Giants

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.”

Brawl notes: Giants confused by Hundley's ejection, umpire explanation

Brawl notes: Giants confused by Hundley's ejection, umpire explanation

LOS ANGELES — When Major League Baseball eventually comes for the umpires, replacing them with pitch-tracking technology, perhaps they’ll explain the switch with a simple phrase.

“Watch the tape.”

That’s about all Eric Cooper had to say late Tuesday night when a pool reporter asked why Nick Hundley had been ejected despite not throwing any punches at Yasiel Puig. 

“Watch the tape,” Cooper said. “You’ll see why he had to be ejected.”

Well, not really. First of all, Hundley was wearing a catcher’s mask, so it was hard to tell what he was saying to Puig. Hundley and Puig went face-to-face, but it was Puig who twice shoved Hundley, with the catcher reaching out both times to block the move. The Giants were baffled that Hundley was ejected after a long conversation between the umpires. 

“I don’t get it, either, to be honest,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ll see what the (umpires) report says. You’re going to defend yourself.”

Hundley said he’s not concerned about any discipline from the league.

“I was defending myself. He was defending himself. I don’t see why it should go any further than that,” he said. 

--- This fight escalated quickly but there wasn’t actually much action, with one exception. As Hundley was being held back, Puig ran back in, threw a few teammates out of the way, and tried to punch Hundley. He ended up slapping his mask with an open hand as Hundley was being held back. 

“I saw him coming,” Hundley said. “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to defend myself in that spot, being tangled up with someone else. The league will look at that. That’s something that’s up to the league to discipline somebody. That’s not my job to enforce any behavioral things.”

--- Hundley was held back, and essentially tackled, by first base coach George Lombard. He later came out onto the top step of the dugout and had a brief conversation with Lombard. Hundley said he was checking to make sure Lombard didn’t get hurt in the altercation. 

--- Lost in all that, Andrew Suarez had his best start in over a month. Suarez gave up some loud contact, but threw six shutout innings. He got all four strikeouts with his fastball and said that was the plan. 

“I’ve noticed a lot of teams are spitting on my sliders lately,” he said. 

Suarez went heavy with the heater in two-strike counts and had a big night. He also won bragging rights. Suarez and Manny Machado have been playing on the same fields since they were eight, and while Machado hit the ball hard twice, he didn’t get a hit off Suarez.

Hundley fights Puig in another heated chapter of Giants-Dodgers rivalry

Hundley fights Puig in another heated chapter of Giants-Dodgers rivalry

LOS ANGELES — About 30 minutes before every game he starts, Nick Hundley goes out onto the field by himself, his uniform already on underneath a black hoodie. He walks out to the nearest foul line and then takes off on a dead sprint, legs and arms pumping as he heads towards the center field wall. 

It’s Hundley’s way of getting the juices flowing, getting his muscles and mind ready for the night ahead. He’s locking in, transforming from the mild-mannered, humorous, humble teammate into the man who will control most of the action. 

On the surface, Hundley is just about the last Giant you would ever expect to get into an on-field altercation. But watch him sprint towards the wall and you’ll see the intensity that has carried him this deep into his career. It takes a special breed to be a catcher, and in the seventh inning Tuesday, Hundley showed that fire that’s so tucked away before and after starts. 

Yasiel Puig fouled a pitch off that he felt he should have crushed. As he does, Puig reacted angrily. He flipped the bat in the air and grabbed it emphatically, showing all 46,000 at Dodger Stadium that he felt he should have tied the game. Hundley wasn’t pleased, and let Puig know that he should dig back into the box. The two came face-to-face, and then shoves were exchanged. This rivalry had another heated chapter, with both benches and bullpens clearing and Puig getting in one open-handed shot to Hundley’s mask before order was restored. 

Afterward, in a clubhouse buzzing over the mini-brawl and 2-1 win over the Dodgers, Hundley was as calm as could be. He said it was a good game between rivals, one chasing the other in the standings. He said it was not a big deal. He would not say what he said to set Puig off. 

"That's stuff that's said on the field and that'll be left out there,” Hundley said. 

Here, once again, Puig disagreed with the Giants. It was not hard to see that Hundley took offense to Puig’s reaction to missing a Tony Watson pitch down the middle. Puig confirmed it.

“I knew that was the best pitch that Watson was going to throw me, so I was a little upset,” he told reporters. “He told me to stop complaining and get back in the box. When I got in his face, he told me to get out of his face, so that’s when I got upset with him. I didn’t like that he was telling me what to do, and then he said some words to me in English that I really can’t repeat.”

This is not the first time the Giants and Puig have gotten into it. It likely won’t be the last. But this disagreement came with a twist. Puig and Hundley were ejected, setting off a chain of events that helped the Giants win the game after Sam Dyson gave a run back in the eighth. 

Buster Posey moved from first to catcher to replace Hundley. Brandon Belt, fresh off the disabled list, took Posey’s spot at first. Two innings later, Belt singled off Kenta Maeda and came around on Alen Hanson’s single, scoring the winning run.

Fifty-five minutes after Puig shoved Hundley, the Giants streamed out onto the field for handshakes. A few minutes later, they were celebrating in the clubhouse. This was as loud as it’s been after a game all season long for a team that improved to 61-60, got within three of the Dodgers, and stayed five back of the Diamondbacks. 

“That should bring us even closer together,” Hundley said. “This is a tight-knit group. We’ll feed off that. What a great win.”

It started with six strong innings from rookie Andrew Suarez. When the field cleared and Hundley and Puig headed back to their respective clubhouses, the Dodgers rallied and tied it on Manny Machado’s single. For a second straight night, the Giants beat a Dodgers reliever in the ninth. This time it was Kenta Maeda, supposedly the solution for the Dodgers’ woes. Hanson smoked a single up the middle and Belt, who just missed 17 games with a hyperextended knee, rumbled home. Kiké Hernandez has a strong arm in center, and Hanson admitted later that he was worried when he saw Hernandez scoop the ball on one bounce. 

“I noticed Belt rounding third when the throw was coming in,” Hanson said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “Luckily for us, he made a bad throw.”

The throw was high and Yasmani Grandal couldn’t glove it. Belt slid in safely. He said later that he felt like he was running underwater in his first game back. He also insisted that his knee feels fine. 

“I wasn’t moving fast enough to make it hurt anyway,” Belt said. 

With that, he headed for the bus. The clubhouse was still energetic and players smiled as they walked past Hundley’s locker. The Giants came here with a very realistic shot of being permanently banished from the NL West race. Instead, they’re right back within striking distance, and they got to get their juices flowing, too. 

“Two very good games, great games, to come in here and get a couple of wins,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”