Brandon Belt didn’t get a hit in his 21-pitch at-bat, and the San Francisco Giants didn’t score in a 49-pitch first inning, but it certainly laid the way for their first series victory of 2018.
The prolonged at-bat and inning forced Los Angeles Angels starter Jaime Barria out of the game in the third inning and as soon as he left, the Giants made the hosts pay.
The game’s first run scored as Buster Posey grounded into a double play, and Evan Longoria took reliever Noe Ramirez deep to make it 3-0. Two runs were charged to Barria, who took his first career loss and failed to record an out in the third inning.
On the other hand, San Francisco (9-12) got a sharp outing from starter Johnny Cueto, who held the Angels hitless until the sixth inning. Though Los Angeles (14-8) would go on to load the bases in said inning, thanks in part to a Brandon Crawford error, Cueto escaped unscathed by getting Luis Valbuena to bounce into a double play.
The hosts did make a late comeback bid on Mike Trout’s league-leading ninth homer of the year, a two-run shot off Cory Gearrin in the eighth. Singles by Jefry Marte and pinch-hitter Rene Rivera gave the Angels life against Hunter Strickland in the ninth, but he got Ian Kinsler to fly out for his third save of the year.
Though Belt’s first-inning at-bat — the longest recorded in the modern era — ended with a flyout, he did hit his third homer in his third consecutive start with a solo shot in the fifth inning off Blake Parker, extending the lead to 4-0.
Once again, Tony Watson was key for the Giants out of the bullpen, taking care of the heart of the Angel lineup in the eighth inning after Trout’s homer had cut the lead in half. Manager Bruce Bochy clearly has confidence in both Watson and Reyes Moronta, who allowed just a one-out walk in a scoreless seventh inning.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia used six relievers, and the bullpen won’t get any rest until an off-day on Thursday. They travel to take on the defending champions Houston Astros for three games.
As for the Giants, they’ll return to San Francisco to kick off a ten-game homestand with three against the Washington Nationals. Gio Gonzalez and Chris Stratton are expected to start Monday’s series opener.