The San Francisco Giants are 2-0 after the All-Star break.
We knew the series against the Diamondbacks was going to be big. And these two games had the feel of October baseball.
In fact, Saturday’s 4-3 win by the Giants over Arizona felt a lot like Game 5 of last October’s NL Division Series against the Reds.
Think about it.
Matt Cain gets the start, pitches well early, is given the lead, but can’t get through the sixth inning.
Jeremy Affeldt gets injured.
Buster Posey hits a big home run in the fifth inning to extend the Giants’ lead, and the homer represents the last of the Giants’ scoring.
The bullpen runs the gauntlet in the late innings, escaping jam after jam and hanging onto the lead.
Sergio Romo gives up a one run in the ninth, but locks down the victory.
CAIN’S START: After an ugly outing in St. Louis on June 1, Cain posted a 1.84 ERA over his next five starts, lowering his ERA from 5.45 to 4.29. Then he had two ugly starts vs. the Dodgers (2.1 IP, 8 ER) and Mets (0.2 IP, 3 ER) and his ERA was back at 5.06. Cain came out Saturday and threw up four zeros before getting charged for single earned runs in the fifth and sixth. He should have escaped with another zero in the fifth when he got Eric Chavez to hit a double-play ball to second. But shortstop Tony Abreu, playing in place of the mildly hurt Brandon Crawford, threw the throw to first away, allowing a run to score. At the time, the run was unearned, as it scored on an error. But when Cain followed with back-to-back walks, it turned the run into an earned run. But if Abreu makes the play he should have, no runs score. He opened the sixth by giving up back-to-back singles and exited with 102 pitches in five-plus innings. Again, the Abreu error in the fifth led to Cain throwing an extra 15-18 pitches in the fifth.
AFFELDT HURT: Last October in Cincinnati, Affeldt suffered a minor injury when he tried to avoid a foul ball in the dugout. Saturday’s injury was a bit more severe. Affeldt suffered a strain groin and is likely headed to the DL. It’s quite possible Affeldt may be out a month. Jean Machi likely will get recalled to fill Affeldt’s spot, but when does Dan Runzler get another shot in the bigs? He’s a lefty, even though the Giants have lefties Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares in the pen.
BUSTER’S BLAST: After Andres Torres singled with one out in the fifth, Buster Posey blasted a shot over the center-field wall for his 14th homer of the year. It gave the Giants a 4-1 lead.
BULLPEN STARTS, THEN PUTS OUT FIRES: After Cain got the hook with two on and no outs in the sixth, George Kontos gave up an RBI single to Martin Prado to make it 4-2, then got Cody Ross to line out to second for the first out. Affeldt was brought in for Kontos and got Cliff Pennington to fly out to Pence in Triple’s Alley. But then strained his groin on a 2-2 pitch to A.J. Pollock and Jose Mijares was called in. Mijares walked Pollock to load the bases, but struck out Adam Eaton to end the threat.
In the seventh, and Santiago Casilla pitching, Aaron Hill got a two-out walk followed by a single by Miguel Montero. So again, go-ahead run came to the plate. But Castilla got Martin Prado to ground out.
In the eight, Sandy Rosario came into pitch and gave up a lead-off single to Cody Ross that glanced off Rosario’s ring finger on his pitching hand (X-rays after the game were negative). After Rosario got Pennington to fly to center, Javier Lopez came in. Wil Nieves reached on an error by Crawford, again bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. But Eaton made the second out on a comebacker to Lopez and Gerardo Parra grounded to second to end the inning.
In the ninth, Sergio Romo came in and gave up an infield single to Paul Goldschmidt off Romo’s glove. Hill flied to center, and Montero grounded to first with Goldschmidt taking second. Prado hit a bloop single to right to score Goldschmidt, but Romo struck out Cody Ross to end the game.
Now, the Giants clinched the series win they needed to get. They are 4.5 game out of first place, four games behind the second-place Dodgers. A win tomorrow will get them at least within four games of the lead, maybe 3.5.
This is an opportunity with All-Star Madison Bumgarner on the mound. The Giants need to seize on these opportunities. And it would be nice if they could do without going too deep into the bullpen that used seven of eight pitchers in the pen on Saturday.