AT&T PARK — Heading into the season, the San Francisco Giants’ beleaguered rotation threatened to sink the club before the year even began.
Caught in disarray following Madison Bumgarner’s fractured left pinkie, an injury that is expected to keep him out until early June, the Giants broke camp with just four starters. That quartet has done nothing but overachieve in the opening weeks of the season, surrendering three earned runs or less in eight of the club’s first nine games.
“They’ve done a great job, haven’t they?” manager Bruce Bochy said after the 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night.
“I’ve been really pleased,” Bochy continued. “The starting pitching, I think, has really been solid to this point.
Derek Holland, the minor league free agent turned No. 4 starter, was the latest to put the Giants in a position to win after navigating an ominous first inning.
Four batters into the evening, the Giants were already staring at a 2-0 deficit, courtesy of a Paul Goldschmidt RBI triple and an A.J. Pollock sacrifice fly.
Counting Pollock’s run-scoring fly ball, Holland proceeded to retired 17 of the final 18 Diamondbacks he faced. He delivered six innings of two-run, two-hit ball. The left-handed journeyman struck out eight in his second start of 2018 and his first at AT&T Park since 2009, when he was a 22-year-old rookie for the Texas Rangers.
Afterward, Holland fixated on his early hiccup.
“It cost us the game today,” Holland said. “Our guys were battling.
“These guys were out there busting their ass for me today,” Holland added. “And, unfortunately, we didn’t finish on top.”
The Giants starters have now combined to produce a 3.33 ERA through nine games, good for fourth best in the National League. Bochy was quick to point out the success of the relief crew, as well.
“The bullpen, not just our veterans, but these young guys that ended up making our club at the end [of the spring] there because of some injuries, they really have stepped up,” Bochy said. “[Roberto] Gomez. Two big innings tonight. He had some tough luck the game before but [Reyes] Moronta, he’s throwing the ball well. Pierce Johnson. All of them.”
About an hour after the game, the Giants announced that Gomez, through no fault of his own, had been optioned to Triple-A as part of a pitching staff shakeup.
The team tapped Tyler Beede, who had been added to the taxi squad in the afternoon, to make his debut on Tuesday against Arizona. Beede takes the spot of Johnny Cueto, who tweaked his ankle in his last start Wednesday. Cueto has been pushed to the homestand finale on Wednesday.
In the opener, the Giants’ lone offensive output consisted of an eighth-inning groundout from Gregor Blanco that brought home Brandon Crawford.
Diamondbacks starter Zack Godley blanked the hosts across seven innings. The right-hander struck out nine.
“He commands the ball well and he had us chasing that breaking ball all night,” Bochy said. “We just couldn’t lay off and most of them were down below the zone and we’re usually more of a patient hitting club but tonight he has us chasing, expanding the zone more than we usually do.”
On a night when the temperature sat at 65 degrees, the bats were ice cold. Godley retired eight of the first 12 Giants via strikeout. Combined with Holland’s strong work, 16 of the first 28 batters went down on strikes.
Only three Giants — Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Andrew McCutchen — had hits. The first two both collected a pair.
Nine games into 2018, the revamped lineup remains dormant all too often. In an unexpected reversal, it’s been the arms that have kept the Giants afloat.
“The pitching’s been there,” Bochy said. “We’ve just got to get this offense clicking. We’ve had a couple really nice games offensively but we’re getting shut down a little bit more than we should.”Arizona DiamondbacksBruce BochyBuster Poseyderek hollandMadison BumgarnerMLBroberto gomezSan Francisco GiantsTyler Beede