SAN FRANCISCO — Giants executives have been meeting every day in recent weeks, and the conversations go far beyond the trade deadline. The front office is trying to figure out if the Giants can still be competitive in this age of home runs and strikeouts.
The Giants have been left behind in the power department, but Tuesday’s win was a reminder that there’s still another path. It’s harder, but it can be just as rewarding, and it’s simply the way this roster is built. Tuesday was a throwback: A deep outing from the starter, a shutdown night from the bullpen, strong defense, and an opportunistic offense. It added up to a 2-1 win over the Indians in 10 innings.
Eduardo Nuñez walked it off with a single to right that scored Kelby Tomlinson in the bottom of the 10th, but this one was won much earlier, when Ty Blach continued a positive trend and got through the seventh. Blach became the third Giants starter in four days to record 21 outs, and the previous one — Matt Moore — showed just how tenuous life can be when you’re not built on homers.
The Giants fell 5-3 in the opener of this series because Moore and Jae-gyun Hwang made crucial errors. They can’t afford to play like that, and a night later, they flipped the switch the other way. Brandon Crawford was spectacular at short and Joe Panik joined him in turning a couple of double plays for Blach. Denard Span chased down a liner in center and Hunter Pence sprawled to grab a bloop.
In a lost season, perhaps the Giants can take some solace in Tuesday’s win, just their 36th of the year and one that kept them from falling 30 games out in the NL West. They have many of the pieces to win on pitching-and-defense. They just have to, you know, actually do it.
“It makes life a lot easier,” Bochy said after Blach joined Moore and Bumgarner in getting through seven. “It’s going to be critical for them to get us deep into games and give us a quality starts to help get this thing turned around. It allows you to keep the bullpen fresh and make the moves you want to make.”
Blach gave up just one run in his time, and he said afterward that he has fixed some rotational issues in his delivery. His outing allowed Bochy to shorten his bullpen, and Hunter Strickland pitched a scoreless eighth to lower his ERA to 1.85. Sam Dyson, a revelation since coming over from Texas, pitched two hitless innings to lower his National League ERA to 2.93.
The Giants cannot see first place or even a playoff spot from where they stand. But they don’t have to squint hard to see the makings of an intriguing bullpen in 2018. Bochy can picture many a night where a starter gets deep and turns a lead over to a bullpen that could be much improved if Dyson is for real and Mark Melancon comes back healthy. It starts with the starters, though.
“That’s who we are,” Bochy said. “If you look at the success going back to 2010 and even 2009, it’s been the starting pitching.”
Those teams never won by bashing opponents over the head. They scored creatively and took advantage of mistakes. The Giants did both Tuesday. The first run came when Brandon Guyer dropped a fly ball in right, allowing Nuñez to reach second with one out in the sixth. The winning run came after Conor Gillaspie — on his 30th birthday — smoked a pinch-hit double off Edwin Encarnacion’s glove at first. Tomlinson pinch-ran and Denard Span pushed him over and reached on his own with a perfect bunt.
Nuñez had never before recorded a walk-off hit. He thought he lost his chance when Span stole second.
“I thought they were going to walk me,” he said. "As soon as Span got to second base, I was like, fuuuuu …"
The Indians did not put him on. Instead, Nuñez sent everyone home.