BY ANTHONY SOSA
With an absolute pitcher’s duel blooming between Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel, Tyler White stole the show with a go-ahead, two-run home run in the top of eighth inning to seal a 2-1 Houston Astros victory over the San Francisco Tuesday afternoon at AT&T Park. The win gave the Astros a four-game season series sweep of the Giants.
After being held down by Bumgarner for seven innings, the Astros capitalized as soon as the left-hander exited the game. Sitting at 100 pitches, Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy decided to turn the ball over to the bullpen in the top of the eighth inning. Ray Black took the mound in the eighth and surrendered a leadoff double to Marwin Gonzalez. Two batters later, White stepped in and unloaded on a 1-2, 99-mph fastball that he sent into the left-field bleachers to give the Astros the lead. The 363-foot bomb was White’s fourth home run of 2018.
Black, who entered today’s game with 10.1 straight innings without allowing a hit, gave up his first runs since his first outing of the season. “He swung at a couple fastballs before. In my mind I’m thinking he might be siting on an off-speed pitch here and I just didn’t locate a fastball,” Black said. “A pitcher’s count, that’s on me. He tagged me for it. Tip my hat to him. (He) put a good swing on it but, you know, a mistake was made on my part too.”
The home run spoiled a stellar start and took away a win away from Bumgarner. The Giants’ ace provided seven shutout innings, giving up five hits and three walks. Despite the eight base runners allowed, he was effective and struck out seven batters. He lowered his season ERA to 2.69.
It was the second straight game Houston dealt a crushing blow to San Francisco. In Monday night’s game, the Giants were one out away from sealing the victory, but Gonzalez hit a go-ahead, three-run blast that gave the Astros a 3-1 victory. That loss also ruined another great start from a Giants’ pitcher. Dereck Rodriguez pitched seven solid shutout innings, but like Bumgarner, saw his win slip away. The two starters combined for 14 shutout innings in the series. “Yeah, that’s tough anytime. I felt like we had a good chance to win those games, a really good chance, and we let them slip away,” Bumgarner said about the two losses to the Astros. “You never want to do that, but it’s getting to the time of year now where we have to minimize those we can. We have to find a way.”
Bumgarner worked out of multiple jams, where the Astros had their opportunities to score against him. In the top of the second inning, Josh Reddick led off with a triple down the right-field line. Bumgarner stranded him on third with two ground outs to third and a punchout. Once again, in the top of the sixth, the Astros had a runner on third, twice, with less than two outs but failed to score.
With one out in the sixth, Tyler White shot a ball past Steven Duggar into triple’s alley and ended up on third base. Reddick followed White with a sharp ground ball to Buster Posey at first base. Posey fired the ball home and Nick Hundley applied the tag on White. Later in the inning, after a wild pitch and stolen base put Reddick on third, a ball scampered away from Hundley, but he retrieved it quick and fired it to Bumgarner covering home and laid the tag on him to end the inning and keep the Astros off the board. But it was to no avail as the veteran ended up with a no-decision. “He had to overcome some traffic there… He pitched out of it,” Bochy said. “Really a great job of keeping them from scoring. He had good stuff today. He had gone far enough and (the bullpen) just couldn’t hold it. That’s tough when you go into the eighth with a 1-0 lead and can’t win those games. Those sting, trust me.”
Keuchel, like Bumgarner, also pitched a great game but wound up with a no-decision. He fired six innings, allowing just one run on three hits and two walks. He also struck out five batters. The only rough patch he went through was in the second inning when the Giants put their lone run on the board. Brandon Crawford led off the inning with a double down the left-field line. Three batters later, Chase d’Arnaud drove Crawford home with an RBI single into right field.
The Giants had a great opportunity to score in the bottom of the seventh inning. Alen Hanson led off the inning with a triple, but the following three batters failed to knock him in. One of those batters was Hunter Pence, who pinch-hit for Bumgarner. With one out, Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch brought in reliever Joe Smith, who struck out both batters he faced in the inning. “They have a really good bullpen,” Bochy said crediting the Astros for getting out of the difficult situation. “Smith is tough, he’s even tougher on lefties. They are hitting .150 off of him…He got two big strike outs. He’s tough on both sides. Hunter’s been getting some big RBIs for us the past three weeks. (Smith) just got a big strikeout…Just couldn’t put the ball in play.”
The Astros deployed their closer Hector Rondon in the ninth and he converted his 13th save of the season. Tuesday’s loss was the Giants’ fifth out of their last six games. It was their seventh loss out of their last eight home games and the fifth straight game where they failed to score more than three runs. They fell back below .500 at 57-58 and find themselves 6.5 games behind the first place Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West. They’re also six games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves, who are currently tied for the second NL Wild Card spot.
After finishing their short two-game series with the Astros, the Giants welcome the Pittsburgh Pirates into town for a four-game series starting Thursday. San Francisco sends rookie left-hander Andrew Suarez (4-7, 4.60) to the mound to start off the series. The 25-year-old comes off his worst start of the season last Saturday, as he gave up eight earned runs in five innings of work against the Diamondbacks. As for Pittsburgh, they counter with veteran Ivan Nova (6-6, 4.49). First pitch is slated for 7:15 p.m. at AT&T Park.
During the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game, d’Arnaud fouled a ball off his left knee and was removed from the game. He was later diagnosed with a left knee contusion. Bochy said after the game that d’Arnaud was day-to-day and he expects he’ll be ready to go after the off-day on Wednesday.
Brandon Belt, who is currently on the DL with a hyperextended right knee, fielded grounders before Tuesday’s game and ran on a treadmill Monday. Bochy indicated that Belt could return as soon as next week, although, the club hasn’t decided if Belt will undergo a rehab stint before joining the big league squad. This season, Belt’s hitting .278/.372/.470 with 14 home runs, 43 RBI and 44 runs. The first baseman has been shelved since July 26. “If all goes well, it’s a possibility he could be playing in L.A. (series vs. Dodgers starts August 13),” Bochy said.
Bochy said before Tuesday’s game, that there wasn’t much to report on Pablo Sandoval’s hamstring surgery, other than that it was successful. Sandoval injured his right hamstring July 29. An MRI later determined that he had a tear in the hamstring and the surgery was deemed necessary, thus putting an end to his season.