ORACLE PARK — San Francisco Giants righty Williams Jerez gleefully packed up the ball from his first Major League win, putting it and the lineup card into his roller bag.
Jerez’s first win wasn’t ideal — he gave up a go-ahead homer to the New York Mets’ Pete Alonso in the top of the 16th — but he was the pitcher of record when Donovan Solano rolled the game-winning single through the right side in the bottom of the frame.
The Giants used seven pitchers in Thursday’s 3-2 win, but none of them were Sam Dyson or Mark Melancon. Manager Bruce Bochy was even ready to use a starter. Why Jerez was on the hill — and why closer Will Smith was on the mound in the 10th — may have something to do with the impending trade deadline.
“I was doing all I could to stay away from Melancon and Dyson,” Bochy said. “I was starting to get creative there, talked to a starter. It’s a good thing we ended that game, because we definitely were running out of pitching.”
Bochy said the decision not to use either as the game wore on was due to rest. Instead of using Melancon or Dyson in the 10th, with the game tied at 1-1, Bochy turned to closer Will Smith, who, after recording 23 straight saves, has blown his last two chances.
After Madison Bumgarner threw nine innings of one-run ball, Smith got into a jam in the 10th, putting runners on second and third with no outs on a single by Robinson Cano and a double by Amed Rosario. Smith fanned Tomas Nido on a nasty slider, then intentionally walked pinch hitter Wilson Ramos to load the bases.
Smith then got Michael Conforto on three straight pitches, and used another slider to fan Jeff McNeil to get out of the jam and keep the game tied.
“They’ve been throwing a lot,” Bochy said of Melancon and Dyson. “Basically, their usage, we keep track of that. It gets to a point where they’re off that day. You don’t want to risk hurting anybody.”
Jerez came up as the long man as San Francisco sent down Andrew Suarez. Both are under team control, and both have options, qualities that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi covets as he seeks to rebuild the team and re-stock the farm system.
Holding both Melancon and Dyson out of a game where pitching was at a premium may have been about avoiding injury, but not for the Giants’ sake. Had either gotten hurt, it would disuade teams from bringing them aboard in a trade.
Since the All-Star break, Melancon had thrown just 3 2/3 innings, and Dyson just three. The more likely explanation for not using them — aside from simply rest — is that there may be some dealings in the works.
Both Dyson and Melancon could wind up being trade chips as the July 31 deadline approaches. Dyson is 3-1 on the year with a 2.74 ERA. Before Dyson blew a save in Milwaukee on July 13, he hadn’t allowed an earned run in 10 innings over nine appearances, with opposing hitters batting .152 against him. From June 8 to June 27, Melancon had allowed just three earned runs in 9 1/3 innings (2.89 ERA).
Though Melancon’s contract is difficult to move, packaging him with Dyson may help a team swallow the money with a bit more ease. Such a deal would help San Francisco move Melancon’s contract — he’s due $14 million next year — and get some prospects back in return from a contending team that needs bullpen help down the stretch.