With Brandon Belt on the bench with a mysterious knee ailment — his MRI late last weekend came back clean — the San Francisco Giants are compromising, down the stretch.
Caught between a full-on rebuild and the pretense of respectability, the Giants started a mixture of veterans against the last-place San Diego Padres on Monday — Brandon Crawford at shortstop, Evan Longoria at third and Gregor Blanco in center — and youngsters. Chris Shaw started in left, Austin Slater in right, Aramis Garcia started for Belt at first and rookie Andrew Suarez took the mound.
Shaw went 3-for-3, Suarez threw a career-high 7 2/3 innings, and both Longoria and Crawford slugged home runs as San Francisco leaned on that mix of present and future for a 4-2 win. Despite that, with a Dodgers win over the Colorado Rockies, the Giants were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
For the first time in 12 games, San Francisco (71-80) scored more than three runs. They also had 12 hits — the first time since Sept. 3 they’ve cracked double digits.
Suarez — pulled after using his 87th pitch to get a force-out grounder by Wil Myers — walked three and struck out four, allowing four hits.
After an Austin Hedges leadoff home run in the second gave San Diego an early lead, Brandon Crawford got the Giants even in the third with a solo homer of his own.
Crawford’s homer — his 13th on the season — was his first since Aug. 25. Since the All-Star break, the San Francisco shortstop has hit .179, with seven extra-base hits in 46 games. That slump has deepened recently. In his last 14 games, he’s hit just .163. S. His average has fallen from a high of .338 on June 10 to .254 headed into the series against San Diego.
With one out after Crawford’s homer, Shaw — a day removed from his first big league multi-hit game — got his second hit of the night, a double to left. He rode home on a two-out single by fellow rookie Garcia to give the Giants a 2-1 lead.
After riding a 1-for-22 slump, Shaw went 3-for-3 on Monday and now has five hits in his last two games.
Grego Blanco hit a sinking liner to center to lead off the top of the fifth, stole second without a throw and moved to third on a Joe Panik grounder. He rode home on Evan Longoria’s 16th home run of the season, a line shot high off the Western Metal Supply Co. building down the left field line. Longoria’s homer — on a 94 mph fastball up in the zone above the hands — finally gave him the team home run lead over the traded Andrew McCutchen, now with the New York Yankees.
Shaw was removed for a pinch runner after roping a double to right field in the top of the sixth. He came into the game hitting .115 against lefties, and slammed southpaw’s Brad Wieck’s 80 mph breaker down and in for his final hit.
Shaw’s fellow rookie outfielder, Slater, also had a fine night. In the bottom of the sixth, Slater took a carom off the right field corner on a would-be Franmil Reyes double, spun and threw a strike to Crawford at second for the second out. Hunter Renfroe flied out to center, finishing Suarez’s third straight 1-2-3 inning on just six pitches.
In fact, after a single by Myers in the third (which was erased by a double play), he faced the minimum from the third through the sixth, throwing just 31 pitches. After getting two quick outs in the seventh, he allowed a double inside the left field line by Freddy Galvis, but retired Manuel Margot on two pitches.
At one point, Suarez retired 13 straight, and he finished having retired 15 of the final 18 men he faced.
Erstwhile closer Mark Melancon took over and got ahead of the powerful Reyes 0-2, but then walked him on four straight balls. Then, after going 0-2 on Renfroe, Melancon gave up a 2-2 RBI single, ending his night. Tony Watson got a groundout on the first pitch to escape the inning.
Will Smith pitched a clean ninth, getting a backhand pick from Longoria on a slow roller for the first out, he then made a sliding grab on a popped up bunt by Galvis and a pop out to end the game.
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