AT&T PARK — Before the San Francisco Giants’ No. 3 prospect Steven Duggar arrived at his locker on Sunday, his neighbor Pablo Sandoval was already acting like his bouncer.
“He’s got to start today, leave him alone,” the normally-cuddly Giants third baseman barked, before later playfully inserting himself into a group interview with San Francisco’s other call-up, Ray Black, throwing off the hard-throwing right-hander.
On a day when Black and Duggar — the Giants’ No. 28 and No. 3 prospects, respectively — each made their big league debuts, though, it was Sandoval who stole the spotlight. Despite a sprained left thumb, he drove in five of San Francisco’s season-high 13 runs in a 13-8 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, and made two big plays with his glove.
“What’d I do?” Sandoval asked in the clubhouse after the game.
“He had a heck of a game,” said starter Madison Bumgarner.
Since replacing Evan Longoria as the everyday third baseman, Sandoval’s OPS had slipped from .750 to .705. Over the last six games, San Francisco (47-45) had hit .168 as a team, and scored just eight runs. On Sunday, Sandoval went 3-for-5 as one of six different Giants to tally two or more hits, including the rookie Duggar, who went 2-for-6 with a double and a run.
Sunday was the first time the Giants had scored in the double digits since winning 10-3 against Arizona on June 4. Their 17 hits were the most since May 19 against Colorado.
While Sunday marked Sandoval’s third career game with five or more RBIs — and first since Sept. 4, 2013 — he also did some yeoman’s work with his glove.
The 31-year old Sandoval, in his 10th year in the big leagues, is considered one of the worst fielding third basemen in baseball by defensive runs saved (-4) and UZR (-2.3). On Sunday, though, Sandoval made a pair of Gold Glove plays in support of Bumgarner, who struggled with command, throwing 101 pitches in 5 1/3 innings and giving up four runs — all earned.
“He wasn’t quite on top of his game,” Bochy said of his ace. “They did a pretty good job battling against him … got his pitch count up. It’s good to get him some runs. He’s a guy who’s had trouble getting run support.”
Bumgarner said he wasn’t able to get into any kind of rhythm — “Nothing was working for me, wasn’t making pitches,” he said — but he did have Sandoval.
In the second, Sandoval dove to his left to spear a liner for the second out, and then made a diving stop for a fielder’s choice groundout in the fourth. The second play saw Sandoval land heavily on his left wrist, spraining his left thumb.
“We were close to taking him out, but he said he was good to go,” Bochy said.
Sandoval’s defense helped keep the game from getting out of hand as the Cardinals rattled off seven hits against of Bumgarner, who gave up his first run in the second on a full-count home run by Yairo Muñoz, his fifth of the year.
San Francisco responded with a three-run third — keyed by a Buster Posey grounder off the heel of shortstop Paul DeJong’s mitt — the team’s first time scoring three or more in an inning since scoring four in the fifth inning on July 1.
Bumgarner, though, gave it right back. He allowed two runs on four singles in the top of the fourth, and another pair of broken-bat hits in the fifth to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead.
In the fifth, Brandon Belt — who had three of the Giants’ eight hits on Saturday and is up for the Final Vote to make the National League All-Star team — got his third hit of the day by pounding a 107-mph double off the brick wall in right with one out. He was followed by a 94.7-mph single to right by All-Star starting shortstop Brandon Crawford, and then Sandoval — gimpy wrist and all — slugged a three-run homer on a 1-2 fastball up to re-take the lead.
“Pablo, he’s a different guy,” Bochy said. “He can find a way to get out there every day. You look at him and you think he’s going to need his rest, but he brings it every day.”
Sandoval was also right in the middle of a five-run sixth. His protectee Duggar led off the frame with his first big league hit — a 104.7-mph whistling leg double to the right center gap for his first big league hit — and Sandoval followed up with a bases-loaded, two-out, 1-2 two-run single on a slider that he golfed just off the dirt.
“He’s got a little bigger strike zone than most of us,” Bochy said. “He’s got the ability to hit a bad pitch. He’s always had that.”
“I’m just excited that [Duggar] got his first hit,” Sandoval said. “First hit and first win. That’s exciting.”
A fly-ball RBI single from Alen Hanson and a two-run single by Gorkys Hernandez — on which Hanson scored from first — extended the lead to 11-4.
Black, the 28-year old rookie with a 100-mph fastball, came on in the eighth for his big league debut, walking two and then allowing the 121st splash hit home run in AT&T Park history to Matt Carpenter. The Giants got two runs back in the bottom of the inning on a pair of balls off the gloves of reliever Sam Tuivalala and shortstop DeJong.
Gorkys Hernandez left the game in the sixth due to a stiff left calf. Bochy said the Giants think the injury should keep him out for just a day. Hernandez thought he could stay in the game, at first, but he was removed and will likely miss Monday’s game. He will be re-evaluated on Monday.
Sandoval said his thumb felt “good,” but it was heavily wrapped. He said he tried to move it less after that diving play, just so he’d be able to stay in the game.
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