AT&T PARK — The San Francisco Giants believe they’ve turned the corner after a miserable stretch of misfortune derailed the kickoff to their second-half push.
The local nine won their second-straight game, this time 3-1, on Sunday to split their four-game series against another likely playoff-bound team, the Washington Nationals. The Giants were beneficiaries of luck — including two poorly timed errors by Washington infielders — and their pitching was good enough to limit the usually high-powered lineup, making each misstep more painful for their opponent.
“To lose the first two [with] a chance to lose another series here at home, that can affect a ball club,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “The way they bounced back and won the next two to split the series against a very good ball club, that’s huge for their confidence and hopefully we get this mojo going now.”
Starter Matt Cain took a no-hitter (with four walks and 93 pitches thrown) through five innings before Bochy pinch hit for him. The decision paid off as right-handed slugger Madison Bumgarner laced a fastball, which he rarely sees, over Bryce Harper’s head in right field.
“That was a pretty impressive pinch hitter, wasn’t it?” Bochy joked.
The two-base knock makes the Giants’ ace 3-for-8 with a walk in his career as a pinch-hitter.
Jeff Samardzija, who pinch ran for his fellow starting pitcher, scored on a throwing error by Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon to give the Giants a 2-0 lead. The Nats scored a run in the top of the seventh, representing the bullpen’s only blemish of the contest.
For the second-straight night, Hunter Strickland made a relief appearance before the eighth inning, and for the second-straight night, he was efficient and effective. He sat down the three batters he faced in order, needing just 14 pitches to do so.
“I feel good right now,” he said. “I’m just trying to get everybody out and do my job out there. There are nights when outs are harder to come by, so I’ll definitely take it.”
Javier Lopez, Derek Law and Santiago Casilla combined to record the final six outs, allowing just one baserunner. Law has emerged as the best pitcher in the Giants’ pen this season. He entered the game with a 2.73 xFIP, the 10th best among National League relievers.
Bochy wasn’t short on praise for the right-handed rookie and didn’t rule out expanding his role.
“He’s a guy that I’ll use anywhere,” Bochy said. “… He’s a four-pitch guy with velocity and he holds runners. He does all the things you like out of a late-inning reliever.”
Cain earned his 100th win with the Giants when Casilla slammed the door on the Nationals by striking out one of the hottest hitters in baseball, Daniel Murphy. The team celebrated Cain’s milestone in a way that he felt was fit.
“We just had a celebration beer,” Cain confessed. “We went with a nice, high-class Bud Light. We did it right. The perfect beer for me. I didn’t mean that to be a putdown, but it’s perfect. Bud Light is perfect.”
After two-and-a-half weeks of feeling far from flawless, it was a welcome feeling in the Giants clubhouse to be back on track for a road trip that includes stops in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Miami.