Unsung heroes step up as Giants avoid another meltdown against Marlins

Unsung heroes step up as Giants avoid another meltdown against Marlins

SAN FRANCISCO — Can a series victory leave you feeling more concerned about a team than you were when it started?

The Giants tested that possibility for 27 innings this week against the rebuilding Marlins, taking two of three in a series that contained way too much drama, an unnecessary beanball war with an inferior opponent, self-inflicted damage on and off the field, and one last attempt at blowing a lead. 

When it was over, though, there was a handshake line, and there was confidence. First baseman Brandon Belt, who was in the middle of many of the good things the Giants did in a 6-5 win, said he still believes this team has an “it factor.” 

“It seems like we have that, in my perspective,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with unsung heroes.”

We will get to them in a moment, but first … “it factor”?

“We didn’t have the ‘it factor’ last year, just so you know,” Belt said, smiling. “For frame of reference.”

These Giants may yet have a run in them. Perhaps they’ll get Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto back and take off, and we’ll all look back on this as a strange three-day set with a team the for whatever reason has the Giants’ number. If they do reach any sort of glory, it will be because they survived with newfound depth. As Belt said, there are unsung heroes here. 

--- Derek Holland: After his last start in Los Angeles, Holland chastised himself for not going deeper into the game. He did so again Wednesday, despite pitching into the seventh. Holland was charged with three earned in six-plus. Forget the ERA; he has been a reliable presence for a rotation mostly lacking them. 

“I’ve got to keep continuing to use this moomentum,” he said. “I feel I’m progressing.”

--- Holland was on deck when Gorkys Hernandez won a lengthy battle with Jose Ureña, the hard-throwing righty who was so tough on the Giants until a five-run sixth. Hernandez is playing through a painful rib bruise that he suffered in Washington D.C. It flares up on certain swings, and he can’t hide his grimace at times. But that didn’t stop him from taking Ureña’s 14th pitch of the at-bat into right field for a two-run single that put the Giants up 5-1. 

“I just kept yelling at him, ‘Keep going, baby! Let’s go!,’” Holland said.

The Giants have roster issues in the outfield that they’ll need to come to grips to at some point. Perhaps they would have made a move had they dropped Wednesday’s game. But Hernandez is safe as the center fielder. The hit raised his average to .285, and it would be needed. 

“That was the key in the game,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He really grinded out that at-bat, 14 pitches, and just came through with a huge hit there.”

--- Ty Blach was the opening day starter. Here is his last week: 6 2/3 innings of relief dominance in a 16-inning win last Thursday; a clean sixth inning in a win last night; a perfect eighth inning to hold a three-run lead Wednesday. Yes, Blach was the setup man for the day, and he excelled. He always seems to when Bochy throws him a new role. 

“He’s always stepping up,” Holland said. “That’s the huge thing he needs to get credit for.”

Holland noted that Blach never complains when moved around. He just does his job. On Monday night, after the blown win, Blach ran laps around the outfield at 10:30 p.m., getting his conditioning in. Two days later, he got the ball to Sam Dyson. 

--- Dyson didn’t end the game with the ball in his right hand. He was pulled after giving up two runs — Hernandez didn’t help by losing a ball in the sun — and putting two more on. So, Reyes Moronta entered and got a strikeout for his first career save. Moronta, a 25-year-old rookie, has a 1.91 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He has been one of the more underrated players for a team that's still in the NL West race. 

“You’re forced at that point to make a move,” Bochy said. “Reyes has done some closing in the minor leagues and he’s got the equipment to do it.”

Perhaps, before long, Moronta will be closing up here. It’s a possibility that seemed far-fetched when the Giants returned home, but then Hunter Strickland tried to put his fist through a door. A lot happened to the Giants this week, but when the series was over, Moronta was pumping his fist and the rest were joining him to shake hands. 

Derek Holland deals, Giants erupt in sixth to escape Marlins and secure series win

Derek Holland deals, Giants erupt in sixth to escape Marlins and secure series win

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The most dramatic series of the season -- for mostly the wrong reasons -- ended with a handshake line. 

Derek Holland was solid, the lineup broke through against hard-throwing righty Jose Ureña late, and the bullpen escaped -- barely -- in a 6-5 win. After losing the series opener, and their closer, on Monday night, the Giants took the next two from the pesky Marlins. The end came with more drama. Sam Dyson, in his second save opportunity since taking over, was pulled after giving up two runs and putting the tying run on second. Reyes Moronta closed it out. 

Here’s how the rest of it went down ... 

— This game started with more bad injury news in a season full of it. Alen Hanson, a revelation as a utility infielder and fill-in, fouled a ball off his knee in the bottom of the first and crumpled to the dirt. He had to be helped off the field by trainer Dave Groeschner and manager Bruce Bochy. Hanson was diagnosed with a left knee contusion. 

— Gorkys Hernandez is playing through some serious rib discomfort, but that didn’t keep him from winning an epic battle with Jose Ureña in the sixth. On the 14th pitch of the at-bat, Hernandez looped a two-run single into right to give the Giants a five-run inning and 5-1 lead. Earlier in the inning, Brandon Belt had roped a game-tying double to right-center. 

— Holland walked off to a standing ovation after giving the Giants some length. Tony Watson cashed in two of his runs; Holland was charged with three earned in six innings. He struck out seven and walked two. 

— Bochy loves Ty Blach in a “do everything” bullpen role, and on this day that meant being the setup man. Blach had a perfect eighth inning, holding a two-run lead. His last three outings: 6 2/3 relief innings last Thursday; a scoreless sixth inning to hold a lead last night; a scoreless eighth today. 

Giants, Marlins play beanball near end of dramatic season series

Giants, Marlins play beanball near end of dramatic season series

SAN FRANCISCO — On Tuesday morning, in Los Angeles, Evan Longoria had his fractured fifth metacarpal repaired. In the afternoon, in San Francisco, Hunter Strickland had a similar procedure. 

The metacarpal madness did not lead to any excess caution for a team that has dealt with injuries throughout. It was the opposite, in fact. The Giants sprinted headfirst into a beanball war with a team with nothing to lose. That led to a scary moment for Buster Posey, but ultimately the Giants came away unscathed, and with a win. 

Players and coaches predictably shied away from the drama in the moments following a 6-3 win. But manager Bruce Bochy repeatedly praised rookie Dereck Rodriguez for the way he handled himself — he drilled opposing rookie Lewis Brinson — and said this was just part of the game.

“It’s baseball,” Bochy said. “We’re men. This is what happens in baseball.”

The Giants say they were upset over a Dan Straily pitch last week that sent Longoria to the disabled list, and Bochy twice mentioned that Kelby Tomlinson was hit in Monday night’s game. This doesn’t quite hold up under scrutiny. If the Giants wanted to get revenge on behalf of Longoria, they would have hit a Marlin on Monday night. Or they could have waited for Straily’s at-bat in the top of the second inning Tuesday. No, this was about more than a couple of pitches that hit Giants players.

There was never much doubt that the Giants would retaliate against Brinson, and Rodriguez didn’t waste any time. His first pitch to Brinson, with two on and one out in the second, was a 92 mph fastball that drilled his hip. 

“Runners on second and third and less than two outs, you don’t want him to get a sacrifice fly,” Rodriguez said. “I was trying to go in. It got him. It happens.”

Brinson knew it was coming following Monday night’s theatrics. After a 95 mph fastball from Strickland shot up toward his head, he lined the game-tying single into right. Brinson, 24, hopped up and down as he headed toward first and turned and yelled something at Strickland. A few minutes later, Strickland’s night was done, and he walked near third base on his way to the dugout, exchanging words with Brinson. 

Rodriguez’s pitch a day later led to warnings for both sides, but the Marlins are headed for the top of the draft, and they didn’t much seem to care about losing their starting pitcher. Dan Straily drilled Posey on the arm in the bottom of the second and was immediately ejected. Retaliation?

“I don’t know,” Posey said. “I don’t know. It seemed that way.”

Bochy came out raging, and he later said that Marlins manager Don Mattingly had indicated payback was coming.

“I don’t know what happened there when he came out,” Bochy said. “I guess he was upset about the warnings. I guess they thought they have to do something. I guess there was fuzzy math going on when our third baseman is on the DL for eight weeks and we had a guy get hit in the back last night.”

The only math that ultimately mattered was 90 feet. Whether they were upset about Longoria, or about Brinson’s trip around the bases Monday night, the Giants decided to get into it at a time when they can’t afford another injury. The pitch to Posey rode up and in, and was near his hands, where metacarpals are all too easy to break, but he jogged the 90 feet down to first and chatted with Justin Bour. 

That would be it for the drama, but the Giants and Marlins may not be done, no matter what’s said behind closed doors. The visiting starter for the final matchup of the season between these two will be Jose Urena, who hit an MLB-leading 14 batters last year and three Cubs on opening day this year.