For his 30th birthday, Conor Gillaspie cracked a pinch-hit, two-strike, leadoff double off first baseman Edwin Encarcion’s glove took on pinch hitting duties to start the 10th inning.
Birthday magic, Bruce Bochy assumed, propelled that ball into the park’s right field crevasses:
“No wonder that ball went through. The baseball gods took care of him.”
The birthday momentum kept on, spreading to the batters behind him that spent many a loss this season simply unable to come up with a winner. Denard Span laid down a perfect bunt single, advancing pinch runner Kelby Tomlinson to third.
Eduardo Nunez saw runners on the corners as he took the box, got a head in the count and watched Span steal second, to his despair:
“I thought they were going to walk me as soon as Span got to second base and I was like… Fuh!”
Instead, Cody Allen served up a pitch to hit, and Nunez slapped a walk-off single into the right field gap. Just like that, the Giants beat the Cleveland Indians 2-1.
Monday night’s losing streak snapper marked consecutive games in which the back-end of this struggling rotation managed to get deep in the game. Ty Blach matched Cleveland young gun Mike Clevinger‘s zeroes with seven innings of one-run ball. Blach’s mechanics fell into line and, for a second night in a row, an often-time vulnerable starter was throwing with authority, said Bochy:
“If you look at success going back to 2010, even 2009, it’s been about our starting pitching … It’s going to be critical for them to get deep into games and get quality starts to turn thing around.”
A stellar Hunter Pence catch and a pair of 6-4-3 double plays helped Blach neutralize a trio of innings in which the Indians threatened. They’d get their early 1-0 lead on Brandon Guyer‘s double off the left field wall, scoring Bradley Zimmer from second easily.
But Guyer would return that lead, slipping in an attempt to reel in a sharp Nunez drive heading for Triples Alley.
Buster Posey cracked a two-out single up the middle to score a hesitant Nunez from second and tie the game 1-1.
The run ruined Clevinger’s shot at a sixth win and, perhaps, a shot at his second seven-inning-plus start, but pushed his ERA down to 2.73. The Giants mustered just three hits otherwise, striking out six times.
The Giants had their chance at walk-off glory against goliath Andrew Miller, who walked the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth. He’d only allowed more than one walk just once this season before and, suddenly, was on the hook for his fourth loss with closer Cody Allen coming in to help out in a tie game on the road.
Birthday magic was waiting on the sideline, anyway.
Hunter Strickland pitched a perfect eighth inning, lowering his ERA to 1.83. His slider has improved drastically of late and he’s tallied 36 strikeouts this season, allowing just one home run. He may be the dark horse trade chip the Giants push forward this upcoming deadline.