The Giants homestand opener against Atlanta marked Dereck Rodríguez’s sixteenth big league start, and though this is his first time playing beyond the month of August, he maintained the consistency he’s had since his call-up, nearly matching the line from his first start on June 3 and appearing no worse for the wear.
But offensively, the Giants (68-77) have required near perfection from their starters. So while he allowed just two runs (one earned) in 6-1/3 innings, Rodríguez (L, 6-3, 2.35 ERA) took the loss as San Francisco bats failed to do any damage against Atlanta lefty Sean Newcomb, falling, 2-1, to the Braves (80-64) for their ninth loss in a row.
San Francisco did score first, cashing in a run on Newcomb (W, 12-8, 3.82 ERA) in the third on a pair of singles from Gorkys Hernández and Austin Slater and the early offense seemed to bode well for the Giants as they came in to Monday’s match with a 42-28 record when they scratch the first run across. But things have looked pretty dire for the Giants of late.
A team that seemed stuck in the gravity well of .500 is now in something of a free fall, so perhaps such historical stats are no longer relevant.
Bochy was quick to stamp out the notion that Giants hitters were victims of bad luck Monday:
“If you look at the game as a story — we didn’t make good hard contact as often as you need to win a ballgame. And you give the pitcher credit, but even our three hits, it’s not like they were really smoked, we were late a lot tonight.”
While the offense has scuffled, Bochy appears to have developed a level of confidence and faith in Rodríguez that is nearing the Madison Bumgarner threshold, based in part on a level of dependability surprising in a rookie who, just a few years ago, was catching fly balls in the outfield. But the veteran manager says that while he remains impressed, he’s no longer surprised by Rodríguez’s performances every five days:
“I think [the consistency] says a lot about him. He knows what he’s doing out there. … That kid pitched a great game — as he has so many times this year — it’s a shame we couldn’t get some runs for him.”
Bochy said he can see similarities between Bumgarner and Rodríguez when it comes to the way they play the game:
“I think you look at how they compete out there — they pitch to win, and they’re focused every pitch. That’s what you like about ’em, they don’t get rattled, [they have] great concentration and both of them have very good command.”
Rodríguez kept San Francisco in it Monday. Despite allowing one run to tie it up in the fourth, he kept the Braves offense off-kilter, as he’s done to most clubs he’s faced this season
When asked earlier Monday if there were concerns on the innings allowances going into the homestretch on Rodríguez and fellow-rookie starter Andy Suárez Bochy insisted they are no worse for the wear:
“They’re two strong kids that don’t seem to even be thinking about where they’re pitching at [in September] — they love competing and really maintain their stuff [and their] command, so we have no concerns with those two right now, we’ll have them about where we thought we would have ’em at the end of the season.”
He doubled down on this assertion Monday, putting Rodríguez out to face the bottom of Atlanta’s order in the seventh with 102 pitches already logged to his arm.
Rodríguez was adamant that he was good to go for the seventh inning:
“I told him I wanted to go out. [I said], ‘I’m good, I wanna go back out there.’ I felt good [in] the sixth inning and regardless of the pitches I felt good and I thought I could throw a pretty good inning.”
There’s generally rhyme to Bochy’s reason when it comes to his managing style, but there’s a lot of gut instinct mixed in there, too. He doesn’t have a problem leaving his starters out there past 100 pitches if he believes they have outs left in them and the fact that his starters have tended toward the five inning mark in 2018 is more a function of how much gas they’ve had in the tank than any concerted effort to minimize innings. And despite the way the cookie crumbled Monday, Rodríguez expressed gratitude for the opportunity to play for a manager of the old school variety.
“I like playing with [an] old school manager. I’ve seen that [type of] game for my entire life, so that’s the game I’ve learned and grew up watching—the old school game, bunting guys over and all that stuff. Having Bochy as a manager and him having the confidence that he has in me so early, that’s awesome.”
The confidence may not have been misplaced, but a defensive miscue made it irrelevant. What should’ve been a leadoff single to center from Ozzie Albies turned into a double when Hernández, who, seeing Albies make a wide turn around first, decided to throw to first in an effort to get him in a run down instead of throwing to second and holding him to a single.
Bochy said Albies’ speed compounded the issue, and he would’ve preferred Hernández have thrown to second base:
“[Albies is] so athletic, once [Hernández] threw it, [Albies] was in to second. We wouldn’t have had a shot at him at second base, so it was a little too aggressive on Gorkys’ part there. [Albies] was halfway between first and [second] — just get the ball in and if the infielders have a shot we’ll take a shot then.”
But to add insult to injury, Hernández airmailed the throw to first and after the ball richoheted off a bat boy in the Braves dugout, umpires called it a dead ball and awarded Albies third base. Atlanta’s 21-year-old second baseman scored on a Dansby Swanson sac fly to give the Braves the 2-1 lead, which they never relinquished.
The Braves scored two more runs off Hunter Strickland in the ninth, but the game was lost long before then as the Giants failed to muster even one more run.
San Francisco hopes Andy Suárez (6-10, 4.33 ERA) can be their stopper in game two of three against Atlanta as they try to snap their longest losing streak of the season. It was Suárez who notched the Giants last win on August 31, and they have since lost nine in a row for the first time since a 2006 nine game skid spanning July 23 to August 1 of that season. They will take on righty Mike Foltynewicz (10-9, 2.75 ERA) in Tuesday’s 7:15 p.m. game at AT&T Park.
Rodríguez has thrown six or more innings and allowed two or fewer runs in 13 of his first 16 career starts making him one of just two major league players to do that since 1913, the other being Steve Rogers (1973) of the Expos. The rookie’s 2.35 ERA this season is the best among NL rookie pitchers. … Monday was the 31st time this season the Giants have been held to one or fewer runs, which is tied for third-most with the Cubs, behind just the Marlins (33) and Orioles (36).