Fresh off their first win in six games, the San Francisco Giants returned home Wednesday night for the third game and second half of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Giants (10-16) once again did damage with the long ball, backing a dominant outing from Johnny Cueto (5-2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 Ks) with two big home runs from Wilmer Flores (2-for-4, HR, 4 RBIs) and Austin Slater (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBIs) to fuel a 7-2 victory.
With the series tied at one game apiece, the Giants sent Cueto (2-0, 4.35 ERA) to the mound. He opposed Angels lefty Patrick Sandoval (L, 0-3, 5.40 ERA).
Cueto with a quiet top of the first inning, allowing just a single to David Fletcher. Both Slater and Evan Longoria singled in the bottom of the first, putting runners on first and third with two outs. Flores flew out to end the inning.
Slater led off the bottom of the third inning with a walk. Three batters later, Longoria singled, advancing Slater to third with two outs.
A three-run home run off the bat of Flores gave the Giants an early 3-0 lead.
Flores has been excellent hitting with two strikes, in fact, all of his five home runs have come with two strikes. After the game, he talked about his two-strike approach:
“I actually didn’t know that…Usually with two strikes, i’m a little bit shorter. Usually with two strikes, i’m not looking for a homer at all. Right now i’m trying to change my approach, and i want to keep my approach the same like i have one strike or no strikes.”
Cueto completed four shutout innings, although his pitch count (77 pitches) was quickly climbing.
With one out in the bottom of the fourth inning, Brandon Crawford doubled to left-center. Two batters later, lift-off once again for the Giants. Slater homered to left, extending the Giants lead to 5-0.
Cueto continued his mastery of the Angels (8-17). Five shutout innings, striking out seven batters on 92 pitches. He earned a chance at the sixth inning, and third time through the Angels lineup.
Tommy La Stella doubled with one out in the top of the sixth inning. Trout (0-2) to the plate. Cueto struck out Trout for the second out, and his eighth punch-out of the game.
Unfortunately for Cueto, the Angels have a potent middle of the order. Anthony Rendon roped a double down the left-field line, scoring La Stella and giving the Angels their first run.
Andrew Suarez, who was recalled from Sacramento Wednesday, took over for Cueto. Shohei Ohtani walked, runners at first and second for the Angels. Albert Pujols brought the Angels within three on a single to left, scoring Rendon.
The Angels were rallying, and that was an ominous sign for the Giants, who have blown multiple leads of three runs or more. Jason Castro walked, and the bases were loaded. Go-ahead run to the plate with two outs.
Baragar earned another inning and set the Angels down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh inning.
A very solid night for Baragar against a very good Angels lineup. Giants manager Gabe Kapler talked about his young reliever:
“I really appreciate strike-throwers, and pitchers who believe in their stuff. Caleb [Baragar] is that. He comes into the game and he’s not intimidated, it doesn’t matter who is at the plate. He’s going to attack you with his stuff. He’s not always going to have his best location and he understands that. He knows it, he gives himself the best chance to be successful while filling up the zone. He’s done that consistently since he’s been here, that’s why I believe in him.”
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Donovan Solano singled to center. Next batter, Yastrzemski, doubled down the left-field line. Runners at second and third with only one out.
Longoria lined a sac-fly to center, where Trout made an incredible diving catch to save a run. They weren’t done quite yet. Flores dropped a single over the second baseman’s head, scoring Yastrzemski. Giants extended their lead to 7-2.
The Giants offense has been the furthest thing from the problem this season. They’re scoring plenty of runs at home, and seem to never be content with the leads they do have. Austin Slater talked about the team’s offensive success:
“I think it’s encouraging. Obviously as a hitter, those are great numbers to hear. I’ve been here for so many years where we’ve really struggled putting up runs. I think it’s a credit to the staff, it’s a credit to players we have this year, sticking with the plan we make every day. The front office and ownership group have done a great job making adjustments, listening to players.”
Tyler Rogers took over for Baragar in the top of the eighth inning. A strikeout of Trout to start the inning, sent the leagues best player back to the dugout with an 0-4 night at the plate. A very clean inning for Gabe Kapler’s favorite weapon out of the bullpen.
Fast-forward to the ninth inning, Giants led 7-2. A five-run lead is anything but safe for this team as of late.
A strikeout, and two groundouts. That was all for the Angels. A stress-free ninth inning for the Giants bullpen.
Kapler discussed the all-around team win:
“That was a good win. Johnny [Cueto] pitched great and obviously he was able to go deeper into the game for us, we asked a lot of him. He gave us a lot of pitches, and we were able to hand the ball over to the bullpen and they did a nice job for us.”
- Both of the Giants starting catchers, Tyler Heineman and Chadwick Tromp are struggling at the plate, and behind the plate. After the game, Kapler gave his full thoughts on the positives and negatives he’s seen from his two catchers.
“With [Chadwick] Tromp, he’s been a really excellent receiver and leader of our pitching staff. He’s done a really nice job energizing these guys. The most important thing a catcher can do is help us get a win, and both catchers at times have been able to help us do that. With Tromp, he’s going to need to make an adjustment to the breaking ball and off-speed pitches. He’s been right-on a lot of fastballs, but he’s going to need to make some adjustments as the league adjusts to him. Both catchers are making adjustments behind the plate, we have the challenges with the catchers interferences earlier, but that adjustment has been made. They’ve both done a nice job throwing and throwing out runners. They need to continue to work on their blocking, With Heineman, he’s worked some good at bats for us, but hasn’t had a whole lot to show for those today.”
Without Buster Posey this season, the catcher’s position is a glaring hole. There were plenty of question marks surrounding both of these catchers coming into the season. They’ve each shown flashes of success, but have mostly struggled.
This is important to follow because there is a certain top prospect in Sacramento named Joey Bart who is about to break down the door if these two catchers continue to struggle.