Samardzija dominates early, Giants rally late to get series win in Los Angeles

Samardzija dominates early, Giants rally late to get series win in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — As the clubhouse cleared out late Wednesday night, Jeff Samardzija was asked if this would have been a tough one to lose. Samardzija was sharp through eight innings, but for a chunk of his night, it looked like he would take a brutal loss. That’s come to be expected after the way April went. 

“Yeah …” Samardzija said, smiling. “But it didn’t happen.”

No, the pain never quite came. The Giants rallied to tie, put together a string of hits in the 11th to take the lead, and held on when the Dodgers threw a couple more punches in the bottom of the inning. They left Dodger Stadium with a 4-1 win and their first road series win of the season. 

“I think it means a lot for us with the April we had,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ve taken some body blows. They kept fighting and they had good energy in the dugout. Everyone was doing something to help out. We kept searching for the big hit and we finally got it.”

The go-ahead knock came from an unlikely source. Gorkys Hernandez is batting .182 and there are legitimate questions about why he bats leadoff so often, but he chose a hell of a time for his only hit of the night. With two on and one out in the 11th, Hernandez yanked a slider into the corner to give the Giants their first lead of the night. For once, the lineup tacked on, and when a tense bottom of the inning was over, Mark Melancon had a save and Steven Okert had his first win in the big leagues. 

Okert’s beer shower was certainly earned, but there was no doubt that Samardzija deserved a better fate given his contributions. The right-hander struck out 11, walked none, and allowed just an unearned run before turning it over to the bullpen after 101 pitches. 

“What a beauty he threw,” Bochy said. 

Samardzija said he felt strong in the bullpen, and he dominated with all his pitches and good fastball command. This is two straight strong outings and the Giants, who haven’t had many positive nights, have won them both. A couple of players stopped by Samardzija’s locker after the game to note that trend. Samardzija said he has felt a difference the last two times out. 

“It hasn’t been the stuff, it hasn’t been the head, it’s just been one pitch in big situations that’s been put in a spot to hit,” he said of his earlier struggles. “You gotta be in there on every pitch.”

Bochy complimented Samardzija’s focus and it seemed to carry over into a dugout that often has lacked fire. The Giants tied it in the eighth and sent the game to extras. In the 10th, they looked poised for the breakthrough. 

Brandon Belt’s walk was followed by singles by Hunter Pence and Buster Posey. The latter looked like it should score a run, but Belt was held up at third. Andrew Toles made a strong throw to the plate that would have gotten the out.

“Brandon froze there for a second because of the line drive. We were yelling to go,” Bochy said. “It looked like he froze for a second. He wasn’t at third by the time Toles got the ball. He has a good arm. I think they would have had him.”

It was a minor miscue on an otherwise big night. Belt saw 33 pitches while tying a career-high with four walks. He followed the Hernandez double with a single that made it 3-1. Toles chased down a Pence liner to the gap, but another run scored. All of that felt needed in the bottom of the inning. Melancon brought Corey Seager to the plate as the tying run, but he grounded out to third. 

After going 9-17 in April, the Giants took two of three from the Dodgers. It’s early, but they were in danger of falling comically behind in the NL West standings. Instead they have a pulse, and it was beating loud as players headed for Cincinnati. 

“It has to be a better month,” Bochy said. “You’re happy to win a series here on the road. It pushes us in the right direction and gives the team a sense of confidence.”

Giants Review: Steven Okert makes most of late call-up, but future still murky


Giants Review: Steven Okert makes most of late call-up, but future still murky

SAN FRANCISCO — It took a while for the Giants to find consistent left-handed relief after the end of the Javier Lopez-Jeremy Affeldt Era, but in 2018, Tony Watson and Will Smith were one of the National League’s best lefty bullpen duos. Ty Blach did a nice job once he was pulled from the rotation, too, and looks like a solid long reliever. 

But don’t forget about a fourth lefty, one who spent most of his season in Sacramento. Steven Okert was up on the taxi squad in April but didn’t get into a game. He wouldn’t return to AT&T Park until September, and when he did, he opened some eyes.

What Went Right

Okert made it back on Sept. 3 and made his 2018 debut that day, pitching a sharp scoreless inning at Coors Field. Over 10 September appearances, he would allow just one run in 7 1/3 innings, holding opponents to four hits in 27 at-bats.

The lefty struck out the side against the Brewers in his second appearance and had eight strikeouts and no walks in those 7 1/3 innings. In his final appearance, he struck out three Dodgers in two innings while allowing his lone run of the year. 

What Went Wrong

It’s a small sample, but Okert’s fastball maxed out at 93.4 mph in September, per Brooks Baseball, which was down from two previous stints, when he was often peaking at 94-95.  

The bigger concern for him is just the simple fact that the Giants didn't feel the need to have him up until September. The staff chose Josh Osich coming out of the spring and Okert had a down year in Triple-A, posting a 4.55 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. He struck out 43 in 31 2/3 Triple-A innings but also allowed opponents to bat .289. 

Contract Status

Okert used up his third minor-league option at the end of the spring. 

The Future

Okert, 27, appeared slimmed down in September, and the staff was pleased with the way he threw the ball. There wasn’t much to celebrate over the final month, but after a couple of losses, manager Bruce Bochy pointed to Okert as a positive.

Still, it’s hard to see where he fits in 2019 because the Giants have three lefties in their bullpen already and Okert cannot be optioned again. Bobby Evans always found a way to keep players like that in the organization, but a new boss might view things differently, and Okert could be thrown into a trade this offseason to find an easier path to a big-league job next spring. 

San Mateo native Tom Brady professes hatred for Dodgers, rooting for Red Sox


San Mateo native Tom Brady professes hatred for Dodgers, rooting for Red Sox

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a few reasons to root for the Red Sox in the World Series.

For one, he plays in Massachusetts, so he has a natural rooting interest in a team from Boston winning a title.

Two, he hails from San Mateo and grew up rooting for the Giants.

On the latest episode of The Kirk and Callahan Show on WEEI in Boston, Brady was asked if he hates the Dodgers.

“I do. I was a Giants fan growing up, and now I’m a Red Sox fan," Brady said. "So it couldn’t set up any better for the Red Sox to win the World Series, and I think they’re going to do it. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.”

Brady is the latest Patriot to pronounce his hatred for the Dodgers. Redwood City native Julian Edelman made it very clear over the weekend that he dislikes the Giants' bitter rival.

"I hate the Dodgers," Edelman told reporters Friday. "I hate the Dodgers. I mean, I'm a San Francisco guy."

See, you do have something in common with Tom Brady and Julian Edelman.