AT&T PARK — When the San Francisco Giants faced the Philadelphia Phillies on the road last month, they allowed 32 runs in four games. Before coming to San Francisco, Philadelphia had been held scoreless just once this season — on April 3 against the New York Mets.
On Saturday, Giants rookie starter Andrew Suarez followed Chris Stratton’s Friday shutout performance with one of his own, dealing seven scoreless innings as San Francisco shut the Phillies out for the second straight game.
After allowing 17 earned runs in his last 19 innings, Suarez — who, like Stratton, found his breaking ball during a workout last week in Colorado — struck out five and allowed just three hits against the Phillies on Saturday. Suarez got defensive help from right fielder Andrew McCutchen, and newly-healthy Joe Panik scored both runs in the 2-0 win.
“To beat this club, you’d better pitch well, because you’re going to see some good pitching,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “They’re power arms, and they’re having good years, and it’s why Philly’s having a good year, so the key is, hopefully your guy goes out there and pitches well.”
Suarez’s seven innings set a personal big league career high. The last time he went seven, he shut out the Triple-A Reno Aces in Sacramento the day before he was called up to the Giants.
“I just remember pounding the zone and throwing strikes,” Suarez said of his last Triple-A outing, in which he did much the same thing as he did to the Phillies (31-25), getting first-pitch strikes on 15 of 24 batters.
“I think that was the key to his great game tonight,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He pounded the strike zone and they were all quality strikes, too. He had good life on the fastball and had good breaking ball and changeup going. No walks, just pitched very efficiently. That’s nice to see from this kid. He’s got the stuff.”
Bochy was even tempted to let the 25-year old Suarez try for a complete game, but runs — and offense — were tough to come by. Velasquez struck out nine and scattered five hits and a walk over 6 1/3 inning, while Suarez found a groove early.
Suarez, who threw 85 pitches, retired the first seven men he faced before giving up a high drive into the right center field gap by catcher Jorge Alfaro in the third. After a one-out roller to Evan Longoria did away with Phillies starter Vince Velasquez, Suarez served up another soaring shot into triples alley.
Andrew McCutchen, though, got on his horse and reached high over his head with his left arm, spearing a would-be Cesar Hernandez extra-base hit, saving a run.
“I was like, ‘Oh, crap,'” Suarez said. “He’s a great outfielder, and I’m glad he made the play, because I think that would have changed the game.”
In the fifth, Carlos Santana sent a 2-1 roller to the left side that Longoria tried to barehand, but instead left in the turf for an infield single. A broke-bat blooper by Maikel Franko put two on with no outs. A slow roller to the right side erased Franko, but Nick Williams was able to beat the turn at first to put men at the corners.
“He had a lot of confidence out there, and he kept his poise,” Bochy said. “Day like this, that’s the difference in the game.”
Suarez struck Alfaro out on three pitches, burying his curve on strike three, and caught Velasquez looking at a 94-mph fastball to end the frame.
“Usually, my curve is a get-me-over pitch,” Suarez said. “Today it was a strikeout pitch.”
Batting leadoff for the second straight night after returning from a nearly-five-week disabled list stint, Panik was right back in the middle of things, going went 2-for-4 and scoring twice, making him 4-for-7 since returning.
“Joe, it started with him getting on, and great base running twice,” Bochy said.
The Giants (28-30) had stranded three runners by the time Panik led off the bottom of the sixth with a booming double off the Visa sign just to the right of straightaway center. Brandon Crawford cued a ball up the middle, into the shift, where shortstop Scott Kingery took the ball behind the second base bag and threw to first, allowing Panik to advance to third.
McCutchen then sent a high chopper to the left side. Kingery came home with it, but Panik slid in under the tag to break the scoreless tie.
“That was a read play right there,” Panik said. “Sometimes, you’re going contact. Sometimes, you’re seeing the ball through, and sometimes, you’re reading it. On a play like that, you’re basically just looking for contact down, like chopping. Vince was throwing the ball well, so sometimes, you have to take a chance.”
The slide was reviewed on replay, and the safe call was confirmed — his toe ticked home plate as before Alfaro tagged him on his knee.
“I just got a good jump, you trust your instincts and take off,” Panik said. “You can kind of see where Alfaro, his eyes and glove were moving up, so for me, it was one of two things, because you can’t run the guy over — go diving headfirst, which, after my thumb, I’m not going to be doing, or do that slide where you’re leaning away, and I got there before the tag.”
Panik led off the eighth by sending a slow roller to short for an infield single. He moved to third on a broken-bat flare single to center by Crawford, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to center by McCutchen.
“He’s an amazing leader,” Bochy said of Panik, who came into the game hitting .271 for his career in the leadoff spot. “He was really a shot in the arm these last two games.”
Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland each pitched hitless frames, upping the Giants’ total scoreless innings streak to 25. Strickland picked up his 12th save of the season.