AT&T Park — On a day when the San Francisco Giants received positive reports on the club’s trio of injured starters, a 25-year-old rookie began his starting career in memorable fashion.
Dereck Rodriguez, the son of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, delivered six innings of one-run ball as the Giants swept past the Phillies, 6-1, on Sunday afternoon.
The only blemish — which snapped a stretch of 27 scoreless innings for the Giants — was a 375-foot solo home run off the bat of Jake Arrieta, Rodriguez’s counterpart with the Phillies.
Madison Bumgarner, who memorably served up a three-run shot to Arrieta in the 2016 playoffs, helped put the moment in perspective for the young Giant.
“It happens. It happens,” Rodriguez. “Bum told me he gave one up to him a couple of years ago so that made me feel a little bit better.”
Rodriguez, who routinely hit 95 mph on the stadium radar gun, punctuated three of his first four innings with strikeouts.
“Today I just felt like I was going out there like any other start, like when I was down in Triple-A,” Rodriguez said. “A couple more thousand people, but beside that, I felt the same out there.”
The third inning — the only one of the first four that didn’t end in a punchout — proved to be the most telling for Rodriguez.
After Arrieta sent the first pitch of the frame into the left-field bleachers, the rookie began to wobble. With runners at first and second and one out, though, Rodriguez got the ground ball he needed.
Joe Panik scooped up the grounder off the bat of Nick Williams, flipping it to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who stepped on second and fired the relay to Pablo Sandoval at first. After the Phillies challenged the ruling, the call was upheld and a potential jam was avoided.
Rodriguez ended up working six innings, scattering five hits, walking a pair and striking out six.
Manager Bruce Bochy sent Alen Hanson to hit in the starter’s place amid the five-run sixth that would provide all the support that Rodriguez and the bullpen would need.
Hanson, returned from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday, legged out an infield single, helping to set the stage.
“Sometimes good things happen. Just put it in play and he beat it out,” Bochy said. “So, that really got things going.”
The next two batters — Panik and Buster Posey — followed with RBI singles.
Then Andrew McCutchen struck the big blow, sending a three-run homer just inside the right-field foul pole atop the arcade.
“Joe came through there and it just got contagious,” Bochy said. “Buster had a big hit and, of course, it was topped off by Cutch’s home run.”
For McCutchen, the home run was his third of the season and his first since April 20.
One inning later, Posey snuck a solo home run just over the wall in left field. For Posey, who missed Saturday’s win with a left elbow contusion, the drive was his fourth of the year and his second in five days.
The homer, which came off Hector Neris, was also sweet revenge for Posey. Last August, Bochy called the Phillies reliever an “idiot” a day after hitting Posey.
Injury Notebook: Cueto, Bumgarner on their way back
Hours before Rodriguez began his first start, Johnny Cueto took an unexpected step forward in his recovery from right elbow inflammation.
“It wasn’t the plan today but he had the catcher get up and he just got on the mound and played a little catch — it was not a bullpen,” Bochy said. “But just an example of how anxious he is to get going.”
Before the impromptu bullpen session that wasn’t a bullpen, Cueto threw out to 120 feet. The starter, on the 60-day disabled list since May 1 (retroactive to April 29), is eligible to rejoin the Giants on June 30. Bochy said a return before the end of the month is possible, and that Cueto hasn’t been dealing with any discomfort.
“Nope,” Bochy said. “He’s doing well.”
The return of Madison Bumgarner is more imminent. The left-hander, who’s missed the entire season with a fractured left pinkie, is scheduled to face the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday with few restrictions.
“We can take him up to 90 or so [pitches],” Bochy said. “That was why he made the extra start down in [High-A] San Jose. So, that’s not too much of a limit.”
In the seventh, erstwhile closer Mark Melancon made his first appearance of 2018. Melancon, who’d been on the 60-day DL with a right elbow flexor strain, needed just 14 pitches to strike out the side.
“He really had his pitching going,” Bochy said. “So that’s always good to see too. A pretty nice debut in his comeback.”
The manager plans to leave Melancon in a middle-relief role for now.
“We talked. This is what he’s going to be doing — the sixth, seventh inning, helping out there,” Bochy said.”