The San Francisco Giants closed out their first sweep of the season on Sunday using a method that’s generated success for them for much of this decade: left-handed pitching and a big offensive day from a catcher.
The only surprise was that the catcher was backup Nick Hundley and the pitcher was rookie Andrew Suarez, who picked up his first career win as the Giants held on to beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-3.
Suarez allowed seven hits over 5 1/3 innings but yielded just one unearned run, putting the icing on the cake for what was a disappointing weekend all-around for Atlanta (19-14). That run came as a result of an error by second baseman Alen Hanson, one of two that he made on the day. Playing in place of the injured Joe Panik, such defensive struggles would usually be unacceptable, but Hanson chipped in two hits on the day, with a double and an infield hit to start a fourth-inning rally.
That infield hit was one of three in a two-run fourth to give San Francisco (19-15) a 4-1 lead. The only ball to leave the infield that inning was Andrew McCutchen’s sac fly, which followed infield hits by Hanson and Austin Jackson, a Suarez sacrifice bunt and an RBI from Gregor Blanco. Freddie Freeman threw home on Blanco’s grounder to first, but Hanson beat the throw to the plate.
The Giants had taken a 2-1 lead in the third on RBI singles by Hundley and Pablo Sandoval.
20-year-old Mike Soroka took the hard-luck loss for Atlanta, allowing four runs on seven hits in four innings, but three of those hits failed to leave the infield and none went for extra bases.
Things got interesting in the ninth with Hunter Strickland on the mound. Facing his hometown team, Strickland allowed a leadoff single to Jose Bautista and a one-out walk to Johan Camargo. Kurt Suzuki followed with a pinch-hit double, scoring Bautista and putting the tying run in scoring position.
Ender Inciarte’s groundout cut the deficit to one and advanced Charlie Culberson — pinch-running for Suzuki — to third, but hotshot prospect Ozzie Albies popped out on the first pitch he saw to end the game.
Though Strickland’s road to his eighth save was a bumpy one, the rest of the bullpen excelled. The only runner to reach against Cory Gearrin, Sam Dyson and Tony Watson did so on Hanson’s second error.
The Giants will continue the road trip with a four-game set in Philadelphia, with Jeff Samardzija (1-1, 5.27 ERA) opening the series against Phillies 24-year old right-hander Zach Eflin (0-0, 1.50). The 6-foot-6 Eflin will be making his second start of the season.