ORACLE PARK — Once Derek Holland was safely in the dugout after striking out the final two hitters of the seventh inning, he turned to San Francisco Giants teammate Madison Bumgarner.
“Hey, I made it past five innings and didn’t throw 100 pitches” Holland said.
The two, Holland said, push one another, and after Bumgarner and the Giants gave up a 5-0 lead on Monday to the San Diego Padres, Holland made sure there wasn’t a repeat performance. He struck out nine in seven innings, finishing the seventh for the first time since 2017.
Kevin Pillar’s second bases-loaded hit in two days — a bases-clearing double in the second — combined with Holland’s best outing as a Giant, fueled a 7-2 win over the Padres. One night after a gut-punch loss to San Diego, San Francisco finally finished.
In a rocky first in which he allowed two hits and a walk, Holland was the beneficiary of several defensive gems, including a seed from catcher Buster Posey to erase a stealing Wil Myers and Brandon Belt’s fourth career outfield assist. The Giants’ Gold Glove first baseman — playing left field while new acquisition Tyler Austin acclimates to a new coast, a new team, a new division and a new league — perfectly read a carom off the wall and went 7-4-6 to hose Franmil Reyes trying to turn a single into a double.
“He’s already bragging in there that he’s the best on the ball off the wall,” said manger Bruce Bochy.
“You know, I was out there thinking about this,” Belt said in the clubhouse. “I’m quickly becoming one of the best outfielders in the game. There’s no stopping me now.”
Once Holland settled in, he got better as he went, striking out two over the first three innings and then fanning five over his next three to keep San Diego at bay. He gave up just one run — a 423-foot bomb to Hunter Renfroe on a seventh-inning sinker that didn’t sink — in seven innings of work, allowing five hits and two walks. Holland had not made it past the seventh inning since May 21, 2017, with the Chicago White Sox. As a bonus, he got $20 from Bochy for getting a bunt down in the fourth. Whenever he doesn’t get one down, he owes his skipper $20. The more bunts he can get down, the longer he’ll be able to last in games.
“He gave us something we needed tonight, which was some length,” Bochy said. “He gave a couple guys a break down in the bullpen, and what a great job he did … You saw him get better and better, threw the breaking ball and changeup well, and his fastball, he had good command of that, too, and good life to it, went up and down with it.”
The first free agent the Giants brought back this offseason, Holland was backed by an offense that San Francisco did not have at the start of the campaign, literally: Five of the seven runs were driven in thanks to a pair of newcomers in Pillar and Austin. Not only did the Giants score more than six runs for the first time this season, they did it for the first time in 34 games dating back to last year, when they were the second-worst scoring team in all of Major League Baseball.
While Austin was brought in for his thump (17 homers in fewer than 300 at-bats last season), Pillar, though a .260 career hitter, was brought in for his glove. Still, with the stress of changing coasts with a young family, and of leaving the team that drafted him nine years ago, over his first five games as a Giant, he hit just .125. Then, he got together with hitting coaches Alonzo Powell and Rick Schu and altered his approach.
On Monday — a day after moving his wife and 18-month old daughter into their new residence — Pillar delivered his first career grand slam. That ball came out at 103 mph, but his bases-clearing double in a six-run second inning on Tuesday came out at 110 mph — tying his first hit for San Francisco as the hardest-hit ball by a Giants player this season.
“I think just getting settled in, getting my roots settled here, getting my family settled here, it’s a big part of it,” Pillar said. “It’s really important for me, making sure that they’re comfortable. I was able to do that over the last couple of days.”
Catcher Buster Posey got the rally going in the second by shooting a 91-mph Joey Lucchesi sinker the other way for a leadoff single. Brandon Crawford followed with a looping single to right. A low liner through the right side of the infield for a run-scoring single by Evan Longoria followed that, and then a 1-0 double into the Padres bullpen by Yangervis Solarte drove in another.
A walk to Gerardo Parra loaded the bases, and with one out, for the second night in a row, Pillar came up big, driving a first-pitch double to left that kicked up off the turf and skipped by Renfroe. The bases-clearing two-bagger was followed by an RBI single to right by Austin, giving San Francisco as many runs in the second (six) as they’d scored in any single game this season. San Francisco has now scored 12 runs in the last two games. The Giants scored 11 over their previous four.
“That could be one of our best games in a while, where we really kept the line moving,” Bochy said.
Pillar — now tied with Belt for the team RBI lead — is the first Giants player since Barry Bonds to have back-to-back games with four RBIs. The last time that happened, Bonds had nine RBIs over April 2-3, 2002. He’s 2-for-7 in the last two games, but has been crushing the ball.
“He’s really coming through here in the clutch for us,” Bochy said. “Between the grand slam and tonight, he’s a professional hitter. He’s a great addition to this club. He gives you defense, speed and he gives you pop at the plate. It helps lengthen out our lineup.”
The Giants drew 28,506 on Tuesday, dipping under 30,000 for the second straight game. The last time San Francisco drew under 30,000 to Oracle/AT&T Park was April 13-14, 2010.