When Gorkys Hernandez’s sixth-inning home run cleared the left-field wall at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon, it was the ninth ball the San Francisco Giants had hit with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph.
It was also the first for which the Giants had anything to show.
The solo drive for the defensive-minded outfielder broke a scoreless tie, ignited a five-run sixth and sent the Giants on their way to a 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It also made for a much happier flight home.
With the win, the Giants put to an end what had been a six-game slide and one ugly week of baseball.
Instead of returning to AT&T Park in the middle of a seven-game losing streak, the Giants head home with a respectable 4-6 record on the marathon road trip and a 20-21 record overall.
Amid the downturn, the Giants couldn’t summon any offense — much less the kind of crooked number the team hung on Ivan Nova and Richard Rodriguez in the sixth. The Giants were outscored 49-15 during their week in Pennsylvania, surrendering 11 runs on three occasions.
After Hernandez opened the rally with his second home run of 2018, Brandon Crawford doubled the advantage with a two-run hit into center field.
Catcher Nick Hundley broke the inning and the game open with a three-run blast just inside the left-field foul pole. After the Giants had spent the afternoon lacing hard-hit balls for outs, Hundley’s fourth home run left his bat at a more modest 94.2 mph.
Hundley now has twice as many home runs as Buster Posey, who had the day off with the Giants in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in as many days.
Hundley’s drive came on the first pitch after Rodriguez entered from the bullpen, relieving Nova. Heading into the matinee, Rodriguez had totaled 23 strikeouts while letting in just two runs in 13.1 innings.
The day began in inauspicious fashion for Giants starter Derek Holland. The left-hander wasn’t crisp but he proved effective. Holland opened the first with a walk and ended up scattering five free passes and four hits in his 6.1 scoreless innings. The performance, punctuated by seven strikeouts, was Holland’s longest outing as a Giant.
The biggest moment arrived in the fourth inning when Holland, already up to 59 pitches, had runners on first and second and no outs. The starter got Jordy Mercer to roll a grounder to Evan Longoria at third base, who started a double play, quelling the burgeoning rally.
A trio of relievers followed Holland with 2.2 innings of unblemished work. Reyes Moronta, who continues his breakout season, recorded the final two outs of the seventh. Left-hander Will Smith completed a scoreless eighth and Hunter Strickland recorded his ninth save.
Help is on the horizon as the Giants begin a seven-game homestand, hosting the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night. Before first pitch, Madison Bumgarner is slated to throw a bullpen. Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters he’s optimistic that Bumgarner, who’s working his way back from his fractured left pinkie, will be ready to rejoin the rotation right around May 26 when he’s eligible to return from the 60-day disabled list.
“It’s going to be close,” Bochy said.