On any other day this month, an 11-hit, four run game might signal a table-turning breakout, an offensive anomaly, even for the Giants.
In Sunday afternoon’s 4-2 series sweeper over the Phillies, it was just another day at the ballpark. The win capped a 48-hit, 27-run, three-game steamrolling of bottom-feeding Philadelphia.
What turned out to be an entirely-lopsided matchup is just what the Giants needed going into the All-Star break. To put this in perspective, the Giants scored double the amount of runs this series than they did over the past seven games.
The Giants got their runs in the fourth. Posey notched a one-out hit and Hunter Pence pushed him to second with another hit. He moved to third on a Brandon Belt ground out and got the Giants on the board with a Brandon Crawford RBI single.
With the Brandons in scoring position, thanks to a Chad Billingsley wild pitch, Susac sent a shot to dead center field, giving his team the 4-0 lead. Susac entered the game hitting .077 in 26 at-bats, but didn’t feel the pressure:
“As far as needing it, I wouldn’t say I was that desperate yet.”
Billingsley had an extra base open with Chris Heston coming up to bat, but pitched to Susac anyway. Not necessarily a mistake given Susac’s average of late, but Bochy thought otherwise:
“He’s dangerous … He can hit a home run for you and that home run ended up being the difference in the game. He can hit lefties, righties, use the whole field but he’s got some pop in that bat.”
And so comes the end of a topsy-turvy first half. The Giants ultimately landed 4-1/2 games behind their SoCal rivals through three major losing streaks and a 21-win May dealing with an embattled, injured outfield and overflowing, unsettled rotation.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
Bochy said the first few months could have gone better, but he ain’t complaining after this sweep:
“I thought it was important for us to build some momentum as we head into the second half. If you look at the start, we almost buried ourselves and bounced back and got back to playing the brand of ball we needed to play. We’re not where we want to be, obviously, but you got to hang in there. You’re a nice win streak away from where you want to be.”
An advantage this team has heading into the second half, though, is the element of surprise supplemented by prospect depth. Sunday’s sweep — the Giants’ first at home over the Phillies since 2000 — boasted one the team’s biggest surprise, Chris Heston.
Sunday, Heston became the second Giant to reach nine wins, Madison Bumgarner got his on Friday night, with 7-2/3 innings of some of his best. He used just 78 pitches and gave up seven hits and one run, striking out seven. He looked cleared for at least one more inning, but lefty Josh Osich came in to face lefty Jeff Francoeur with runners on second and third, so Heston didn’t mind:
“Anytime you come out of the game you’re a little disappointed in yourself. It was a good matchup with the lefty coming up and Osich has been dominant.”
Francoeur grounded out. No problem. And Osich got his first MLB at bat. He struck out.
At this point it’s tough to imagine this rotation without Heston; he leads all NL rookies in wins and ERA (3.39), just ahead of Tampa Bay’s Nathan Karns and Cincy’s Anthony DeSclafani.
Susac said Heston’s game is only getting better as he adjusts to AT&T’s quirks:
“I think he’s getting a little more confident out there. I think he sees that this park isn’t easy to string together hits and hit home runs all the time so he’s a little more aggressive in the zone. I thought he did a great job keeping hitters off-balance all day. Had great command of curveball, slider was good, but mainly vintage Heston with the sinker in and out.”
His numbers nearly mirror that of the Giants’ ace Mad Bum, who holds a 3.33 ERA and 121 strikeouts to Heston’s 89. Heston goes for the ground ball pitch while Bumgarner is more likely to pitch for the strikeout. Heston, who was on the fast train to Triple-A Sacramento in March, said he’s just happy to be up in those ranks:
“You just have fun with it. (Bumgarner) goes out there and gets a win and you go out there and try to match it. And that goes for anyone in the rotation … That’s what keeps us all going, that friendly competition and friendly rivalry.”
The two are also neck-in-neck in the hitting race. Bumgarner has 10 hits to Heston’s nine, but Heston has the better batting average. Heston said Bum still has the edge, he laughed:
“We have a lot of fun with the hitting part. He’s edging me out now he’s got a couple more hits than me … He’s got a homer, so until I get a homer. I got the sac bunt advantage, he doesn’t sac much, though.”
Heston’s been one of the more consistent presences on the team and in the rotation, just what his inconsistent team needed, said Bochy:
“He’s been a savior. That’s pretty much it. You lose Cain, lose Peavy, you need someone from your system to step and help you out and I’ve said this so many times. In order for a team to have a good year and get to where they want to go you have to have a surprise or two. He certainly has been more than that.”
The Giants are heading into a nice four-game break with the All-Star game coming up. Of course, Buster Posey, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner and their manager won’t have much of a break. Said Bochy:
“I’ll speak for those guys. We got some excited guys in there looking forward to going to the game.”