center gap for a bases-clearing double, which gave the Giants a 3-2 lead. Two batters later, Evan Longoria drove home Posey with a sacrifice fly. “It was a good at-bat, he battled through it,” Hensley “Bam-Bam” Meulens said about Posey’s clutch double.
Meulens served as manager today while Bruce Bochy attended the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown. “Everybody was hoping for a good outcome and with that ball in the gap and all three runs scored, I think you could see the joy on everybody’s faces in the dugout… We finally broke through and got a big hit.”
The Giants added to their lead in the bottom half of the fourth. Gorkys Hernandez hammered a 2-2 fastball, 428 feet to dead center for a solo shot. It was Hernandez’s 12th home run of 2018. Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell opted to pinch hit for Guerra in the fifth inning. The right-hander went four innings, allowing five earned runs on five hits and three walks. He struck out five batters as he took his seventh loss this season.
As for Suarez, after surrendering the Braun home run in the first, he managed to keep the Brewers off the board again until the fifth. Back-to-back singles in the fifth inning by Orlando Arcia and Eric Thames led to a Lorenzo Cain RBI ground out. Hernan Perez put up another run in the top of the sixth when he hit a solo home run into center. It was Perez’s eighth home run on the campaign and it traveled an estimated 423 feet. Suarez finished with six innings pitched, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and a walk.
Despite not having his best stuff and surrendering a lot of contact, the lefty still managed to strike out four batters and earn his fourth win in 2018. “I thought it was alright,” Suarez said about his outing on Sunday. “Glove-side command wasn’t really good but my sinker (was) working and my curveball and changeup were pretty good. But I don’t think my slider or my fastball looked that good today.”
The Giants added three more runs to their lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Posey led off the inning with a single and Longoria reached on a walk. Pablo Sandoval followed with a shot down the right-field foul line that scored two and allowed him to reach third for his first triple since June 14, 2015. They tacked on a third run in the inning with a sacrifice fly from Steven Duggar that scored Sandoval. Posey had a solid game, going 4-for-5 with a double, three singles, three RBI and two runs scored.
Sam Dyson replaced Suarez in the top of the seventh inning. Counsell countered by sending up Travis Shaw as a pinch-hitter for the pitcher’s spot. On the second pitch he saw, Shaw unloaded on a fastball and drove it into the right-field bleachers for a home run. The 383-foot shot was Shaw’s 20th dinger, which cut their deficit back down to three.
Dyson later allowed a single to Christian Yelich. With Yelich on first, Jesus Aguilar hit a pop up near the first base dugout. Austin Slater, who assumed the position the previous inning, ranged near the Brewers’ dugout, reached over and made a stellar catch. He then delivered a perfect toss to Dyson, who happened to be hovering near the bag when the catch was made, and the odd double play was executed. “At first I thought it was way in the stands but it kind of drifted back and I was able to reach over and grab it” Slater said about the nice snag he made. “I knew it was bang-bang. I didn’t know if he (Dyson) kept his foot on the bag or not because I know he did a little toe drag. A little fancy footwork.”
Holding onto a three-run lead in the ninth, Will Smith entered the game and shut the door. He converted his fifth save of the year, lowering his ERA to 1.41. The win ended the Giants five-game losing streak. They remain 6.5 games back of the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers and 6 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the second NL Wild Card spot. “All year we’ve been streaky,” Posey said about the Giants’ 2018 season. “We’ll go on a stretch where we’ll win eight of 10 then we’ll lose seven of nine or something. It just seems like that up-and-down type of year. So, hopefully, we can get on a hot streak and minimize some of these lulls that we’ve had.”
After taking the final game of the homestand, the Giants travel to San Diego for a short, two-game series against the Padres. On Monday, the Giants send left-hander Derek Holland (5-8, 3.92) to the mound, while the Padres counter with a lefty of their own in Eric Lauer (5-7, 5.29). Monday’s game is set for 7:10 p.m. at Petco Park.
After the game, Meulens announced that Sandoval had a right hamstring strain that he suffered in the fifth inning Sunday. The injury occurred when Sandoval scored on Duggar’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth inning. “(I) felt my hamstring start a little bit when I dove into home plate,” Sandoval said. “(We’ll) see what is going to be the result tomorrow. I’m going to get an MRI tomorrow morning when I get to San Diego and see what is going on.”
Andrew McCutchen was also removed from Sunday’s game. He’s dealing with a foot contusion after fouling multiple pitches off his foot during the game.
Joe Panik, who is currently on the DL, is rehabbing in triple-A Sacramento as he recovers from a groin strain that he suffered in July. The second baseman has missed 17 games, so far, due to the injury. Panik also missed six weeks earlier in the season when he had surgery on the UCL in his left thumb. In 54 games in 2018, Panik is hitting .240/.309/.345 with four home runs, 14 RBI and 25 runs scored.
Despite Meulens managing the team on Sunday, the win was credited to Bruce Bochy. It was Bochy’s 1,906th managerial victory, which passes Casey Stengel for 11th on the all-time managerial wins list. The other 10 managers that have more wins are all in the Hall of Fame, a destination that Bochy is likely to reach himself.