ORACLE PARK — As one-time spring training San Francisco Giant Cameron Maybin crossed home plate as the third run in a four-run ninth on Sunday, the Oracle Park crowd began to chant, “Let’s Go Yankees!”
For the third day in a row, San Franciso saw what is ostensibly their home crowd rooting against them — giving Luke Voit (he of the 6-for-11 series) “Luuuukes” instead of boos — as undermanned New York, visiting for the first time since 2007, dealt the Giants their first three-game sweep of the season with a 11-5 win.
“I’ve grown up in this game, so I know every game the Yankees go, it’s almost like a home game for them, so I wasn’t concerned about that,” said Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez, who took the loss. “I knew with the Luke and all that stuff. I know that about the Yankees. Every game, they’re going to have probably a quarter to half of the stadium. That’s just the way it is. You’ve just got to deal.”
Rodriguez, who had so far followed up his incandescent rookie season with a very solid start to 2019, had arguably the worst start of his young career in front of a sparse, yet hostile home crowd, setting or tying career-highs in runs allowed (6), hits (7) and walks (4), and for the first time this year, failing to get out of the fourth inning. His only highlight was a single to break up a no-hitter for his opposing number, Domingo Germán, in the bottom of the third.
“I’m just going to erase that game entirely and move on to the next one,” Rodriguez said. “I just didn’t have it. I own it. I was the worst player out there today.”
Rodriguez was the third San Francisco starter to be victimized by a Yankees team without Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. New York scored 24 runs on 37 hits against the Giants’ top three arms — Madison Bumgarner, Derek Holland and Rodriguez — during the weekend.
In 2018, the 26-year old right-hander had established himself as one of the top young arms in the game, bursting onto the scene with a 2.81 ERA (second among rookies with at least 100 innings) and 89 strikeouts in 118 1/3 innings, with just 36 walks and a solid 3.74 FIP. By the end of the season, he was no longer just Ivan Rodriguez’s son; he was a star in his own right.
To start 2019, Rodriguez was one of the bright spots for the Giants (11-17). He came into Sunday with the third-lowest walk rate of any pitcher in the National League, struck out 22 in 28 innings and had a respectable 3.54 ERA. His barrel percentage had gone from 3.9 in 2018 to 2.4, and his hard-hit percentage dropped from 36% to 33%. His walk rate (1.6 BB/9 IP) was more than one walk per nine innings better than last season (2.74 BB/9 IP).
Then came Sunday, when Rodriguez became the third Giants starter in three games to allow at least five runs to the Yankees. Rodriguez had only allowed as many as five runs in one game twice (both last season) and had only ever walked more than three batters in a game once (four in five innings on Aug. 29 of last season, in a 3-1), and never in the same game. Early on, manager Bruce Bochy thought Rodriguez’s stuff looked good, but he kept missing.
“Everything, everything,” Rodriguez said, when asked what caused such a lack of command. “I couldn’t find it. I was trying to throw strikes, and I couldn’t. I was nowhere near the zone today.”
Of the first 18 batters Rodriguez faced, only six saw first-pitch strikes, and he allowed each of four leadoff men he faced to reach base, allowing six runs (four earned) in three-plus innings.
“I felt the thole game, I was pitching out of the stretch,” he said. “I really didn’t get in a rhythm. I was just out of it.”
Rodriguez’s command was certainly lacking — of his 81 pitches, 47 were strikes — but he was also the victim of some rotten luck, at least at the start.
After allowing a single and a pair of walks to lead off the game, Rodriguez got the double-play grounder he needed, but the normally sure-handed Brandon Crawford booted the shot from Gary Sanchez, allowing DJ LeMahieu to score. Rodriguez served up his second double-play grounder of the inning the next at-bat to Gleyber Torres, and got the twin-killing, but another run would score.
With two on and two outs in the top of the second and Voit at the plate, an errant Erik Kratz back pick to second, allowed two runners to advance. They both scored when Voit beat the shift with a slow roller to the right side, right where Joe Panik would have been stationed.
Luck played no part in the third, when Rodriguez issued a five-pitch leadoff walk to Sanchez, and then allowed a front-row homer to left center by Torres to give New York a 6-0 lead on his 58th pitch of the day.
After allowing a pair of singles to lead off the fourth, Rodriguez was pulled for Nick Vincent, but the damage was already done for Rodriguez.
“He was just off,” said Bochy. “Hiccup for him today, with the command, the ball-strike ratio wasn’t good, he wasn’t his normal self. He battled that, and mix in a couple errors, that didn’t help matters, either. Rough series for the starters. Hard to win games like that.”
Torres would add another pair of runs on a homer off of Vincent in the top of the sixth, sending an 89-mph fastball 430 feet to the last row of the left field bleachers.
The Giants cut the lead in half with a four-run sixth, with a rally sparked by a leadoff walk from Tyler Austin. San Francisco got an RBI single from Panik, followed by a double from Pablo Sandoval and a two-run single through the left side by Kevin Pillar. That was as close as San Francisco would get, despite a Pillar solo shot in the ninth. The Yankees (17-11) tacked on three runs in the top of the ninth against closer Will Smith, getting his first work in five days.
“A lot of base hits, a lot of balls hit hard,” Bochy said. ‘That’s mis-location.”
The last New York visit saw the Giants draw 130,413, with no game seeing under 43,000. In what’s become a trend as San Francisco tries to rebuild on the fly, the weekend series — the Yankees’ first visit since 2007 — drew just 103,461, with only 34,540 seeing Sunday’s finale.
That crowd was on its feet when Panik — a Yankees fan from his youth — was at the plate in the bottom of the ninth. Growing up, he imagined himself playing for the Yankees, with the crowd at his back. On Sunday, when they cheered, it was when he struck out to end the game.