Samardzija dominates early, Giants rally late to get series win in Los Angeles

Samardzija dominates early, Giants rally late to get series win in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — As the clubhouse cleared out late Wednesday night, Jeff Samardzija was asked if this would have been a tough one to lose. Samardzija was sharp through eight innings, but for a chunk of his night, it looked like he would take a brutal loss. That’s come to be expected after the way April went. 

“Yeah …” Samardzija said, smiling. “But it didn’t happen.”

No, the pain never quite came. The Giants rallied to tie, put together a string of hits in the 11th to take the lead, and held on when the Dodgers threw a couple more punches in the bottom of the inning. They left Dodger Stadium with a 4-1 win and their first road series win of the season. 

“I think it means a lot for us with the April we had,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ve taken some body blows. They kept fighting and they had good energy in the dugout. Everyone was doing something to help out. We kept searching for the big hit and we finally got it.”

The go-ahead knock came from an unlikely source. Gorkys Hernandez is batting .182 and there are legitimate questions about why he bats leadoff so often, but he chose a hell of a time for his only hit of the night. With two on and one out in the 11th, Hernandez yanked a slider into the corner to give the Giants their first lead of the night. For once, the lineup tacked on, and when a tense bottom of the inning was over, Mark Melancon had a save and Steven Okert had his first win in the big leagues. 

Okert’s beer shower was certainly earned, but there was no doubt that Samardzija deserved a better fate given his contributions. The right-hander struck out 11, walked none, and allowed just an unearned run before turning it over to the bullpen after 101 pitches. 

“What a beauty he threw,” Bochy said. 

Samardzija said he felt strong in the bullpen, and he dominated with all his pitches and good fastball command. This is two straight strong outings and the Giants, who haven’t had many positive nights, have won them both. A couple of players stopped by Samardzija’s locker after the game to note that trend. Samardzija said he has felt a difference the last two times out. 

“It hasn’t been the stuff, it hasn’t been the head, it’s just been one pitch in big situations that’s been put in a spot to hit,” he said of his earlier struggles. “You gotta be in there on every pitch.”

Bochy complimented Samardzija’s focus and it seemed to carry over into a dugout that often has lacked fire. The Giants tied it in the eighth and sent the game to extras. In the 10th, they looked poised for the breakthrough. 

Brandon Belt’s walk was followed by singles by Hunter Pence and Buster Posey. The latter looked like it should score a run, but Belt was held up at third. Andrew Toles made a strong throw to the plate that would have gotten the out.

“Brandon froze there for a second because of the line drive. We were yelling to go,” Bochy said. “It looked like he froze for a second. He wasn’t at third by the time Toles got the ball. He has a good arm. I think they would have had him.”

It was a minor miscue on an otherwise big night. Belt saw 33 pitches while tying a career-high with four walks. He followed the Hernandez double with a single that made it 3-1. Toles chased down a Pence liner to the gap, but another run scored. All of that felt needed in the bottom of the inning. Melancon brought Corey Seager to the plate as the tying run, but he grounded out to third. 

After going 9-17 in April, the Giants took two of three from the Dodgers. It’s early, but they were in danger of falling comically behind in the NL West standings. Instead they have a pulse, and it was beating loud as players headed for Cincinnati. 

“It has to be a better month,” Bochy said. “You’re happy to win a series here on the road. It pushes us in the right direction and gives the team a sense of confidence.”

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts


Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants moved closer to setting their opening day roster on Monday when they made a significant round of cuts to their spring training roster. 

A total of 15 players were reassigned or optioned, bringing the total to 31 players remaining in camp. Many of the players cut Monday entered the spring competing for jobs. 

In the outfield, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater were optioned to Triple-A and Chris Shaw was reassigned to minor league camp. Williamson had a huge spring and was the likeliest of the trio to push for an opening day spot, but he'll start his year in the minors. Steven Duggar was not among the cuts, and he remains an option to make the team, with the Giants also looking at Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker for backup spots. Hernandez and Parker are out of minor league options. 

Tyler Beede was optioned and Andrew Suarez was reassigned to minor league camp, leaving three players vying for the final two rotation spots. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton have been the favorites all along, although both struggled the last time out and Derek Holland has had a strong spring. 

Both backup catchers -- Trevor Brown and Hector Sanchez -- were reassigned, along with Orlando Calixte, who saw time in the big leagues last year. Joan Gregorio, Jose Valdez, Justin O'Conner and Kyle Jensen were also reassigned. Chase d'Arnaud, who appeared to be making a strong push, was on the list, too, leaving Josh Rutledge as the only competition for Kelby Tomlinson for the final infield spot. 

Finally, Derek Law and Roberto Gomez were optioned to Triple-A. Josh Osich remains and appears the frontrunner for a bullpen job. Julian Fernandez, the Rule 5 pick, also remains in camp. 

The Giants break camp on Friday.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.