The Giants followed a different path to a familiar destination Wednesday night at PNC Park. Overcoming a rare ineffective starting pitching performance, San Francisco rode its bullpen and a middle-innings comeback to a 7-6 win over Pittsburgh.
The Giants are 29-9 since May 11, a successful stretch built firmly on the foundation of their rotation. But Jeff Samardzija exited after allowing six runs in three innings, tied for the shortest start of his career. That left the Giants bullpen to hold the line, which it did for six scoreless innings.
"There's a reason teams are 17, 18 games over .500 at this time," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "They've got good starting pitching. They've been able to mix and match out of the bullpen."
"When you're in those situations, you want to be that guy in that spot," said Panik, who also collected a pair of go-ahead hits during the Giants' preceding series at Tampa.With the deficit kept in check, San Francisco chipped away at Pittsburgh's leaky pitching staff.Buster Posey's RBI double keyed a two-run fifth, and Joe Panik's two-run double off relieverJared Hughes gave the Giants the lead in a three-run sixth.
The Pirates claimed a five-run lead after three innings, riding a solid start from Francisco Liriano and launching three home runs off Samardzija. But Liriano unraveled, and San Francisco's bullpen silenced Pittsburgh's bats long enough for the Bucs' latest late-inning letdown. The Pirates have lost 12 of their last 14 games and 19 of 25, falling four games under .500 on the year.
"Every time you go out there and you've got the lead and you don't leave with the lead, it's going to be extremely frustrating," Hughes said. "Today was right along par with that. Left without the lead, and it was extremely frustrating."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED 'Pen men: Giants relievers were forced to work overtime after Samardzija departed early. Fortunately for the Giants, their bullpen was ready to respond, having received plenty of rest while Madison Bumgarner pitched a complete game Monday and only three relievers appeared Tuesday. Derek Law, who was raised in Pittsburgh, worked two shutout innings to set the pace as San Francisco's bullpen blanked the Pirates on four hits for the final six innings.
"I feel like as they keep coming in the game, we were feeding off each other and that's definitely a plus -- kind of challenging each other to do better," Law said.
Pair of 10s:Gregory Polanco went deep in the second, and Jung Ho Kang crushed a solo shot in the third -- the 10th home run of the season for each player, tied for the team lead with Andrew McCutchen. Polanco surpassed his previous career high of nine, set last season, while Kang reached double digits in just his 140th plate appearance of the season.
"It was very encouraging to see that out of the guys off a guy that's been pitching really well, coming off a complete game," Hurdle said.
It's a team game: Seven Giants either scored or drove in at least one run during the team's five-run surge in the fifth and sixth innings. Panik, who has 16 hits in his last 52 at-bats (.308) and was in the middle of multiple rallies on this trip, walked and scored in the fifth before lining his big double off left fielder Polanco's glove in the sixth.
"Fortunately it nicked off Polanco's glove, or we might still be playing," Panik said.
Ambushed: Pirates leadoff man John Jaso is known for his high on-base percentages, largely a product of his selective batting eye and patient approach. But he has shown a willingness to jump at the first pitch, believing it will often be the best one he'll see in a given at-bat. That was the case when he led off against Samardzija, ripping a 92 mph cutter into the right-center-field seats for a solo home run.
"That gets your attention," Hurdle said.
QUOTABLE "Nothing's going the way we want it to. We've just got to keep battling and keep playing." --Liriano
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS The Giants are hitting .320 (41-for-128) with runners in scoring position over their last 11 games. They have scored 69 runs during that stretch and lost one game.
Since May 1, the Giants have won 20 of 27 games on the road. They lead the Majors with 24 road victories.
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: San Francisco's two-city, seven-game trip concludes with Thursday's 9:35 a.m. PT matinee against Pittsburgh. Rookie right-hander Albert Suarez, replacing the injured Matt Cain (right hamstring) in the Giants' rotation, is scheduled to make his fourth Major League start. Giants starters own a 3.13 ERA on this trip.
Pirates: Left-hander Jonathon Niese will finish up the Pirates' four-game series against the Giants in a 12:35 p.m. ET contest Thursday at PNC Park. Coming off consecutive losses to the Cardinals and Cubs, Niese can lean on a favorable track record against the Giants. He owns a 2.51 ERA in nine career appearances (eight starts) against San Francisco.