Dereck Rodriguez

Giants combine with Rockies to set MLB record in extra-inning defeat

Giants combine with Rockies to set MLB record in extra-inning defeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly found a way to keep Bruce Bochy around. He can't retire if the season never ends. 

It seemed to be heading that way as a Tuesday game spilled into Wednesday, with the Giants and Rockies going 16 innings in a game that reminded everyone why MLB is changing its September roster rules next season. An MLB-record 25 pitchers were used before the Rockies prevailed 8-5

The Giants used 13 pitchers on a night when their starter, Madison Bumgarner, went seven innings. The 12th, Dereck Rodriguez, gave up a three-run Charlie Blackmon homer to the empty bleachers. For the second time in eight days, the Giants tied the MLB record for pitchers used in a game. 

“It doesn’t happen often,” Bochy said a half-hour past midnight. “I guess it’s good it’s September. We had plenty of pitching there. The guys battled hard, they really did. It’s baseball and we’re at the end of a long year. To play a long game like that, the way they battled, I’m good with that.”

This game wasn't without highlights for the Giants. Bumgarner and Buster Posey went deep in the same game for the third time, with Posey getting his first homer at Oracle Park this season. Evan Longoria later homered, giving the Giants three players with 20-plus homers for the first time since 2006. 

[RELATED: Torre offers Bochy retirement advice during final homestand]

But it was hard to enjoy any of that after a loss that lasted five hours and 31 minutes.

“I don’t particularly enjoy playing 16 innings,” Bumgarner said.

Giants change strategy in 'September baseball'-type loss to Dodgers

Giants change strategy in 'September baseball'-type loss to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- When the Giants claimed left-hander Wandy Peralta from the Reds on Saturday, they announced that he would join the team back in San Francisco. But Peralta showed up in the Dodger Stadium clubhouse Sunday morning, so there he was in the seventh inning, summoned from the bullpen with a couple of left-handers coming up for the Dodgers. 

Welcome to September baseball.

The Giants suited up 13 relievers Sunday and had a fully stocked bench, which led to a unique sequence for manager Bruce Bochy, who is three weeks from the end of his tenure. The Giants knew Dodgers lefty Julio Urias only had about 50 pitches in him, so Bochy started right-handed-hitters Donovan Solano at second and Austin Slater at first but told his Brandons to be ready. When right-hander Kenta Maeda took over in the third, Crawford pinch-hit for Solano and Belt hit for Slater. 

It didn't work. Both made outs and neither had a hit the rest of the way. Nothing worked, really. The Giants lost 5-0 in a game that would make anyone wish for a return to August and 25-man rosters. The Dodgers used six pitchers; Bochy countered with Dereck Rodriguez and four relievers who joined the club when rosters expanded. The strangest part came in that third, when two longtime members of the core entered to face the man who followed The Opener. 

"I told both Belt and Crawford that (others) are going to start the game but (Urias) is probably going 50 pitches, so be ready," Bochy said. "That was the plan. You have to be (ready). It's September baseball. It might be a little tougher on the hitters. They're getting a different look. Maeda, we just couldn't do anything against him."

The Dodgers felt the same about Rodriguez early. He struck out the side in the first and didn't allow a hit until the fourth, when Matt Beaty took him deep. Corey Seager hit a three-run homer an inning later. Rodriguez allowed just three hits but gave up five runs, three of which were unearned because of a Mauricio Dubon error. 

"I feel more frustrated than probably any other outing," Rodriguez said. "I felt good, was throwing the ball well. The one to Beaty was right in the middle but the one to Seager was down and he put a good swing on it."

Rodriguez himself is another example of how the game has changed. A rotation anchor last season, he heard this offseason that the Giants hoped to start him in Triple-A. That didn't end up happening, but Rodriguez still has bounced back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen and the big leagues to Triple-A. That's baseball in 2019. 

[RELATED: Cueto to make 2019 debut vs. Pirates on Tuesday]

The end result is that Rodriguez has never found his rhythm. He has a 5.09 ERA but said he hopes to finish his sophomore year on a high note. 

"I feel like I've learned more this year than I did last year," he said. "Last year I felt I could close my eyes and throw the ball where I wanted. This year it's the complete opposite. I feel I've learned more about baseball this year than in my whole life."

Giants' Dereck Rodriguez builds confidence; Johnny Cueto suffers setback

Giants' Dereck Rodriguez builds confidence; Johnny Cueto suffers setback

The Giants aren't going to the playoffs this season, that much is clear. Tuesday's 1-0 road loss to the St. Louis Cardinals dropped San Francisco to six games below .500, with 24 left to play.

Next season offers considerably more optimism. The Giants should enter the season with an established outfield of Mike Yastrzemski, Kevin Pillar and Alex Dickerson, and some of the prospects they acquired at the trade deadline already have contributed at the major-league level, or are expected to do so soon.

But if San Francisco is going to compete for a playoff spot, it will need more pitching performances like the one it got from Dereck Rodriguez on Tuesday at Busch Stadium.

Over seven innings, Rodriguez limited the red-hot Cardinals to just five hits and one run while striking out seven. He's penciled into next season's rotation, but starts like that should provide some much-needed confidence heading into what will be an important spring training for the 27-year-old right-hander.

"It's been an up-and-down year for him, and that's including going from here to Sacramento," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Rodriguez, who fell to 5-8 with a 5.15 ERA after the tough-luck loss. "I'm sure he'd like to finish strong. I think it would be very big for him.

"He looked very determined tonight. Good bounce-back off a tough start and, I mean, he really pitched well. 

"Yeah, I think it would be important for him as he goes into the offseason to pitch well this month."

[RELATED: Watch Cardinals' foul ball somehow spin fair vs. Giants]

In terms of next year's Giants rotation, Jeff Samardzija is a lock. Madison Bumgarner is too, if he's re-signed (duh). Logan Webb has looked great over his first three starts and isn't going anywhere. Tyler Beede has a live arm, but he needs to get more consistent. And then there's always the possibility of a free-agent addition or two.

Rodriguez' strong showing against the Cardinals wasn't the only development that could have a considerable impact on San Francisco's rotation next year, although it was the most positive. Bay Area News Group's Kerry Crowley reported that Johnny Cueto experienced back tightness after throwing a bullpen session earlier in the day, and he's no longer expected to pitch against the Dodgers later this week. 

Cueto is coming off Tommy John surgery and will turn 34 in February. He's under contract for two more seasons at $21 million per, with a club option in 2022. Tuesday's setback doesn't mean the Giants can't count on having Cueto in the rotation moving forward, but if Rodriguez can maintain the form he showed against the Cardinals, that won't be as big of a concern.