San Francisco Giants pitcher Travis Bergen delivers to home in the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in the opening home game of the 2019 season at Oracle Park on Friday, April 5, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Giants pregame: Marathon 18-inning game was a battle of bullpens

Derek Holland talks relief corps after five-hour, 35-minute game that stretched into morning

By Doug Bruzzone

Special to S.F. Examiner

ORACLE PARK — The Giants won an 18-inning marathon, 3-2, over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night and then Saturday morning, a five-hour, 35-minute affair that ended just a few minutes shy of 1 a.m. The offensive heroes were Erik Kratz, who drove in the winning run, and Brandon Belt, who scored it, but the game was won by the Giants bullpen, who pitched 13 innings of scoreless ball, giving up just seven hits, walking two, and striking out 19.

The Rockies bullpen was almost as good. They pitched 12 1/3 innings, gave up just two hits and three walks, and struck out 13, but the run that DJ Johnson gave up in the 18th inning was the difference in the game.

When asked if that was the best bullpen performance he’d ever seen, Derek Holland — who was on hand to pitch if winning pitcher Travis Bergen had to go one more inning longer — was quick to give credit to both sides.

“You can say that about both teams,” he said, pointing out that both bullpens pitched scoreless ball from the sixth to the 18th innings, both dominant performances.

The Giants bullpen has been great all year. Coming into Saturday’s game, as a group, they have an ERA of 1.93 in 56 innings, the second best mark in baseball, behind only the Los Angeles Angels’ team ERA of 1.73. In the first eight games of this homestand, they’ve been even better, giving up just six earned runs in 35 innings, for a sparkling ERA of 1.54.

Advanced stats are just as impressive for the team’s relievers, with their FIP – a statistic that tries to remove the defense’s contribution and give a picture of just the pitcher’s contribution – coming in at 2.20, easily the best mark in the majors. So far, the bullpen has been the main strength of this San Francisco team, and one the Giants have leaned on heavily, as they’ve thrown 56 innings — the seventh-most of any relief corps.

The Rockies bullpen, meanwhile, while not as impressive, has still been a solid unit this year, coming in ninth in the majors in both ERA and FIP. They’ve been one of the brighter spots for a Colorado team that has been a little disappointing over the first couple weeks of the season.

The strengths of both bullpens were evident in Friday night’s game.

“Fans probably want to see more action,” Holland said. “But at the same time you’ve got to give credit to the pitchers for making pitches in big situations and everything. I thought that shows a lot about both teams. Nobody quit. There was a lot of fight.”

GAME NOTES:

-Belt, originally in Saturday’s starting lineup, was scratched with a stiff neck, with Pablo Sandoval replacing him at first base.

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