It’s not fun for an opposing pitcher to work with Billy Hamilton pulling his attention behind him. It’s a situation the Giants can’t seem to avoid when they’ve faced the Reds this season.
Hamilton rung the Giants up for seven hits, including three triples and four RBI in Cincinnati’s three-game sweep — a series in which they outscored the Giants 31-5 — and continued his incessant prodding upon the Reds’ return to AT&T Park. He scored two game-tying runs in the Reds’ 3-2 win Thursday night to begin the four-game rematch.
The Giants were fresh off their first ninth-inning comeback win in New York, and looking sprightly. Brandon Belt broke his 18 at-bat hitless streak by taking Bronson Arroyo‘s 83 mph cutter 427 feet into deep center field, giving the Giants a rare early 1-0 lead and Belt his fifth home run.
Denard Span gave the Giants a 2-1 lead with his first home run of the season, pummeling Arroyo’s fastball up in the zone over Levi’s Landing. Span tallied four hits in all in his first game back from the DL.
But behind every Giants lead, Hamilton was lurking.
He wouldn’t make his presence felt right away, grounding out softly to begin the game. But he led off the fourth with his team’s first hit against Ty Blach, a single to left, moved to third on Zack Cozart‘s double and scored on Joey Votto‘s ground out to tie the game at 1-1.
Hamliton answered Span’s homer in the sixth with a leadoff single up the middle. He scored from second when a distracted Blach forced a pitch to Votto, who singled Hamilton home to make it 2-2.
Hamilton taking leads in scoring position—not something a starter likes to deal with, said Blach:
“He’s so explosive, you just know you have to be quick to the plate…That can sort of take away focus from the hitter.”
Despite Hamilton’s efforts to break yet another Giants-Reds game open for his team, Blach (ND, 0-2, 4.88 ERA) — who gave up a career-high 10 earned runs (12 overall) against the Reds in just three innings on May 6 — held the Reds to just those two runs over a seven-inning start back on his home mound.
All was right behind him with Brandon Crawford back at short, and the Reds surrendered to Blach’s ground ball stuff. Bruce Bochy said he liked to see the rookie bounce back from that tough day in Cincy:
“That probably was embarrassing and he comes back and throws a game like that … Shame we couldn’t get him a win for that effort.”
Hunter Strickland (L, 0-1, 1.50 ERA) took over in the eighth and made an 0-2 mistake slider to Scooter Gennett, who drove it deep to center and inches away from Span’s grasp for a lead off triple. Gennett would score the game winner on Cozart’s RBI double. It was just the second run Strickland has allowed in 15 outings. Bochy acknowledged those two-strike pitches have been a problem for his staff:
“These ball shouldn’t get hit that hard, you put away pitches you can use … That came back to get us tonight.”
Bronson Arroyo wouldn’t let much go against the Giants when he faced them last week. Despite throwing his stuff just a few ticks slower—67 mph curveballs with a fastball that reached an 87 mph high—the lineup struggled yet again, unable to add on. Said Bochy:
“He throws the kitchen sink at you, that’s his style.”
The Giants mounted a potential ninth-inning comeback against Raisel Iglesias in an attempt to make that 133-game drought without one a distant memory. Nick Hundley‘s fly ball escaped speedy Hamilton’s glove in shallow center with one out and Span singled with two outs to put runners on the corners.
But Belt swung on the first pitch into an easy out, and suddenly the Giants fell back to reality.