By Morris Phillips
The Giants found themselves at the intersection of their three biggest shortcomings in their season-plus swoon on Monday night: at Petco Park, playing the Padres, and wondering if and from what source they could generate some offense.
In going 82-122 over their last 204 games–after their MLB-best 57-33 start to 2016–the Giants haven’t played well on the road, haven’t had any success against NL West opponents, and more often than not, have seen their offense sputter.
With a big assist from starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, the Giants defied that pattern by shutting out the Padres, 3-0.
How rare was this? Of Samardzija’s 59 starting assignments as a Giant, this was undoubtedly his best, a three-hit, complete game shutout, his first in nearly two years, dating back to his days as a member of the Chicago White Sox in September 2015.
“He had great focus out there with every pitch against a team that’s been tough on him,” manager Bruce Bochy said of his pitcher, who closed the deal on a tidy 102 pitches.
“I feel like I can manipulate the ball to where I want it,” Samardzija said, adding that he had command of all his pitches Monday, as illustrated by his avoiding a three-ball count to any of the 29 batters he faced.
Two of the three Padres’ hits never left the infield, and the third one did reach the outfield, but didn’t take place until the eighth inning. Prior to July 22, Samardzija allowed 21 home runs, since then he’s 5-1 with just three homers allowed in his most recent 7 starts.
Jhoulys Chacin was the familiar face counted upon to slow the Giants, and he did so, but for only five innings. Chacin struggled with his command, walking four, and was on the hook and out of the game in the sixth, soiled by Brandon Crawford’s solo shot in the fourth.
The Giants picked up some insurance in the eighth when Joe Panik homered with a man aboard.
As rare as Samardzija’s gem was the Giants’ offensive attack, only their 12th win this season when scoring three or fewer runs (61 losses). Stringing together a pair of home runs for baseball’s most power-challenge team was an even rarer occurrence. That’s happened just 30 times in 113 games this season (17-13).
The Giants turning on the power to win a ballgame? Don’t count on it, the Giants have hit 20 fewer home runs than any team in baseball, and barely twice as many as home run leader Giancarlo Stanton by himself. That they managed to hit two homers in spacious Petco Park and win really bucked the odds. The Giants were 4-9 against the Padres coming in, and had beaten their division rivals just 6 times in the last 23 meetings.
On Tuesday, the Giants have Matt Moore on the mound in a matchup with Luis Perdomo.