By Evan Webeck
SAN FRANCISCO — It has been more than a month since the Giants’ wins last equaled their losses, but continuing their hot stretch to end the season Thursday, they moved one step closer to finishing the season at .500.
The Giants deployed a bullpen game for the 10th time this month and, in an increasingly common outcome, got stellar showings from all five pitchers to limit the Rockies to five hits in a 6-3 win — their eighth in their past nine games, pulling them within one game of .500 (77-78).
Sean Hjelle, who tossed four innings in the middle, earned the first win of his major-league career and a messy reward from his teammates, who doused him in as many substances as the Giants used pitchers Wednesday night.
“I got a one-of-everything shower,” Hjelle said, listing off Red Bull, orange juice, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise among the ingredients of his celebratory cocktail. “I think there was one beer mixed in there, too. It was great. I’m gonna feel gross for a couple of days.”
Behind Hjelle, Shelby Miller continued to make a strong first impression in his second appearance with the Giants.
Miller, a former All-Star starter attempting to reignite his career in the bullpen, tossed two 1-2-3 innings with five strikeouts — four looking — and has fanned 12 of the 19 batters he has faced since being called up by San Francisco.
“Shelby’s been really impressive,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think he’s getting opposing hitters comfortable looking for a slider and then delivering a really quality strike with his fastball.”
The Giants split their six runs between two innings, with Joc Pederson responsible for most of the damage.
Pederson drove in his 69th and 70th RBIs of the season, overtaking Wilmer Flores (69) for the team lead, with a bases-clearing triple into right-center in the sixth inning.
Pederson’s triple was his second of the season and capped the Giants’ three-run rally in the sixth.
Rookie Ford Proctor, who started at second base, increased his RBI total to one — the first run driven in of his major-league career — with a sac fly that scored David Villar for the first of the three sixth-inning runs.
The bottom of the Giants’ order used the same formula for their sixth-inning rally as the top of the lineup did to open the scoring with three runs in the first: a trio of hits to lead off the inning.
Pederson, J.D. Davis and Mike Yastrzemski all scored in the first after leading off with three consecutive singles, while Villar, Jason Vosler and Joey Bart strung together three singles to lead off the sixth and all also scored.
The Giants benefitted from the Rockies’ poor defense — Davis and Yastrzemski both scored when center fielder Yonathan Daza’s throw to third sailed into the third-base dugout — but also gave it right back.
San Francisco also reaped the rewards of the detailed eye of quality assurance coach Nick Ortiz, who noticed that Yastrzemski had already reached first when Daza’s throw went out of play. The Giants challenged, and after a lengthy review, Yastrzemski was awarded third base — in position to score two batters later on a deep sac fly from Brandon Crawford.
“Nick was all over it,” Kapler said. “He was watching the whole play, on top of it in real time, and called it out for the dugout.”
The Rockies’ second run was well-earned, a home run that Alan Trejo snuck over the right-field wall in the fifth inning.
Their first, in the second, was a product of a walk and two errors.
Hjelle, who logged the bulk of the innings in the bullpen game, walked C.J. Cron to lead off the inning, then threw a would-be double-play comebacker into center field, allowing Cron to score. The Giants had Cron dead to rights on another grounder to Hjelle, but Villar dropped Hjelle’s throw at third base.
“The game got a little fast on me there,” said Hjelle, who retired 10 of the final 13 hitters he faced after his throwing error. “I just took a breath. Just realized that I’m going to keep getting ground balls and the defense is going to keep making plays, and they did.”
Otherwise, the Giants received superb efforts from five different pitchers in the 10th bullpen game they have deployed this month.
In his ninth time serving as an opener, John Brebbia tossed his ninth scoreless first inning (while increasing his total appearances this season to an NL-leading 72).
“Just one shy,” joked Brebbia, referring to the number of games Jacob deGrom has started.
Tyler Rogers pitched out of trouble in the eighth, using his slider to record back-to-back strikeouts with runners on second and third, while Yunior Marte allowed one run while closing things out in the ninth.
With the win, the Giants climbed closer to .500 than they have been since Aug. 24, when they fell to 61-62 after a loss at Detroit. A day earlier, after a win on Aug. 23, was the last time their number in the win column was as large as the one in the loss column.
Their record reached its low point two Sundays ago, fittingly, in their last defeat to the Dodgers.
That loss dropped them a season-worst eight games under water, and it seemingly would take a minor miracle to finish the season at .500. At 69-77, they had to win 11 of their final 15 games.
Progress report: not too shabby.
Wednesday’s win was their eighth in the nine games since.
Improving to 77-78, the Giants guaranteed they will not finish the season more than eight games under .500.
With seven games to play, their “magic” number (wins to reach .500) is down to four, a shrinking gap with their “tragic” number (games until mathematical elimination from the postseason), which remained at two.
Source: Paradise Post