Pittsburgh Pirates

Behind Derek Holland and two home runs, Giants snap six-game losing streak

Behind Derek Holland and two home runs, Giants snap six-game losing streak

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PITTSBURGH — It wasn’t a surprise that a former Pirates outfielder came up big in his return to PNC Park. It was kind of a surprise that it wasn’t Andrew McCutchen, though. 

Gorkys Hernandez smoked a leadoff shot in the sixth to break a scoreless tie and the Giants poured it on from there, scoring five runs in the inning and winning 5-0. Derek Holland made sure the lineup had plenty of time to get into gear, throwing 6 1/3 shutout innings and getting his second win in orange and black. 

The win snapped a six-game losing streak and gave the Giants a 4-6 road trip. It wasn't what they envisioned, but given how poorly they played for the last week, they'll probably take it. Here's what else you need to know ... 

— Holland had his best day as a Giant. He became the first starter since last Saturday to pitch at least six innings, and despite the fact that he was at 99 pitches, he came back out for the seventh. After getting the first out, he was replaced by Reyes Moronta. Holland gave up four hits and walked five, but did an excellent job of pitching through traffic. He struck out seven. 

— Through four innings, the Giants had hit six balls at least 100 mph. None of those balls resulted in base hits. Hernandez found a better way, driving one into the first row of seats in left while leading off the sixth. He now has more homers against the Pirates than he did in 33 games for them. 

— With two on and two outs in the sixth, the Pirates called on Richard Rodriguez. He threw Nick Hundley a first-pitch curveball and it was skied right down the left field line for a game-breaking three-run shot. The homer was Hundley’s fourth of the season. That’s twice as many as the team’s starting catcher has. 

— Adam Frazier of the Pirates uses “Pony” as his walk-up song. Feels like that should be acknowledged far and wide, so here it is. 

Jeff Samardzija, Tony Watson can't make Giants' rallies hold up

Jeff Samardzija, Tony Watson can't make Giants' rallies hold up

PITTSBURGH — Jeff Samardzija was not brought here to be the ace or leader of a staff. He wasn’t even the biggest pitching addition of his own offseason, as the Giants signed Johnny Cueto a couple weeks after inking Samardzija. 

But this is Samardzija’s staff right now. Cueto is hurt and Madison Bumgarner is a month away from his own return, leaving Samardzija to lead a group that includes three young pitchers and a non-roster invitee. So it was notable when Samardzija put the onus on the pitching staff after being asked about this strange road trip.

“We pitched in Atlanta,” he said of the three-game sweep that preceded six losses. “That’s the best way to describe it.”

They have not in the state of Pennsylvania, and that includes Samardzija. Saturday was his best outing of the season, but that’s a low bar, and it still was nowhere near his standards. Samardzija was a strike away from a quality start and six innings but Francisco Cervelli took him deep to give the Pirates a two-run lead. When the Giants rallied to tie it, Tony Watson gave up the go-ahead run. The Giants lost 6-5. They are now 3-6 on the road trip. Samardzija said there’s only one way to turn it around. As always with this organization, it starts with pitching. 

“As a veteran guy you’ve got to get in there and talk to these guys and let them know what’s important,” he said. “Definitely at this point as a starting staff we’ve got to get in there and throw more innings.”

Samardzija wasn’t able to finish the sixth, and he was a spectator when a weird rally put the Pirates on top for good. Watson had been unbeatable before returning to his longtime home, but he gave up a three-run blast Friday. On his first pitch Saturday, Josh Bell stroked a double. After a groundout, Cervelli was intentionally walked to put the pressure on pinch-hitter David Freese. He hit a chopper to third and Evan Longoria scooped it as his momentum took him to the plate. Bell had broken for home, but he spun and whirled around Longoria, who paused for a second and missed his chance to throw Freese out at first or tag Bell. That loaded the bases, and Watson hit Mercer to bring in the winning run.

Halfway into his third answer a few minutes later, Bruce Bochy pivoted and credited his players for showing more energy and playing a cleaner game. It certainly beat the ball they played in Philadelphia or on Friday, but this was still a night with too many negatives. 

Alen Hanson, who hit his fourth homer early on, pulled up while scoring the tying run and was pulled with a tight left hamstring. He’ll be reevaluated Sunday, but the Giants are in a bind. They already have just four players on their bench and Kelby Tomlinson, who will start Sunday, has served as their only backup middle infielder. 

The roster is so imbalanced because of the staff’s desire to carry eight relievers, and Bochy doesn’t anticipate that changing anytime soon. But it will have to. This is unsustainable for the position players — several of whom could use a day off. The easiest way to cut a reliever would be to get length from the starting staff. 

For a moment, it looked like Samardzija would finally do it. But on a night when he got better as the game went on, he could not finish what he started. 

“That’s the most frustrating thing,” he said. “When you feel you have your good stuff you want to take advantage of that.”

Giants put a twist on recent form in sixth straight loss

Giants put a twist on recent form in sixth straight loss

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PITTSBURGH — The Giants at least put a twist on things Saturday night. Their lineup did not strike out quite as often. Their starting pitcher lasted just a bit longer. 

But the end result was the same. 

Tony Watson, a former Pirate, hit Jordy Mercer with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of a tie game. The Giants lost 6-5, dropping their sixth straight game in the state of Pennsylvania. Watson had been just about perfect until returning to his longtime home, but he has given up late runs in both games of this series. 

Here are the other details... 

—- Jeff Samardzija’s stuff took a noticeable tick up in the fifth and sixth, and he was a strike away from a quality start and an outing to build off. But with two outs and two strikes in the sixth, Francisco Cervelli smoked a two-run homer into the right field seats. After a single, Samardzija’s day was done. He was charged with five earned. He has a 6.94 ERA. 

—- Andrew McCutchen got ovations before all of his at-bats again, and he doubled the second time up. It appeared he wanted to show the Pirates he’s still got that speed. Per Statcast, he was going 29.7 feet/second on his way to second, his fastest recorded time this year and the fourth fastest by a Giant. McCutchen also doubled and scored in the seventh. 

—- Alen Hanson drilled a solo shot to right to tie it up in the top of the second. The homer was his fourth since getting into the Giants’ starting lineup. He never hit a homer in 92 at-bats for the Pirates in 2016 and 2017. Unfortunately, he appeared to hurt himself running the bases in the eighth. 

—- Evan Longoria got the Giants on the board with a laser shot to left. The homer was his team-leading eighth. All the dudes who played third base for the Giants last season combined for just nine homers.