Donovan Solano plays role Giants envisioned in second straight win

Donovan Solano plays role Giants envisioned in second straight win

SAN FRANCISCO -- There was a day late last month that confused some in the Giants clubhouse. Donovan Solano was optioned back to Triple-A so the Giants could temporarily carry a 14th pitcher, but it wasn't that odd roster alignment that seemed to baffle the teammates who walked up to Solano in the clubhouse and asked what had happened. 

The 31-year-old has impressed with a quiet work ethic and solid skills. A few Giants have noted over the past month that Solano has been a nice presence as a backup infielder, and on Wednesday he finally took center stage. 

Solano hit leadoff with a lefty starter on the mound and drove in the tying run in the fifth before adding an insurance run in the seventh inning of a 4-2 win over the Padres. He has proven to be a dependable defender, perhaps one of the more sure-handed ones Brandon Crawford has had as a backup, and is doing what the Giants intended at the plate. 

Solano was called up from Triple-A because the Giants felt he could give them a lefty-mashing option behind Crawford and Joe Panik. With hits off Joey Lucchesi and Robbie Erlin on Wednesday, Solano now is 9-for-23 (.391) against lefties. 

"He gives you a good at-bat against lefties and allows you to rest Panik or Crawford," manager Bruce Bochy said after the win Wednesday. "Their (starter), his splits were really significant with lefties and righties. He has a funky delivery so he can be really tough on lefties. I thought Donovan put together a nice game."

The veteran's contributions helped back another strong effort from Shaun Anderson, who is quickly turning into a workhorse for a rotation that desperately needed another one. Anderson gave up two earned in six innings, striking out six. He has three consecutive quality starts and has totaled 19 innings in three June starts, a far cry from what Bochy got from much of his rotation the prior month. 

"It's good to see this kid get on a roll like this," Bochy said. 

[RELATED: All-Star voting isn't like it used to be for Giants]

Anderson has locked himself into the rotation, and Solano looks poised to grab the bench spot behind Crawford and Panik. The Giants wanted him to carve out the specialist role and he has, something that's not a surprise to Anderson, his Triple-A teammate at the start of the year. 

"Everybody said it, he needed to be on the big league team," Anderson said. "He can play his position and he can swing it. He's just a great guy in the clubhouse, brings a lot of energy. It's fun to play with him."

Giants' Tyler Beede showing signs of hope despite continued struggles

Giants' Tyler Beede showing signs of hope despite continued struggles

ATLANTA -- There were some close calls in the second half, some postgame media sessions where manager Bruce Bochy indicated that Tyler Beede's rotation spot was in jeopardy. 

But the Giants stuck with their young right-hander, who now is poised to finish the season in the rotation. Two parts of Friday's 6-0 loss to the Braves, who clinched the NL East title, showed why it's so important that they continue to be patient. 

Beede ended the second inning by freezing his college teammate, Dansby Swanson, with a 98 mph fastball. It was the fastest pitch of Beede's season and comes at the end of a long and often trying year -- and it's the kind of pitch that only a select group of right-handed starters have in their arsenal. 

Mike Foltynewicz is one of them, and he's an example of what the Giants hope Beede can become. Foltynewicz has similar stuff and a similar background as a high-end prospect, and he had a very strong 2018 season. 

But Foltynewicz has also struggled with inconsistency, so much so that the Braves optioned him back to Triple-A for six weeks this summer. Since returning, he has a 6-0 record and a sparkling 2.35 ERA. On Friday, he threw eight shutout innings. 

Beede is 26. Foltynewicz turns 28 in a month. There are still plenty of reasons for hope as the Giants move forward. 

This night was a representation of much of Beede's season. His fastball averaged 95.4 mph, his slider hit 88 mph, his changeup darted at times, and he had so much movement on his curveball that at one point Josh Donaldson swung at an 0-2 bender and ended up whipping his bat towards first base. 

But Beede also allowed seven hits, two of which cleared the fence. Ronald Acuña Jr. got a hanging curveball in the fifth and hit a no-doubter to right-center. An inning later, Brian McCann hit a two-run shot on a fastball that was low but center-cut. 

"It's one of those games where you wonder how he gave up six, but (there were) a couple of long balls," Bochy said. "Really good at times, but he just didn't get away with any mistakes."

[RELATED: Mark Melancon excited to face Giants for first time since Braves trade]

The highlight of the night was that tantalizing pitch to Swanson, a friend of Beede's since their Vanderbilt days. 

"I feel great. I'll just continue to learn, learn a lot," Beede said. "I'll go out there and try to compete, fill the zone and go after guys. I hate losing, man. I'm not going to be happy about a start like this, but at the same time I thought it might be better than the results showed."

Mark Melancon excited to face Giants for first time since Braves trade

Mark Melancon excited to face Giants for first time since Braves trade

ATLANTA -- As the Braves' relief pitchers finished their sprints in right field Friday afternoon, a pack of Giants relievers started a jog around the warning track. Mark Melancon walked over and met his former teammates, but the hugs lost a little steam as he made his way through. Eventually, Melancon was standing around with just Will Smith, catching up a few hours before they faced each other. 

"The first half (of the group) I knew all the guys," Melancon said, smiling. "The second half it was all new guys."

The Giants just about have a completely new bullpen since Melancon's last appearance. Melancon has a new situation, too. As the Giants limp to the finish, their former marquee free-agent addition will try to close out a National League East title with the Braves. 

Melancon, mostly a mid-innings man for the Giants this season, is the closer for one of the National League's powerhouses. He's perfect in 11 save opportunities in Atlanta. That may come as a surprise to fans who watched him for two and a half seasons in San Francisco. It does not at all seem out of place for Melancon. 

"That's where I think I'm best," he said of the ninth inning. "I knew that. That was easy for me to see."

Melancon never lost that confidence in San Francisco, even as an arm injury that popped up in his first week with the Giants robbed him of much of his old effectiveness. He had a 3.67 ERA with the Giants but totaled just 15 saves. 

The Giants got out of the final year-plus of a $62 million deal and acquiring two pitching prospects in the minutes before the trade deadline. Melancon ended up being the real winner in the deal. He has found himself closing for a team that can clinch the division Friday night. 

"I'm so impressed with these guys," he said of the Braves. "They're 22-year-olds acting like they're 35 as far as maturity level. It's really impressive."

[RELATED: Giants' Madison Bumgarner's road struggles continue ahead of free agency]

Melancon is excited about heading back to the postseason, although he credited his former team for never losing sight of that goal. He said he appreciated that the Giants never went full rebuild, and he looks back on his time in San Francisco fondly. 

"I had a great time. It's always about the people," he said. "It was a great two and a half years with great people ... that was our home for two and a half years and it was awesome."