Giants

Nolan Arenado walks it off for cycle, hands Giants toughest loss in season full of them

Nolan Arenado walks it off for cycle, hands Giants toughest loss in season full of them

DENVER — In a somber visiting clubhouse at Coors Field, a veteran position player shook his head as he slowly peeled off his jersey. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “Do you think someone put a voodoo curse on us?”

That might be the best explanation at this point. Sure, the Giants are bad in a traditional way, and they’re outmatched talent-wise against most of the teams in the National League at this point, but losses like Sunday’s almost defy description.

Losers of 14 of their previous 18, the Giants appeared to have avoided their first ever four-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies when Hunter Pence hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the top of the ninth. Twenty-eight minutes later, they suffered the worst of their 45 losses to date. 

Nolan Arenado hit a three-run, walk-off homer off Mark Melancon to give the Rockies a 7-5 win. The blast, his 21st in just 80 career games against the Giants, clinched the cycle. Arenado became the 31st player in MLB history to hit a walk-off homer to complete the cycle, and afterward, he called it the best moment of his career. 

The mood was much different down the hallway.

Melancon has two save opportunities in the last 22 days and he has blown them both. In the first season of a four-year, $62 million deal, he has a 5.06 ERA and four blown saves in 14 chances. 

“My performance has been absolutely terrible,” Melancon said. “I need to be better. That’s it.”

Melancon, who spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a right pronator strain, said he is fine physically. Some others in the organization believe he is not 100 percent, though, and his usage backs that up. The Giants aren’t giving their closer save opportunities, but Bochy also is not using him in non-save situations. Melancon has pitched just four times in June. 

Asked about the situation, Bochy backed up his closer. 

“Mark could have come out better. I mean, look at those hits,” Bochy said. “A blooper in center field, another one we couldn’t quite get to in center field, an eight-hopper between first and second. Of course their guy (Arenado) came through but he should have fared a lot better than what happened. He made great pitches. I mean, sure, there’s the home run at the end, but the first hit the ball was on the dirt. He jammed (Charlie) Blackmon there and then made great pitches on (DJ) LeMahieu. They just put it in play.”

There’s an alternative path, of course. Most of the game’s dominant closers get through the ninth on strikeouts, but that has never been Melancon’s calling card. For years, his method has worked beautifully, but in a park like Coors Field, relying on the BABIP Gods is a recipe for disaster. All five Rockies who came to the plate in the ninth put the ball in play. While the hits were relatively soft until Arenado’s, Melancon tipped his cap, saying Colorado’s lineup “has all the tools.”

“I didn’t execute as good as I wanted to,” he said. “That’s why they were able to make contact.”

Three straight singles with one out put one run across, cutting into a two-run lead the Giants had built in the top of the inning. Pence’s blast got Ty Blach off the hook for a loss on a day when he pitched well and got burned by two solo shots in his final inning. Brandon Crawford, who had homered early in the game, added an insurance run with a double. It wasn’t enough. 

Melancon said he was trying to go in on Arenado, who already had a triple, single, and RBI double. The world’s preeminent Giant-killer came up with runners on the corners. 

“I was hoping to get a ground ball to short,” Melancon said. 

The first pitch wasn’t in far enough and Arenado knocked it into the first row of the seats. He raised his arms as the sold-out park shook and chanted “M-V-P.”

“It’s a dream come true,” Arenado said in an on-field interview. “My whole goal was to get the ball in the outfield. We had a chance to tie the game, but thank God the ball went out.”

Arenado thanked the fans as he was showered with ice water. “It’s fun to be in Denver right now,” he said. 

The Giants couldn’t get to the airport fast enough. 

Dereck Rodriguez sets second-half tone, leads Giants to win vs A's

Dereck Rodriguez sets second-half tone, leads Giants to win vs A's

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — To make a run at a division title, the Giants need Dereck Rodriguez to match his big first half. Perhaps the rookie has bigger plans. 

Rodriguez took the ball on the first night of the second half and allowed just one run on three hits against a tough A’s lineup. He departed with one out in the seventh and the bullpen took it home, clinching a 5-1 win that evened this Bay Bridge series at two games apiece. 

Here's what you need to know from the first game back... 

--- Rodriguez walked none and struck out five. He lowered his ERA to 2.72. 

--- With Brandon Belt on the paternity list, Ryder Jones was called up for a spot start. He certainly made the most of it. Jones jumped on a 2-0 slider from Edwin Jackson in the fifth, smacking a homer off the right field foul pole. The blast was the third of the 24-year-old’s career. He hit two last season as a rookie. 

--- Andrew McCutchen had a pair of sliding catches. The robbery of Jonathan Lucroy in the fifth inning had a catch probability of just 66 percent. 

--- Pablo Sandoval hit a no-doubter to right in the seventh inning. It was his 14th homer since returning to the Giants last summer, matching his total in Boston. 

--- The A’s announced a crowd of 45,606, a sellout. They’re expecting a few thousand more on Saturday.

Up for one night, Ryder Jones takes advantage of Giant opportunity

Up for one night, Ryder Jones takes advantage of Giant opportunity

OAKLAND -- In the seventh inning Friday night, 26-year-old starter Dereck Rodriguez gave way to 25-year-old Reyes Moronta. Rodriguez jogged to the dugout and sat next to Andrew Suarez, 25, and the two rookies watched Moronta strand a runner. A few minutes later, 24-year-old center fielder Steven Duggar strolled to the plate and roped a single into right. 

There's a youth movement in San Francisco, but you might have known that already. Rodriguez, Suarez and Moronta were a big part of the story of the first half and Duggar made waves over the final week. 

What you might not have realized is that another player in the middle of all the action Friday night is actually younger than all four of them. Ryder Jones got 150 big league at-bats last season and had not been seen since, and it's often easy to write a player off when he disappears for a stretch. But Jones, a former second-round pick, is still just 24. He was born seventh months after Duggar, who previously was the youngest player on the roster. 

There's still plenty of time for Jones to find his stride and live up to the promise he has shown at times. On Friday, there was another flash of that talent. Jones hit a long solo homer in the fifth, giving the Giants a lead they would never let go. With a 5-1 win over the A’s, the Giants got their second half off to a rocking start and tied this Bay Bridge Series at two games apiece. 

Jones is likely headed back to Sacramento. The plan was for him to come up for one day to fill in while Brandon Belt witnessed the birth of his second son, and he certainly took advantage of the opportunity.

“I thought the homer was huge for him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It was huge for us. He’s been doing a nice job there in Sacramento the last month. He’s doing what we were hoping this year, having another big year. That’s all he needs is at-bats and experience. He’s got the tools to be a nice big-league player.”

Jones struck out in his first at-bat, but got ahead in the count 2-0 the next time up. Edwin Jackson tried to sneak a slider across the inside of the plate and Jones crushed it. Both players leaned — in different directions — and watched as the ball clanked high off the pole. 

The Giants are leaning heavily on rookies this year, but Jones was part of a 2017 class that never found footing. Just about every player in that group got hurt, and most struggled in the majors. Jones batted .173 last year, striking out in a third of his at-bats. With Evan Longoria brought over and Pablo Sandoval locked in, Jones didn’t get much time this spring. He picked up outfield play in Scottsdale, hoping to increase his versatility, but he has primarily been the third baseman in Sacramento. At the time of this latest promotion, Jones was batting .299 in Triple-A, with nine homers, 15 doubles and 48 RBI. 

He’ll head back to a River Cats squad that has provided plenty of help. Rodriguez started the season there. On Friday, he allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.72.

“I trust my stuff. I trust my stuff,” Rodriguez said. “I was just going after them.”