Giants’ unlikely win at Wrigley Field keeps their momentun building

May 23, 2017

MLB, San Francisco Giants

AP17143030548206

By Morris Phillips

The power-challenged Giants aren’t likely to win many games via the long ball.  And rookie pitchers aren’t likely to prevail in the adverse conditions that crop up at Wrigley Field, the iconic home of the World Series Champion Cubs.

But there the Giants were Monday night–at Wrigley, the wind blowing out, with rookie Ty Blach on the mound, trying to corral the Cubs, who like the Giants were desperate to get their season headed in the right direction.

So what transpired? The Giants muscled up–with seven extra-base hits and three home runs–and Blach did his part on the mound by employing some ingenuity developed in the Pacific Coast League. The result was a 6-4, series-opening win for the Giants–just their second win in their last 11 games in Chicago against the Cubs.

Blach shut the Cubs out through seven innings, when the Giants led 6-0, and pitched into the eighth.  While the home team has struggled offensively in 2017, the Cubs scored 13 runs on Sunday in their series finale against the Brewers, and nine runs twice in a three-game sweep of the Reds earlier last week. But against the Giants’ rookie, they rolled over a bunch, and failed to elevate his offerings, as Blach replicated his approach developed last season pitching for Triple-A Sacramento.

“I tried to execute pitches early, be aggressive, dictate the game and let them hit the ball on the ground,” Blach said.

Offensively, the Giants jumped on starter John Lackey early, beginning with leadoff man Joe Panik’s home run to start the game. Panik replaced the injured Denard Span at the top of the lineup, and had his best game since April 4, knocking in a pair of runs with the homer, an RBI double and a single.

Albert Almora Jr. robbed Brandon Belt with a diving catch in center field. Just before that Addison Russell made a diving stop of Christian Arroyo’s ground ball that took away a base hit. But that good fortune only allowed Lackey to survive the first inning.

The Giants would add two runs in the third, and single runs in the fourth and fifth, as five of the seven hits against Lackey went for extra bases. The Cubs’ veteran starter had won two of his previous three starts.

“I felt like I executed quite a few pitches, but they got a few more balls up than we (saw),” Lackey said.

The Giants’ home runs and extra-base hits were season highs, but the solo shots kept going out, a streak that has reached 18 home runs without at least one guy on base. Even with the outburst, the Giants rank dead last in MLB in home runs with 38 (tied with the Red Sox). The infrequency of home runs, along with the paucity of base runners when the Giants do connect, illustrate how tepid the team’s power game has been. And how unlikely they would be the club to take advantage of a hitter-friendly evening on Chicago’s North Side.

The Cubs joined the act in the eighth with a pair of two-run homers that narrowed the Giants’ lead. But this time–unlike the 2016 NLDS–the bullpen held up. Hunter Strickland came on to record the final two outs of the eighth, and Mark Melancon shut down the Cubs in the ninth for his ninth save in 11 chances.

Johnny Cueto and Jon Lester square off in the second game of the four-game set, a rematch of Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS that went to the Cubs, 1-0.

 

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