Cubs win battle of bullpens with San Francisco Giants

Pablo Sandoval, seen here in 2017, hit a two-run homer but the Giants fell to the Dodgers on Friday. (Shenk/Flickr)

The story of Sunday wasn’t the fact that Pablo Sandoval started and played three innings at second base (he’s now played first, second, third and pitched this season), nor was it the fact that Mac Williamson has now hit safely in eight games. It was the beleaguered San Francisco Giants bullpen.

With Giants starters having averaged just 5 1/3 innings per start in the month of May, a rotating cast of 11 different relievers have been asked to throw a total of 79 1/3 frames. They had to throw five more on Sunday.

With both teams scoring three runs in the first inning and neither starter being recording an out in the fourth inning, Sunday’s game between the Giants and Chicago Cubs turned into a battle of bullpen depth, a battle that the host Cubs won, taking the rubber game of the series 8-3.

Cubs reliever Randy Rosario escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third and went on to pitch 2 1/3 scoreless innings to earn his first Major League win. His efforts were needed with starter Tyler Chatwood struggling.

After allowing six walks in a 2 2/3-inning appearance in a Tuesday loss to the Cleveland Indians, Chatwood’s performance on Sunday was actually an improvement, as the right-hander walked five over the same length. He allowed three runs, all in the first inning. The first scored on back-to-back infield hits by Brandon Crawford and Sandoval, and the next pair scored on Williamson’s single.

Chicago (27-22) responded immediately against Giants starter Ty Blach, also using infield hits for a three-run rally. Kris Bryant’s double, Anthony Rizzo’s single and Addison Russell’s infield hit tied the game.

Blach lasted three innings, allowing seven hits and walking four. He faced the first two batters of the fourth — walking Rosario and allowing a double to Albert Almora, Jr. — before being relieved by Pierce Johnson. Johnson, who made his debut as a Cub last season, promptly served up a three-run homer to Javier Baez. He allowed two more runs in the fifth in a two-out rally. Jason Heyward tripled, Tommy La Stella singled him home and Almora, Jr. brought La Stella home with a double.

For all that San Francisco (25-28) did against Chatwood, the offense sputtered against the Cubs bullpen. After the first two batters reached in the fourth against Rosario, the Giants would muster just two more walks and two more hits, plus a runner reaching on an error. Brian Duensing followed Rosario with two scoreless innings, and Carl Edwards, Jr., and Justin Hancock each pitched scoreless frames to close out the night.

Reyes Moronta and Cory Gearrin each pitched scoreless innings for the Giants, who will head to Denver to wrap up the three-city road trip. Monday’s series opener will be the first of three games at Coors Field, with Andrew Suarez on the mound for the Giants and Chad Bettis on the hill for the Colorado Rockies.

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