When Matt Duffy doubled home Conor Gillaspie in the 13th inning for a 2-1 win over the Rockies, he helped notch the Giants’ league-leading 10th comeback victory of 2016.
After a 13-run inning Thursday night and a collective ten runs scored Friday, the runs seemed to shrivel up for both Colorado and San Francisco on a drab, gray Saturday.
Both squads struggled for base runners all game, with starters Johnny Cueto and Jon Gray locked in a pitching battle. A sole base hit from Rockies shortstop Trevor Story was just about the only action through three frames.
The Giants grounded out 12 times against Gray, failing to string together consecutive hits. The hardest-hit ball of the afternoon was a Brandon Belt fly out to deep center, easily caught at the warning track by Charlie Blackmon.
Duffy went 2-for-5 on the day by winning the little battles against Gray:
“Your trying to capitalize on a mistake the pitcher makes. Grey did a good keeping us off balance and keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate. In a situation like that you’re trying to string together three or four good at bats in a row. If you can push one across great, if not, then you can try to wear him down mentally.”
Cueto, the other hero on the day, made his case as the co-ace of the rotation when he took the bump for his seventh start. The 30-year-old earned a no-decision in 8-1/3 innings of scoreless work despite a lack of velocity, lowering his ERA to 3.02 to lead the Giants starters.
Cueto struck out three and walked just one; of 109 pitches, 72 were strikes. Duffy said:
“He (Cueto) was just being really crafty. Keeping them (Rockies) off balance, causing soft contact. He pitches with what he has that day and doesn’t rely on one thing. Even if he doesn’t feel great he has that little pause or quick pitch that he does to get in guys’ heads.”
Rockies starter Gray (0-1) came in with a 7.98 ERA, but the third-overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft finished the night pitching seven shutout innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
The Rockies couldn’t seem to help themselves early. After a single from center fielder Blackmon to start the fourth, Cueto picked him off, with an official review ruling him out after originally being called safe. Nolan Arenado was also held in check, walking three times and being thrown out at second by Buster Posey on an attempted steal in the first.
Manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged the Giants may have been playing it safe with the dangerous slugger:
“You don’t want to make a mistake, sometimes they are strategic walks without trying to walk him. If you’re in a tie ball game you need to be careful with some guys and we did a good job there.”
After it looked as though Cueto could pitch another complete game shutout, things grew grim for the Giants in the top of the ninth. A Blackmon fly out to lead off the inning and hits to Story and Gonzalez had two runners on and Arenado up in a dangerous spot.
Closer Santiago Casilla coaxed Arenado to pop up behind the plate to Posey before Gerardo Parra grounded out to end perhaps the Rockies’ best chance to score in the first nine.
In the 10th, Giants reliever Cory Gearrin coughed up a triple to second baseman DJ LeMahieu before catcher Tony Wolters doubled down the line to bring LeMahieu home and take the 1-0 lead.
Trying to preserve the extra-inning win, Rockies closer Jake McGee gave up a triple of his own to lead-off hitter Belt — who has now reached safely in 15 games. Crawford delivered by slapping a ball over the head of shortstop Story, who was playing shallow, to tie the game at 1-1.
Second baseman Joe Panik ended the top of the 13th on a diving stop, tossing the ball behind and over his head to Crawford to get Arenado on a fielder’s choice.
In the bottom of the 13th with one out, pinch-hitter Gillaspie drew a five-pitch walk. Span drew a walk to set the table for Duffy, who came up and won it for the Giants.
Bochy admitted it was the perfect time for a winner, especially after using most of his bullpen:
“Its hard to get a bigger hit than Duffy got today, we we’re down to our last pitcher so he (Derek Law) was our last man standing, he was going to stay out there.”
After a shaky few games, the Giants bullpen went four innings with only one run allowed. Cueto said he has seen improvement with the new guys coming out of the bullpen:
“They are getting better and better. I see that they are improving, and eventually we’ll get into a good rhythm after all the changes.”
The Giants send Jeff Samardzija (4-1, 3.32 ERA) to the mound at 1:05 p.m. on Mother’s Day Sunday at AT&T Park against Rockies starter Eddie Butler (0-1, 6.75 ERA).