By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard
The narrative during the Giants recent hot streak had been that of outstanding pitching, excellent defense, and just enough scoring (averaging barely over 3 runs per game in their last 12) to win.
What they got Tuesday night was a complete effort, including an 8th inning offensive outburst, with the lineup finally showing signs of life after weeks in the doldrums and scraping out close victories. Jeff Samardzija delivered his 5th consecutive quality start for his new team, and the defense cut down would-be Padres baserunners at key spots in the game to give the Giants the 8-2 win.
It’s difficult to harp on a Giants team that came into Tuesday winning 11 of their last 12 games, but it was clear to even the casual fan that the team’s offense lacked a spark and was struggling, especially with runners in scoring position. Despite a starting rotation that boasts three of the top ten pitchers in the National League so far this year, you had to wonder how long the Giants could rely on one- or two-run victories to continue their success.
Then came Tuesday night, with the Giants going 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position and hanging five 8th inning runs on Padres reliever Keith Hessler. Brandon Crawford delivered a bases-loaded triple (partially misplayed by a scuffling Matt Kemp) and recent call-up Jarrett Parker showed why Giants’ management chose him to replace the injured Angel Pagan with a towering two-run HR to center field.
The defense made an immediate impact when Parker, starting in left field for Pagan (15-day DL, hamstring), played a 1st inning Kemp drive that landed inches from the top of the wall in left. Parker took the near-HR and spun in one motion, delivering a perfect throw to 2nd base for the out. Kemp would also try to leg out a triple to lead-off the 8th, but again was the victim of a perfect relay, this time by Gregor Blanco and Joe Panik. After initially being ruled safe, Bruce Bochy challenged and replay confirmed Matt Duffy’s tag was in time for the out, Kemp hanging his head in disappointment.
Buried under the highlight reel defense and extra base hit barrage the Giants laid out on Tuesday was another strong performance by Samardzija, who went 6.2 innings and allowed just one run on a 6th inning HR by Jon Jay. Samardzija now owns a 7-2 record and 2.54 ERA this season, and he’s been even better in the month of May, going 4-1 with a 1.41 while striking out nearly a batter an inning. Even more impressive for the Giants and their fans is that “The Shark” wouldn’t even be considered one of the best two starters in the rotation - not while Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto own ERA’s lower than his and have made a habit of going the distance in their starts.
What is once again evident after a victory like this is that the Giants have constructed a roster capable of being elite in all three phases of the game - offense, defense, and pitching - and while they can rely on their pitching and defense to earn them a win on any given night, it’s much more satisfying to watch them dominate a game like they did Tuesday at AT&T Park.
The Giants are now a season-high 10 games over .500 at 29-19, lead the NL West by 4.5 games, and will look to continue their recent tear when they send the struggling Jake Peavy to the mound Wednesday afternoon in the series finale, before heading out on a grueling 10-game road trip.