AT&T PARK — It must be Shark Week.
Starter Jeff Samardzija was finally rewarded with a win for logging a quality start — his 11th of the season — as the San Francisco Giants mustered just enough offensive production to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2-1, on Wednesday.
The performance served as yet another example of how tough Samardzija is when he’s sharp and commanding his pitches. In the series finale, it was his cutter that limited the Bucs’ lefties. And most importantly, he was able to keep the ball from leaking back over the plate, leading to the home runs that drove his ERA north of 5 entering the contest.
“He looked great, didn’t he?” manager Bruce Bochy said after the game. “He’s had a tough go as far as wins, and he’s had some bumps in the road. But he’s thrown the ball very well at times.”
Miguel Gomez pinch hit for Samardzija in the bottom of the eighth inning, putting an end to the starter’s best outing in July. The rookie ripped a double to left field to lead off the inning. It was his second time delivering in a big moment as a pinch hitter in his young major-league career.
“He’s got a nose for the ball as far as getting the barrel on it,” Bochy said of Gomez. “It’s a gift … This kid has got a lot of confidence.”
Pirates reliever Tony Watson should’ve escaped the frame without coughing up the lead, but Brandon Belt lofted a two-out pitch high in the air and left fielder Starling Marte lost it in the sun, allowing Gomez to score.
It was a brief strike of luck for a team that hasn’t been able to muster much of it this year.
That lack of help from the baseball gods and the Giants lineup is why the organization isn’t worried about Samardzija’s underwhelming 5-11 record.
“It looks that bad, huh?” Samardzija joked when a reporter brought up his record. “… I knew I had good stuff all day, but it was just good to go out there and execute.”
Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson combined with Samardzija to limit Pittsburgh to seven total baserunners — four of which came in the second, the only frame in which Samardzija struggled. But the former college football player saved himself some grief by making an athletic play off the mound with the bases loaded to make the force out at home.
“For a pitcher, it’s one of the better plays I’ve seen,” Bochy said.
The good news: The Giants won two of their three series during this homestand.
The bad news: They enter their three-game series against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers 23 games under .500 and at least 30 games out of first place in the division.
That grim reality has a sobering effect on an otherwise happy clubhouse. It also means the Giants will have to get accustomed to playing with a different set of goals.
“It’s not what we’re used to,” Bochy said. “Every game now, we’re playing for pride here.”