Monday, June 27, 2016

Giants walk off for NL-best 49th victory

The San Francisco Giants took an uphill climb to grab a share of the Major League lead in victories, striving to win their 49th game with an 8-7 decision Sunday over the Philadelphia Phillies.
This series finale resembled a basketball game as the score was tied at 1, 5, 6, and 7 runs apiece. Conor Gillaspie broke the final deadlock with one out in the ninth by lining a double to right field off Phillies reliever Severino Gonzalez (0-1). It scored Ramiro Pena, whose double into the right-field corner immediately preceded Gillaspie's hit.
The outcome pulled the Giants (49-28, .638) even with the Texas Rangers (49-27, .645) atop the Majors' win column. The Chicago Cubs (48-26, .649) maintained the top winning percentage in either league.
While such numbers are written in shifting sand, Bruce Bochy achieved a measure of posterity by recording his 800th victory as Giants manager. Only three of his predecessors -- John McGraw (2,583), Dusty Baker (840) and Bill Terry (823) -- reached this level.
"As far as the number, I know how lucky I am," said Bochy, who also won 951 games in 12 seasons with San Diego. He jokingly added, "I don't think John McGraw has anything to worry about."
Angel Pagan contributed heavily to the Giants' 14th victory in their last 18 games against Philadelphia by going 4-for-5 with three runs scored and two RBIs. Yet the first seven batters in the Phillies' order hit safely or drove in at least one run as they overcame a 5-1 deficit after three innings.
"I'm real proud of the guys," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "They really played hard. We fell behind, 5-1, and battled back against a tough pitcher. San Francisco has been a good team. I think we're a little bit of a thorn in their side. It's disappointing to lose, but I'm real proud of the way the guys never gave up."
Return to earth: Giants starter Johnny Cueto had been nothing short of phenomenal, recording a 1.07 ERA in his previous nine starts. But the right-hander couldn't put away the Phillies, allowing a total of four runs in the fourth and fifth innings with two outs and nobody aboard.
Cueto began struggling after he received a warning from plate umpire Doug Eddings, which resulted from hitting Maikel Franco with a fourth-inning pitch. Though Phillies starter Aaron Nola hit three Giants batters in the first three innings, Cueto insisted he did not intend to hit Franco in retaliation.
But the warning affected Cueto, who matched a personal season-worst by allowing six runs in six-plus innings after yielding two runs or fewer in his previous nine outings.
"It was the umpire who changed my whole rhythm I had going," Cueto said. "The calls on the outside corner, he gave me those pitches earlier in the game. ... The strike zone changed dramatically."
Nola's nightmare continues: Nola is a critical piece of the Phillies' rebuild and he had been building his case to make the National League All-Star team through June 5, going 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 12 starts. But he allowed 10 hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Giants to end a forgettable month. Nola became the first Phillies starter to pitch fewer than four innings in four consecutive starts -- posting a 15.23 ERA in that stretch -- since Marty Bystrom in 1982.
"He's a little confused right now," Mackanin said. "He's approaching his first full year in the big leagues, so he's going to have some adversity. He probably hasn't had any in quite a while, if at all. You can see his confidence is shaken a bit. But he's smart and a competitor. He'll bounce back at some point." More »
It's a tough job: Gillaspie, a reserve infielder who has played more frequently since Matt Duffy went on the disabled list June 20, took little outward pleasure in his game-winning hit. He explained that hitting's a challenge, whether he's coming off the bench to pinch-hit or receiving four at-bats as a starter.
"Honestly, I think for me, personally, every at-bat's a battle up there," he said. "Sometimes it works out for you and sometimes it doesn't. I wasn't thinking too much other than just get on base and put a quality at-bat together."
Asked what receiving clutch hits from a pair of journeymen reflected about the Giants, Gillaspie said, "I think it's that way every game here. It seems like somebody different always contributes and always steps up. That's one of the great things about this organization. The guys they bring in, they honestly feel like you can contribute and help the team win."
The Fightin' Phils: The Phillies had two outs and nobody on base in both the fourth and fifth innings, but scored two runs in each to tie the game. They also answered the Giants with game-tying runs in the seventh and eighth innings, including Odubel Herrera's solo homer to center field in the seventh.
"I wasn't surprised. I knew something was going to happen. I know he's coming at somebody." -- Franco, on Cueto drilling him with a pitch in the fourth inning. Nola hit three Giants batters, but battled control issues, hitting two batters with breaking balls.
Phillies: Right-hander Vince Velasquez rejoins the rotation for Monday night's series opener against the D-backs at Chase Field. He has been on the 15-day disabled list since earlier this month because of a strained right biceps. He made one rehab start last week with Double-A Reading, but he declared himself ready to go.
Giants: A brief sequence of Interleague games is on tap for the Giants as they begin a two-game series against cross-bay rival Oakland beginning Monday at 7:15 p.m. PT at AT&T Park. The scene will shift to Oakland for a pair of games Wednesday and Thursday.

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