Giants

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — In a battle of the National League’s two worst teams, the Giants struck first. 

The lineup jumped out to an early lead and the new-look bullpen took it home in a 5-4 win over the visiting Phillies. The Giants scored five runs off budding ace Aaron Nola, and Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson shut it down in the final three innings, in that (new) order. 

What a recipe for a victory. They should try that more often, in my opinion. Anyway, here are five things you should know … 

—- Hunter Pence and Denard Span combined for a funny moment in the three-run fifth. Span held up on Jarrett Parker’s ball off the wall and then took off from second; Pence had been on first, and he ran right up Span’s back as they approached the plate. Span heard him coming. He was laughing as he scored. 

—- With those runs, the Giants became the first team since June 16 to score more than two runs off Nola. The 2017 Giants are weird. 

—- Span stole second before scoring in the fifth. He has three stolen bases in seven games since Buster Posey’s mini run-of-speed. Posey had been talking trash to the leadoff hitter. 

—- Jeff Samardzija got the win, but this wasn’t one he’ll remember fondly. He needed a slick Tomlinson-Crawford double play to help get through the sixth. Samardzija was charged with four earned on eight hits.

—- Cameron Rupp flipped his bat when he hit a rocket off Samardzija in the fifth. It for sure looked like a premature bat-flip, but the ball kept carrying and landed in the arcade section above Triples Alley. Cameron Rupp is right-handed. That’s an absolute blast for a right-hander in a night game at AT&T Park. I don’t know where he would play but the Giants should trade for him. 

Top of Giants' lineup again does its part, slugs way past Diamondbacks

Top of Giants' lineup again does its part, slugs way past Diamondbacks

PHOENIX -- The most important thing is that Joe Panik looks the part.

Everyone knows that if you pull up your socks, you immediately look faster, and with his black socks tugged up to his knees Saturday night, the Giants second baseman strolled to the plate in the first inning looking like your typical leadoff hitter.

The second-most important thing is that Panik is playing the part.

He reached base three times, raising his on-base percentage to .342 and extending his streak to 16 consecutive games with a hit or walk. On this night, he had both, with a hit and two walks, while hitting leadoff for a Giants lineup that did what you should against a struggling pitcher.

The Giants knocked Zack Godley out early and cruised to an 8-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Eight players had a hit. Seven players drove in a run. There were productive outs and guys tagging up all over the place.

"I thought there was a sense of urgency early, and it kind of permeated," Giants center fielder Steven Duggar said.

Lately, the production has started at the top. Buster Posey was finding his swing before a concussion, and he has stayed hot since, with two more hits Saturday. Duggar has settled into the No. 2 spot. Ahead of them both, Panik has been a steady presence. He has raised his OBP by 73 points in the last two weeks after a slow start.

"The quality of the at-bats, he just looks comfortable up there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's quiet. He's not making a lot of early outs. He looks like he's seeing the ball.

"I said it's just a matter of time before these guys get going. Joe looked really good in the spring."

That didn't immediately carry over, but it has here in May. The key to taking advantage is for the guys behind Panik, and behind Duggar and Posey, to come through in big spots, and on Saturday, they did.

[RELATED: Cueto looks good throwing in front of Giants staff]

The Giants kept the line moving, which they absolutely must do. And then in the end, there was a little pop, which they absolutely need away from Oracle Park. Brandon Belt hit his seventh homer of the season, and Pablo Sandoval had a pinch-hit shot, his sixth in limited time.

"It's nice to start him, but when he doesn't start, it's nice to have him come off the bench," Bochy said of Sandoval, smiling. "You look across the offense, and he's been the silver lining."

Johnny Cueto impresses Bruce Bochy, Giants staff with bullpen session

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AP

Johnny Cueto impresses Bruce Bochy, Giants staff with bullpen session

PHOENIX -- Johnny Cueto always stands out in spring training, because while every other pitcher in the row tries to show Giants coaches how well he's throwing, he seems to be playing a light game of catch.

Saturday was the exact opposite.

Cueto, about nine months removed from Tommy John surgery, threw in front of the Giants' staff at Chase Field and opened eyes with his 40 fastballs.

"He threw really, really well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think he surprised a lot of us with where he's at as far as his stuff, how hard he threw, his command."

Cueto's progression has been just about seamless, and he has matched the rehab work by dropping more than 20 pounds. Beyond the weight loss, he has toned up, replacing fat with muscle.

"Right now I feel like I'm a 25-year-old kid," Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. 

"I think this is the best shape I've seen Johnny in," Bochy said. "He looks very determined to get back as soon as possible."

Knowing how long the recovery process is, Bochy wouldn't commit to Cueto making an appearance this season. But the Giants always have targeted Sept. 1 as a return date, and Cueto has told members of the organization that he would like to return in the first half of August. On Saturday, he certainly looked like a pitcher capable of hitting that mark.

[RELATED: Bochy to 'keep pushing' despite ejection and another loss]

Cueto has thrown five bullpen sessions and started throwing his changeup off flat ground. He will throw the changeup in a bullpen session next week, and a week later will mix in breaking balls.

It is full steam ahead, with the goal of returning in time to make a few starts this season that set him up for a big return in 2020.

"My arm is telling me it wants to pitch," Cueto said.