Giants

Holland turns luck around for slumping Giants: 'We needed that in the worst way'

Holland turns luck around for slumping Giants: 'We needed that in the worst way'

PITTSBURGH — On the first day in Philadelphia, Derek Holland walked up to a beat writer -- this one -- who had missed the Atlanta sweep and jokingly reintroduced himself. That turned into a running gag through a week in Pennsylvania that ended up being a nightmare for the Giants. 

After three straight losses, evening the record on the road trip, Holland asked if I planned to follow the team to Pittsburgh. Told yes, he laughed and suggested I take my bad luck elsewhere. Anywhere else. After the first loss in Pittsburgh on Friday, he called me over, smiling as he asked why I was still around the team. 

“You’ve got to change something, man, change it up, change up the luck,,” he joked. “Wear a different shirt or something. Do something.”

There is luck involved in this game, as the Giants found out early on Sunday. They hit six balls at least 100 mph in the first four innings and didn’t see any of them fall for hits. But for the most part, a team will make its own luck. 

It was pretty simple Sunday. It didn’t matter who was sitting in the press box or what shirt he was wearing or what kind of magic beans the Giants might have hidden in their dugout. All they needed was a strong start, and Holland finally provided one. He took a shutout into the seventh and the Giants won 5-0, snapping a six-game losing streak to the Phillies and Pirates. 

“We needed that in the worst way,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I said it would take a good pitching effort to get over this. Give him credit — he took over.”

Bochy wasn’t the only one giving that message. As Holland warmed up, he was approached by pitching coach Curt Young.

“We need you today,” Young told him. “We’ve got to step up.”

Against the Pirates, that meant pitching through plenty of traffic. Holland walked five and gave up four hits, but he made pitches when he had to. He repeatedly busted the Pirates inside with fastballs and catcher Nick Hundley said Holland’s command was the best it has been all season. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, the Rangers’ hitting coach when Holland was a youngster in 2010, said his team simply had to tip its themed caps. 

“He beat us with the kitchen sink,” Hurdle said. “The ball was around the zone. We pushed to get out there, and we couldn’t come away with really even hard contact in those situations.”

The Giants had plenty of hard contact early, and for a while, Bochy thought this would be one of his buzzard’s luck games. That changed when Gorkys Hernandez found the seats in the sixth. An extended rally was capped by Hundley’s three-run bomb into the same seats. Richard Rodriguez hung a first-pitch curveball and Hundley skied it. 

“Thankfully he made a mistake with the breaking ball,” he said. “You get something like that, you’ve got to do damage on it.”

The homer, Hundley’s fourth of the year, capped an all-around day for the catcher. Holland credited his guidance, and that was true in more ways than just pitch-calling. Holland lost track of the outs in the second inning and started walking off the mound after the second one. Hundley held his hands up and yelled back at the striding pitcher. 

“Hey,” he said. “We’ve gotta get the third one.”

Holland got plenty more, pitching so effectively that Bochy sent him back out for the seventh to get past 100 pitches. When he came out for the ball, Holland tried to talk his way into more. That was enough on this day, though. The Giants needed a big performance and the left-hander gave it to them. He clinched a happy flight home, which allowed for one last joke on the way out of Pennsylvania. 

“You’re off the hook,” he whispered as reporters walked away from his locker.

Giants power past Rockies to salvage split

Giants power past Rockies to salvage split

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Brandon Belt snapped a seventh-inning tie with a three-run homer and the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 9-5 on Sunday.

Nick Hundley added a solo shot later in the seventh for the Giants, who salvaged a four-game split after dropping the first two games of the series. Gorkys Hernandez hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

Belt connected for his 12th home run this season and fifth in seven games to give San Francisco an 8-5 lead. He and Hundley both homered off left-hander Jake McGee.

Belt came to the plate with Hernandez aboard on a leadoff single and Evan Longoria on following a one-out walk by reliever Bryan Shaw (1-2).

Colorado lost for the third time in 11 road games this month.

The Rockies trailed 5-4 going into the seventh before Nolan Arenado singled home a run off winner Sam Dyson (2-0).

San Francisco rallied from a 4-1 deficit.

Hernandez homered in the fifth off starter Tyler Anderson to make it 4-3. An inning later, the Giants took a 5-4 lead on Kelby Tomlinson's two-out, two-run triple off Shaw.

The Rockies trailed 1-0 going into the fourth when Trevor Story's RBI double highlighted a two-run inning.

Colorado sent eight batters to the plate in a two-run fifth, chasing starter Ty Blach.

The Giants took an early lead when Buster Posey tripled and scored on Longoria's sacrifice fly in the first. Posey's triple was the ninth of his career and first since Sept. 10, 2016.

Arenado's RBI in the seventh was his 80th against the Giants. The only active players with more are Adrian Gonzalez (85) and Matt Kemp (91).

Arenado was 3 for 5 and finished 8 for 18 in the series. He has reached base safely in 28 of his last 29 games and 39 of 42 overall.

SECOND CHANCE?

With two Giants second basemen on the disabled list, veteran third baseman Pablo Sandoval took grounders at second Sunday morning. He played two-thirds of an inning at second for Boston in April 2017. "He surprises me how quick his feet are and he's pretty good around the bag," manager Bruce Bochy said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Giants: OF Andrew McCutchen was out of the lineup with a bruised knee and is day to day. ... 2B-OF Alen Hanson (left hamstring strain) won't travel with the team to Houston. Hanson is eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday but is a few days behind his projected return, Bochy said.

UP NEXT

Rockies: RHP German Marquez (2-2, 5.15 ERA) will pitch Monday's series opener in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. The 23-year-old is 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA in five road starts.

Giants: LHP Andrew Suarez (1-3, 4.88) starts Tuesday's series opener in Houston against the defending World Series champions. The 25-year-old rookie has struck out 28 and walked five in 27 2/3 innings.

A tip from two longtime teammates has Brandon Crawford in All-Star form

A tip from two longtime teammates has Brandon Crawford in All-Star form

SAN FRANCISCO — Nobody does nostalgia quite like the Giants. They know they have a fan base largely committed to the familiar names, and a clubhouse that embraces a reunion no matter what the original exit looked like. 

Often, those second runs in San Francisco lead to results on the field, too, but sometimes they’re hard to notice. Take Brandon Crawford, for example. He’s been a mainstay in the middle of the infield, but when he suffered through a brutal April, he ended up benefitting from two longtime teammates who played most of last year elsewhere. 

In the midst of a slump that had him batting below .200 at the end of April, Crawford was told by Pablo Sandoval and Gregor Blanco that they remembered him holding his hands higher in previous seasons. They were right. 

“I had looked at a ton of video before that,” he said. “(It’s) just kind of getting my hands up and into the right slot by the time I start my swing. It’s not a huge adjustment. I’m talking like a couple of inches higher, so it was kind of hard to see on video.”

A couple of inches have made a world of difference for a player who now looks like he could be headed back to the All-Star Game. Crawford is once again keeping his front shoulder in and squaring up pitches. He had three hits in a 9-4 win over the Rockies on Saturday and he has an MLB-high 31 in May. He’s batting .449 this month, raising that average from .189 to .302. There isn’t a full-time NL shortstop within 30 points of that batting average, and Crawford’s defense has long made him one of the standards at the position in the National League. 

The recognition may come later. For now, the Giants are just happy to have another force in a lineup that beat down Jon Gray on Saturday and on many days can look like one of the deepest in the league. It helps when Crawford, who generally hits a bit lower in the lineup, is going like this. He had a two-run double early and then a two-run homer as the Giants pulled away. The multi-hit game was his ninth of the month. 

“April was obviously a tough month,” Crawford said. “Hitting .189 for an entire month is tough, but I didn’t really waver in my confidence a whole lot. I figured I would be able to bounce back and still have a good season. I’ve done it before. I’ve been through it before.”

His manager repeated that mantra early and often as reporters asked about Crawford and other struggling Giants in April. 

“It’s just a case of a good hitter that’s got his stroke and he’s got his timing,” Bochy said. “Like a few guys, he got off to a slow start, but we said they’ll get their numbers back to where they normally are. Now, they’ve exceeded that.”

Crawford has never hit .300 for a full season. He has never even hit over .275, but this run flirting with .500 for a few weeks has helped keep the Giants afloat. They had 17 hits on Saturday while getting production up and down the line, and that’s when they’re at their best. 

“Overall, we’re going to have a really good-hitting team,” said Brandon Belt, who also has All-Star numbers. “We’re going to run into some guys that can shut us down, but that’s the case for anybody. But I think overall, on a day to day basis, you’ll see a pretty good-hitting team.”

On Saturday, that depth turned a tight early contest into a boat race. The only drama in the late innings was whether Crawford would became the first Giant since 1991 to hit for the cycle at home. He was a triple shy when he walked up in the eighth. He struck out. Did Crawford know what was at stake?

“Yeah,” he said. “Probably a little too much. I kind of got out of my approach. It happens.”