By Ben Leonard
SAN FRANCISCO—After a late night out under the lights, the Giants needed a pick-me-up.
San Francisco needed to use eight pitchers to throw 269 pitches to eke out a 17-inning 3-2 win against the Cincinnati Reds in the depths of Friday night—and had to wake up bright and early Saturday to get after it again.
But despite early bouts of wildness, Matt Moore gave the weary Giants the boost they needed, throwing 120 pitches to take the ball into the eighth inning to carry San Francisco to a 3-1 win Saturday. With help from some slick defense from Brandon Crawford, fresh off the disabled list, Moore wiggled out of traffic, including a bases-loaded predicament in the second inning after walking Reds’ pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla on five pitches, helping conserve a taxed bullpen.
“There really wasn’t anything more he could have done,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It was really needed for him to get deep into the game, and he gave us even more than I thought with where his pitch count was early. But he found a way to get us into the eighth inning. He pitched his way through some jams there but found a way to make some pitches.”
The win marked just the second time all season that the struggling Giants (14-24) had won two consecutive games—giving them three wins in the last four games, to boot.
The win was much-needed for a ballclub that came into the season with championship aspirations, but has struggled mightily in all phases of the game, ranking dead last in the National League in runs scored and second-to-last in runs allowed.
“It was really important for us,” Bochy said. “You have a long game like that and you win it, you have some celebrating, but it can’t be long because you’re getting up early. You put the big win behind us, just like the tough losses, and come back out and win this ballgame. It was big.”
The game didn’t get off the most auspicious beginning for the Giants, however. Although left fielder Brandon Belt and right fielder Justin Ruggiano had provided an early jolt with solo home runs in the first and second innings, the lead appeared tenuous because Moore’s fastball command was missing in action after giving up 12 runs in his last two outings— he had to expend 57 pitches through three innings.
But Moore buckled down with runners on base: the Reds (19-17) finished the game stranding 11 baserunners and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. With the help of his defense, the lone blemish on Moore’s line was giving up a sixth-inning solo shot to Scott Schebler, who also chased Moore with one out in the eighth with a double down the left field line.
Even after 17 innings in the field Friday night, Crawford didn’t miss a beat, making several difficult plays look effortless, including a spinning throw to nab Scooter Gennett in the ninth inning.
Gennett lined a shot hard off the mound up the middle, but Crawford angled to his left, fielded the ball cleanly, and made a spinning throw to help Derek Law get the first out of the ninth inning.
Ever since Crawford’s return Thursday, the Giants have given up just six runs in their three games.
“It gets back to what our strength is, pitching and defense,” Bochy said. “We’re a different club with Crawford out there when you have a guy out there with his talent, he makes us that much better defensively. Those plays win ballgames for you.”
Moore flashed the leather himself too, nabbing a hard comebacker off the bat of first baseman Joey Votto in the fifth inning. Although he made it look easy, he said he barely knew how he made the play.
“I was kind of wondering how guys catch those at times,” Moore said. “No part of me knew what was happening. I threw the ball and then my hand started hurting, that was it.”
Despite their slick glovework and strong pitching, Bochy said the Giants will need to continue to add more power to an offense that has struggled mightily to collect extra-base hits. While the Giants have hit nine home runs in their past six games, eight of them have been solo homers—and they still rank dead last in slugging percentage in the National League.
“I like three-run homers, sure,” Bochy said. “I really believe we’re going to hit for more power. Not just home runs, doubles, triples too. We’re getting better swings off. It’s a lot easier to score when you add some slugging to the club. That still needs to go up, but you see what power does. Hopefully this continues, and we start doing this with some men on base.”
San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Moore throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the sixth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)