By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–The Giants welcomed back an important guy to the roster after his surgery and recovery took a full year. They could have lost another guy nicked up in Wednesday’s game, but thankfully didn’t. And despite frustrating news regarding two other guys and their injuries, the team pounced on the Padres, 9-4.
That’s a tough existence, but one that only a resurgent group from San Francisco could appreciate. After surviving a brutal, season-beginning schedule, and dealing with numerous injuries to key performers, the Giants can point to a winning record with pride. Manager Bruce Bochy saw the significance, knowing his team could have struggled and disappeared.
“We could have gotten buried,” Bochy said. “It could have easily gotten away from us. But we played with a lot of heart.”
Narrow, late inning wins. The return of a power component to the offense. A pitching rotation ripped apart by injuries found credible stand-ins. And baseball’s toughest division didn’t swallow the Giants.
Now, after surviving April, the Giants take on May, starting with a road trip against three teams with unexpected, winning records. Like the Giants, little was expected of the Phillies, Braves and Pirates. Now, all four will see if they can continue their winning ways. For that matter, ten National League clubs currently have winning records, and two that don’t–the Dodgers and Nationals–won division titles in 2017. So something has to shake out.
So far, the Giants are in the mix. And people like Derek Holland, Will Smith and Nick Hundley–Wednesday’s heroes–are the reason.
Holland got the start, throwing five innings to earn his first win as a Giant, in his sixth start. Holland had a difficult inning in the third, but escaped when Eric Hosmer was thrown out at third trying to stretch his two-run double into a triple. Holland allowed one other run in the fifth, but the Giants had gifted the former Rangers pitcher with a 7-2 cushion at that point.
Five Giant relievers followed, including Will Smith, in his first appearance since the 2016 NLDS. Smith entered to applause and retired the Padres in the seventh, three in a row after issuing an inning-beginning walk.
Hundley was the unquestioned star in the series-deciding win, clubbing a home run in the fourth off losing pitcher Clayton Richard, and adding two doubles and a single in his 4 for 5 afternoon.
Austin Jackson, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt each contributed two hits to the Giants 14-hit attack.
Andrew McCutchen got plunked in the elbow by a Richard pitch in the third, and left the game for precautionary reasons. But McCutchen checked out during in-game tests, and could return to the starting lineup on Friday.
The Giants didn’t get encouraging news regarding Johnny Cueto and Joe Panik this week in the injury report. Cueto landed on the disabled list for the second time this season. Panik is now expected to miss more than the six to eight weeks that was part of his original assessment.
The Giants open their 10-game trip in Atlanta, Friday night with Chris Stratton getting the starting assignment.