By Evan Webeck
SAN FRANCISCO — On a night the Giants hosted dozens of players sporting World Series rings in a celebration of their 2012 title, it was their pitcher on the mound Saturday who provided the star power.
In one of the best starts of his young career, Logan Webb dazzled for eight shutout innings to beat the Pirates 2-0.
The win was the Giants’ second in a row, clinching at least two of three in this series with Pittsburgh, and their fifth in their past seven games, after dropping five of their previous seven. It also pulled them within 6.5 games of the Padres, who lost at Washington.
Webb was aided by his defense — Joc Pederson’s catch at the left-field wall prevented extra-bases and ended the second inning, and Tommy La Stella started a slick 3-6-3 double play to finish the fourth — but also made a web gem of his own.
The play ended with Webb laying bellydown on the infield dirt, smiling at Pirates second baseman Kevin Newman, whom he barely beat to first base for the final out of the third inning. La Stella, the first baseman, got caught in between going for Newman’s soft dribbler or covering the bag, so Webb did both. After picking up the ball, Webb sprinted to the bag and splayed out, laying his glove on the bag just before Newman.
“When I looked over there, there was no one there,” Webb said. “I was already kind of going down, so it was just putting my glove out there. … It was one of those awkward plays where you have to do something in the moment.”
More than any of his nine strikeouts, his ultra efficient first seven innings or the bases-loaded jam he escaped in the eighth, Webb’s dive — or fall, as he tells it — to first base was the talk of the Giants clubhouse afterward.
“It was a pretty spectacular play,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think Tommy can come attack that ball a little bit more. … We would always prefer Logan to stay on his feet. We always want a cleaner play. But it’s also pretty entertaining to see a guy who’s clearly athletic — quarterback background, home run last year, capable of doing a lot of things on the field — it’s nice to see his athleticism come though.”
“He stepped up and got it and made a great play,” said LaMonte Wade Jr., who contributed to both of the Giants’ runs with a leadoff double in the first and a solo home run in the third. “It was a tough no-man’s-land baseball, kind of hard for the first baseman to figure out if he was going to get it or not. … Very athletic play. Clutch play, as well.”
In Webb’s one jam of the night, after the Pirates loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, the Oracle Park crowd rose to its feet. It didn’t take long for the 38,049 on hand to explode once Webb fired a changeup past Ben Gamel for the third out of the inning and his ninth strikeout of the night.
Webb said the Friday night crowd, most of whom were on hand to see the pregame ceremony honoring the 2012 World Series champion squad, felt like a playoff environment. In order to experience the real thing, however, the Giants must still close a 6.5-game game in the National League wild card race.
“Not very often do you get to have that kind of energy. It was awesome,” Webb said. “It was fun to see. Hopefully we start playing a little bit better baseball so we can get that more often.”
Webb didn’t throw more than 16 pitches in any of his first seven innings, taking a pitch count of 81 into the eighth and giving him hope that he might get a shot at the first complete-game shutout of his career.
Webb was given the chance earlier this season at his first complete-game shutout, after blanking the Phillies for eight innings, but surrendered a game-tying home run in the ninth. This time, the Giants let closer Camilo Doval finish off the ninth for his 17th save.
“I thought (Webb) did everything he possibly could, but at that point it was enough,” Kapler said. “It was a pretty stressful inning there in the eighth. Creeping up toward that 100-pitch mark, you might be looking at 110, 115 and potentially getting Camillo hot anyhow, so I think that was the determining factor.”
The start had extra meaning for Webb, who was facing off against former Giants first-round pick Tyler Beede, one of his best friends in baseball and the officiant of his wedding.
“He texted me and was like this has to be the first time two pitchers have faced off and the other was the officiant at the others’ wedding,” Webb said. “We were kind of waving to each other before the game. Always happy to see him.”
It didn’t take long for Beede to remind the Giants why they designated him for assignment once rosters shrunk in May. Beede issued more walks in three innings (three) than Webb did in eight (two). He needed 74 pitches to complete three innings and threw nearly half of them out of the strike zone.
By the time Beede’s night was over, the Giants had scored all the runs they needed.
For the second straight night, the offensive contributions came from a player in need of a big game.
After Mike Yastrzemski heated up with a homer and three RBIs to lead the way in Friday’s win, it was Wade who did most of the damage Saturday night.
Wade led off the first inning with a double and traded places with Joc Pederson to score San Francisco’s first run, then manufactured the second all by himself with a solo shot in his next at-bat that cleared the arcade in right field.
The home run was his third in his past five starts, raising his OPS from .620 to .759 in the span of a week.
All three homers have come since Wade traded in his high-top haircut for a low fade last week. Coincidence? He believes in superstition, he said.
“It’s definitely gonna stay low for now,” Wade said.
Source: Paradise Post