The San Francisco Giants current 10-game homestand got off to an inauspicious start. The Marlins came to town and they continued to give San Francisco headaches, or maybe, in this case, hand aches.
With the score 4-2 in the ninth inning of the series opener with Miami, closer Hunter Strickland came on for the save. Just as they had done eight times in the previous series in Miami, the Marlins mounted a comeback.
After being brushed back by a high fastball, Lewis Brinson tied the game with a single and had some words for Strickland on his way to first base. The next batter, Miguel Rojas, drove in the go-ahead run and Strickland was removed from the game. On his way to the dugout, Strickland gave Brinson, a piece of his mind in an awkward exchange.
The Giants lost the game 5-4, but they suffered an even greater loss as a result. It was reported the next day that after being taken out of the game, Strickland punched a door in frustration and fractured his hand. He is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
By the end of the week, San Francisco had shaken off that setback, winning the next five out of six, and an old face capped the four-game series with San Diego with a clutch 2-run double to win in extra innings. Hunter Pence came to the plate with the bases loaded in the 11th inning and the Giants trailing by a run. Down in the count 0-2, Pence poked one down the right-field line off of Padres closer Brad Hand for the walk-off win.
After a slow start and an injury, Pence had lost his job as the full time left fielder and rumors swirled about his future with the team. Mac Williamson, who was Pence’s replacement, struggled in his return from a concussion and was sent down to Triple-A, opening the door for Pence to regain his status as an everyday player. The game-winning hit on Sunday had to be particularly satisfying for the veteran outfielder.
In the wake of the Strickland injury, the Giants have an opening in the back end of the bullpen. Manager Bruce Bochy gave Sam Dyson the first crack at the job in the second game of the series against Miami. Dyson shut the door on the 6-3 victory.
However, Dyson came in for the save in the series finale and things didn’t go as smoothly. With another 6-3 lead, the Marlins, which they had done so often this season against San Francisco, rallied for a pair of runs to cut the deficit to one. Bochy was forced to take Dyson out and Reyes Moronta came in to strike out J.B. Shuck for the one-out save.
San Diego came in for a four-game set the following day and was matched up against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. In his fourth start back from the DL, Bumgarner finally looked like his familiar self. He dazzled the Padres for eight shutout innings, with eight strikeouts, giving up only three hits and Bumgarner also drove in the first run of the game.
The Giants were able to add two more insurance runs in the eighth inning and now it was Mark Melancon’s turn at the closer role. Brought in last season to be the guy in the ninth inning, Melancon struggled. He had surgery in the offseason on his elbow and missed the first two months of the season.
Melancon is just now starting to get his feel being back in the big leagues and with the injury to Strickland, the Giants need Melancon to be the reliever they thought they were getting when he signed a 4-year, $62 million contract prior to last season.
The Giants dropped game two of the series to San Diego, but rebounded in game three and had an important piece of the lineup find his stroke again. Brandon Crawford missed the Miami series because he was on paternity leave for the birth his fourth child. He returned for the San Diego series but was 0-for-8 in the first two games.
In the third game, Crawford tripled to tie the game at 1-1 and later doubled in a pair of runs to give the Giants the lead for good. He doubled again late in the game and scored a run.
Crawford saw his average rise as high as .338 earlier this season but he has leveled off since. He remains in the top ten in the National League in batting average and perhaps a big game like this will get him going again.
San Francisco should expect to get a pair of starting pitchers back in the rotation in the coming days. Jeff Samardzija will make his third rehab start on Tuesday and could then rejoin the Giants on Sunday in Phoenix or Monday in Denver. Johnny Cueto could be next as he expects to start a rehab assignment on Thursday.
Decisions about what to do with fill-in starters Andrew Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez will also need to be made as a result. Both players have minor league options creating some flexibility for Bochy with the roster.
The Giants have three more games on the homestand beginning Tuesday with Colorado.