Rookie Logan Webb made his third major league start Saturday against San Diego and made a convincing case to remain in the rotation when Johnny Cueto is reactivated next week.
Webb (ND, 1-0, 3.52 ERA) pitched 5-2/3 strong, and although he allowed seven hits he limited the Padres (63-72) to just one run, racking up seven strikeouts. But a leaky bullpen and a sleepy offense couldn’t support his strong performance as the Giants (66-69) fell 4-1.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at Oracle Park.
Padres right-hander Joey Lucchesi (ND, 9-7, 4.00 ERA) was tough on the Giants. Despite several rallies, the only run San Francisco scored came on a first-inning, 411-foot bomb off the bat of Austin Slater (5).
The Giants got hits in five of the six innings Lucchesi pitched but a tally of eight hits, one walk and a hit-by-pitch wasn’t enough to cash in.
Three separate rallies died on the vine while Lucchesi was dealing. The Giants went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position against him and stranded eight runners Giants manager Bruce Bochy noted that it certainly wasn’t a recipe for success:
“We had pretty good opportunities, [but] you have to get a hit with runners in scoring position to win a ballgame unless you’re gonna hit a lot of home runs and we only hit one tonight.”
Webb, meanwhile, notched three strikeouts in his first frame and had at least one strikeout per inning thereafter Saturday. And though he pitched through traffic, the Pads failed to touch him up until the heart of their order saw him a third time in the sixth.
Bochy was impressed with the outing:
“He gave us a really quality start and he was really one out away from having that [official] quality start.”
With two outs in the sixth, the Padres tied it up, 1-1 and chased Webb from the ballgame when Josh Naylor doubled and Manuel Margot knocked Naylor in on a line-drive single to center. With that, at 91 pitches, Bochy hooked the 22-year-old rookie.
In spite of a largely successful outing, Webb was pretty hard on himself in the wake of the Giants loss:
“I was trying to give as many innings as I could. I wish I finished that inning. I wish I had finished it two batters before that, so I could go possibly up for another one.”
He berated himself equally for a poorly executed bunt attempt in the second that ended a promising campaign against Lucchesi.
Joey Rickard beat out an infield single on a grounder to deep third-base on the first pitch of the inning. He was swapped for Brandon Belt on first after Belt hit into a force out to bring up the recently promoted Mauricio Dubon.
Dubon roped a single to right for his second big-league hit and thus Webb was charged with getting a bunt down.
On the first pitch from Lucchesi, an 89-mph sinker right down the heart of the plate, the young pitcher’s attempted bunt popped up just high enough that it had the potential to be caught by Lucchesi or catcher Austin Hedges. Neither made the play, but it froze Belt at second base for a moment.
Just long enough for first baseman Eric Hosmer to spring in and field the ball, throwing it to second baseman Greg Garcia covering first to get Webb, and firing it to Manny Machado over at third to beat Belt to the bag for a double play to end the inning.
“I was little upset with myself — with one out and a guy on first and second, I couldn’t get the bunt down — it’s definitely something I need to get better at. Maybe that could have got us some more runs if I got it down. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. I kinda beat myself up about it. I gotta get back to work and keep trying to do that and get better at it.”
While Webb conceded he was proud of only allowing one run, overall he focused on the negative aspects of the outing when questioned by the press afterward.
Nevertheless, his skipper had a much different view of the young hurler’s performance and overall demeanor Saturday:
“I like his makeup, he’s got confidence, poise and he’s got good stuff to work with, good secondary pitches along with a good fastball and he commands it well. He’s aggressive out there and he’s not gonna back off, he’s got a great way about him.”
It was righty Reyes Moronta who took the ball in relief of Webb but within three pitches disaster struck. Moronta was set to face Luis Urías with two outs and Margot on second.
He reached a 2-0 count against Urías on a pair of 96-mph fastballs way outside. Then after checking Margot at second, he threw a 97.5-mph fastball to Urías and immediately crumpled to the ground.
He rolled down the first-base side of the mound clutching his right arm and writhing in pain, prompting Bochy and the training staff to race out to the mound to help him. He was assisted off the field by trainers as he held his arm all the way back to the dugout.
Bochy announced that Moronta was diagnosed with an acute right-shoulder strain and will undergo an MRI Sunday, at which point the team will know more.
Moronta had Tommy John surgery in 2013 while pitching for Salem-Keizer in A-Ball, but Bochy stressed that the injury is not related to his elbow:
“That’s a tough break for Reyes, he’s one of our guys and he’s gonna be down I’m sure for a while. I don’t want to speculate what’s going on because we don’t know, but he’s a guy that we’ll miss in that bullpen.”
Rookie Tyler Rogers replaced Moronta on the mound and got the Giants off the field after walking Urías. He lasted 1-1/3 innings without allowing a hit for his third successful major league outing.
The Giants eventually gave up the ghost when Tony Watson (L, 2-2, 4.47 ERA) allowed a leadoff triple to Machado in the eighth. A batter later the Padres took a 2-1 lead on a single from Naylor.
Bochy gave Will Smith the ball in the top of the ninth in a bid to keep things close, but in an uncharacteristic outing Smith allowed a leadoff single to Austin Hedges and a homer to Wil Myers to put San Diego up 4-1.
It was irrelevant, though. The Giants offense failed to show any signs of life, hanging the bullpen out to dry. Craig Stammen (W, 7-6, 3.41 ERA) would get the win for pitching two innings of shutout, one-hit ball and Kirby Yates (S, 39, 0-5, 1.21 ERA) struck out the side in the ninth to put the nail in the Giants coffin.
Jeff Samardzija (9-10, 3.38 ERA) will pitch Sunday in lieu of Tyler Beede, who will instead pitch Monday when the Giants head to St. Louis. Bochy said this was in an effort to keep Samardzija on his regular every-fifth-day schedule. He will face Padres left-hander Eric Lauer (7-8, 4.48 ERA) in the series finale with San Diego. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.
Johnny Cueto made what is likely his final rehab start with Sacramento Saturday night facing the Padres Triple-A affiliate, the El Paso Chihuahuas. He tossed six innings of shutout ball, striking out six and allowing just four hits. Bochy said Cueto could make his first major league start since succumbing to Tommy John last year as soon as Thursday, though nothing is decided yet.
Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @InsideThePark3r on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.