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What we learned as Giants’ bullpen goes distance in walk-off win

Written by on May 29, 2024

What we learned as Giants’ bullpen goes distance in walk-off win originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — As encouraging as the last road trip was, it still was easy to wonder if the Giants truly were playing much better baseball or if they had just played a series of pretty bad teams. It’s time to stop wondering.

With a walk-off sacrifice fly by Luis Matos in the bottom of the 10th on Tuesday, the Giants got a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Oracle Park and clinched a series victory over the team with the National League’s best record. Since a deflating loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers two weeks ago at home, the Giants have won 10 of 12 and four consecutive series.

Even with how well the Giants have been playing, this one was a pretty big mismatch on paper. Zack Wheeler is a perennial Cy Young Award candidate and is pitching like someone who might finally take the trophy home this year, and the Giants countered with a bullpen game led by a pitcher who was called up Tuesday afternoon.

Naturally, this one was scoreless until extra innings.

The Giants had just two hits through eight, although a leadoff walk and wild pitch gave them a nice opportunity in the bottom of the eighth. They fell short, and wasted an even better chance in the bottom of the ninth. Back-to-back singles by Thairo Estrada and Matt Chapman set the stage, but Patrick Bailey flew out to left, Jorge Soler popped up, and Tyler Fitzgerald struck out.

Sean Hjelle stranded the automatic runner in the top of the 10th, retiring Alec Bohm and J.T. Realmuto with the go-ahead run on third. In the bottom of the inning, the Giants finally broke through. Fitzgerald was placed on second to start the inning and advanced on a pair of medium fly balls, using his speed to bring home the game-winner.

The series victory is the first against a team with a winning record since the first home series of the year against the San Diego Padres.

Revenge Game, Part I

The Phillies took Spencer Howard with their second-round selection in 2017, and by the time he reached the big leagues in 2020, he was one of the best right-handed prospects in baseball. Howard made six starts during the pandemic-shortened season and seven the next year, but he struggled and was sent to the Texas Rangers at the deadline.

The numbers were even worse — an ERA of 8.37 — over parts of three seasons in Texas, but Howard was sharp in his Giants debut, scattering five hits over four innings and striking out four. His fastball averaged 94 mph and topped out at 96.

Keaton Winn is eligible to return as soon as Thursday and Mason Black will soon be eligible to be recalled from Triple-A, but Howard might have jumped to the top of the list for this fifth rotation spot, at least for the next turn. Winn struggled before going on the IL and Black has an 8.79 ERA in four appearances.

Revenge Game, Part II

Luis Matos twice hit balls that looked like they might find the seats, but other than that, the Giants never really made Wheeler sweat. Their 2009 first-rounder allowed just two hits in six innings and struck out nine while lowering his ERA to 2.32. The Giants at least had some long plate appearances, keeping Wheeler from going even deeper.

Both starting pitchers were facing the team that drafted them. Erik Miller was the opener for the Giants and struck out a pair in a scoreless first inning. Miller was a fourth-round pick by Philadelphia in 2019 but struggled with his command in the minor leagues. He was traded to the Giants for right-hander Yunior Marte, who pitched well earlier this season but is currently on the IL.

The New Guy

Trenton Brooks grew up just outside of San Diego and went to college in Reno, so it wasn’t a long trip for his family and friends. He got loud ovations all night, but he struck out and flew out in two at-bats. With a lefty on the mound in the eighth, Wilmer Flores hit for Brooks.

The 28-year-old was making his MLB debut after 638 appearances in the minor leagues, and he should get plenty of opportunities to pick up some firsts. With LaMonte Wade Jr. out for at least a month with a hamstring strain, the Giants will lean on Brooks as their left-handed bat at first base. He has a good glove there and did a bit of a Wade impersonation in Triple-A, reaching base at a .426 clip.

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