By Doug Bruzzone
Special to S.F. Examiner
ORACLE PARK — The best that can be said about Saturday afternoon’s San Francisco Giants game is that it was an improvement on Friday night’s game. Since Friday night’s game was possibly the worst game in the 20-year history of Oracle/AT&T/SBC/Pac Bell Park, that’s not saying much.
Andrew Suarez gave up nine runs, the offense once again refused to get going and even the normally-reliable Giants defense made several mistakes that allowed the Arizona Diamondbacks to take a 10-1 lead in an eventual 10-4 win. It was the second time in less than a year (Sept. 29-30, 2018 versus the Dodgers) where the Giants have given up 10 or more runs in back-to-back games.
“The starting pitcher sets the tone,” said San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy after the game. “It’s been two rough starts. I know it looks bad and it’s hard to put a positive spin on this. It’s bad baseball. There’s no getting around that.”
Suarez was making his second start in the Majors this year after being called up from Triple-A Sacramento, and unlike his first outing, he was ineffective. He gave up nine runs (seven earned), walked three, and struck out two in just four innings of work. It was a disastrous start for the young lefty.
“I just threw too many balls and fell behind a lot,” Suarez said. “Today, I just left the ball up more than last time. I think I fell behind more too.”
Like Friday night’s game, Saturday’s matinee started with Arizona taking a first-inning lead. This time, Ketel Marte hit a leadoff triple and scored on an Ildemaro Vargas grounder that scooted under third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s glove for an error. Vargas advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on an Adam Jones single. Sandoval made a mental mistake and tried to get Vargas instead of throwing to first for the easy out, but it was not ruled a fielder’s choice. Vargas then scored on a Kevin Cron sacrifice fly.
Calling it just a sacrifice fly undersells the effort that right fielder Kevin Pillar put into making the catch, though. The ball was sent to deep right-center, and Pillar snared it on a dive while parallel to the ground. He then got up and fired the ball to first base to double off Jones in a sensational double play. A mid-inning replay review. though, found that Vargas did score just before the throw got to first base, but that takes nothing away from Pillar’s highlight reel catch.
“What a play. What a play,” Bochy said. “That ball gets by him, even more damage. He made a great play. Great double play … It’s nice to have three center fielders with [Mike] Yastrzemski out there. Our defense is gonna be good covering ground out there.”
That catch would end up being the main highlight of the day for San Francisco. The Giants got a run back in the bottom of the second on two singles, a walk, and a bad throw on a Suarez grounder to shortstop that was ruled a hit – which did give Suarez his first major league RBI – but starting in the top of the third, the rout was on.
The Diamondbacks scored three runs in the third on a home run, a single, a double, and a sacrifice fly. After Arizona plated another run in the fourth, making the score 6-1, they iced the game with four fifth-inning runs.
The Diamondbacks opened the frame with back-to-back doubles from Jones and Cron. Suarez then walked Nick Ahmed, which is when Bochy had seen enough from the young lefty, and pulled him from the game in favor of Sam Dyson.
Dyson immediately gave up a double to Tim Locastro, and then got a grounder to first base that looked routine off the bat. Brandon Belt, though, whiffed on it, allowing two runs to score and drawing boos from an Oracle Park crowd of 31,531 that was tired of seeing the brand of shoddy baseball the Giants have played so far in this series.
In stark contrast to Suarez, who was in trouble every inning, Dereck Rodriguez — called up from Triple-A Sacramento — pitched two scoreless innings, retiring all six batters he faced, and only exited the game because his spot came up in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded.
“He pounded the strike zone,” Bochy said. “He went in well. I thought he had good off speed pitches. He went up at times. He looked like he had his control that he has when he’s going well … I thought it was a nice outing. We thought we had him for two or three innings. He really came through for us.”
Other than the run in the second, Arizona starter Taylor Clarke shut the Giants down until he tired in the seventh inning. Nearing 100 pitches, Clarke hit Yastrzemski with a pitch (giving him his first big league base), walked Stephen Vogt, and came out of the game in favor of Andrew Chafin. Chafin walked pinch hitter Tyler Austin, then walked Evan Longoria – pinch hitting for Rodriguez – to give up a run, and finally gave up a two-run single to Sandoval before getting out of the inning.
That single would close the Giants scoring on the day, with Archie Bradley and Greg Holland throwing scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth, respectively. It was the fifth Giants loss in six games on the homestand, and they will try to avoid being swept on Sunday.
Yastrzemski, making his major league debut, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
Yastrzemski, who spent seven years in the minor leagues, called being in the Major Leagues for the first time “surreal,” saying, “It’s something that you dream about your whole life, and getting to walk into this clubhouse and play on the field out there and get an at bat, just be part of the game, was awesome. You want things to turn out a little differently and win a ballgame, but we’ll get after it tomorrow.”