The roar of Red Sox faithful bombarded AT&T Park Tuesday night. Zealous chants for “Big Papi” mixed with loud cheers for the hometown team turned Game 1 of this interleague match up into a fan experience roller coaster.
A mid-seventh inning ovation proved to be the loudest cheer of all; Giants rookie Albert Suarez, in his second career Major League start, held the best offense in baseball to two runs and five hits.
Both teams hit highs Tuesday night. Suarez humbled a Sox team that entered the game headlining nearly all offensive categories; they led the MLB in RBI (323), average (.293), OBP (.359), SLG (.488) and OPS (.847).
Suarez’s didn’t seem to be phased by the mountain before him. He calmly mixed his pitches, incurred ground balls, and stuck to his plan:
“I tried to keep the ball down and, obviously I missed a couple pitches, but I told myself to be patient and keep working hard.”
Suarez didn’t miss a whole lot. Jackie Bradley Jr. — the guy who, at one point, held a 29-game hit streak— sparked his offense in the second with a two-out double and Chris Young punched their first run in with a single to follow.
But the Giants climbed back into it and managed to give their guy the lead he deserved. Jarrett Parker answered right back in the third with a solo shot and the Giants barely took the lead after loading the bases with no outs in the fourth. Brandon Crawford walked in a run and Gregor Blanco grounded into a double play to etch the go-ahead run.
Suarez grabbed on, gliding through a career-high six innings; he was done after walking Bradley Jr. on a 3-2 pitch one out into the seventh. He dealt a season-high 84 pitches.
With Suarez gone, the game shifted in the oddest sequence. Bradley stole second and advanced to third on a botched throw from catcher Trevor Brown. Young drew a walk to put runners on the corners for a pinch hitting David Ortiz, who — in a very un-Ortiz-y play — grounded into a potential double play.
Crawford missed the tag on a second-bound Young by an inch, throwing out Big Papi at first and allowing Bradley to tie the game.
The Giants lost their third straight and are now 4-4 in extra-inning games this year. But Suarez’s outing against the potent Sox might have have made up for it, at least a bit. He’s slowly, but surely, growing into a deep-inning threat. Suarez is ready for that transition:
“If they let me do it, I’m gonna do it. I think it’s just mentally, if I’m in the bullpen I’m mentally focused every day. If I’m in the rotation I’m mentally focused every five days.”
The ‘pen almost had it tonight. Hunter Strickland pitched a stellar 1-1/3 innings, striking out pinch hitter Josh Rutledge to end the scary seventh. Betts sent a screaming line drive at Strickland’s head to kick off the eighth inning that Strickland snagged in the knick of time. He’d taken one off his back before, so he was ready, he chuckled:
“I think it happened too quick. It was a reaction.”
Strickland gave up a hit to Dustin Pedroia, but Bruce Bochy let him stay to clean up his mess. Bogaerts and lefty Travis Shaw grounded out. Said Strickland of Bochy’s decision to let him face lefties and righties:
“It definitely builds confidence. I personally haven’t been facing many lefties, but it’s a tie ballgame so we definitely need to save the ‘pen.”
The Giants wouldn’t need many more arms, as it turned out. Casilla (L, 1-1, 2.74 ERA) followed a perfect, two-strikeout ninth with the game-deciding 10th that included a leadoff double, a perfect bunt hit and a walk. The Giants’ closer showed his two sides—reliable and, yet, volatile—in a span of 1-1/3 innings. It’s a question Bochy’s faced throughout this season after each of Casilla’s four blown and 12 saved games.
Bochy stood by his closer. The little things got the best of his team, he said:
“The whole game, walks hurt us…It was a tough game.”
Javier Lopez shouldered this blown save, though; he was the chosen arm to face former teammate Ortiz.