Giants

Giants' Jeff Samardzija has 'evolved' in midst of dominant stretch

Giants' Jeff Samardzija has 'evolved' in midst of dominant stretch

Jeff Samardzija has been on a roll ever since the calendar flipped from June to July, and the Giants right-hander kept that momentum going in his second start of August.

In the Giants' 3-1 win over the Phillies on Saturday, Samardzija matched a season high by completing eight innings. He also allowed just two hits and one earned run, didn't walk any batters and struck out five along the way at Oracle Park.

With Samardzija at 103 pitches, Giants manager Bruce Bochy went to closer Will Smith to record the final three outs, preventing his starter from picking up his first complete game of the season.

"No, we had Smitty ready," Bochy told reporters when asked if he thought about letting Samardzija have the ninth inning. "It was a pretty good day's work. Eight innings, little warm out there.

"Could he [finish the game]? Yeah, I'm sure, but we had it set up right."

Samardzija now has a 1.95 ERA in eight starts between July and August, and after this latest outing, Bochy was asked if it was one of the best he's seen from Shark.

"It's right up there at the top," Bochy said. "He's in a really good place as far as commanding the ball, all four pitches, both sides of the plate, pitches up. That was just a great job of executing your pitches for eight innings. But I'd put that one toward the top."

Back in 2017, Samardzija had a 15-game stretch in which he walked just five batters and struck out 103 in 97 innings. But his ERA during that span was 4.64.

Bochy believes this is one of the best stretches of Samardzija's Giants tenure.

"I'd say, yeah," Bochy told reporters. "He had a good run a couple years ago where he was locked in and throwing the ball well. And you know what he went through last year. But I'd say with where he's at, he's evolved into a complete pitcher with the four-pitch mix that he uses and the command of them. He's got good savvy out there on what to throw. He and Buster [Posey] work well together. I'd say this run here is probably as good as the one he had before."

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After an injury-plagued 2018 in which he was limited to just 10 starts, does Samardzija feel like he's back to his 2017 form?

"Different guy, but same confidence," Samardzija said. "Which feels good, you know, that you're going to go out there and get outs, and make it nice and quick and get your offense in the dugout. For a while, it was such a grind just to go out there and get an out, it didn't feel good. You never forget that."

As Tyler Beede struggles, opponent provides example of what can come

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USATSI

As Tyler Beede struggles, opponent provides example of what can come

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."