By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO — All the warts associated with the Giants’ offense were there to see on Thursday night.
No offense early? With Pirates’ starter Ivan Nova’s fastball darting around the strike zone, the Giants’ bats were over a hour late arriving at the ballpark. Their first hit didn’t materialize until the fifth inning. Clutch hits with runners aboard? Forget about it. Power game with home run pop? In the dense air and damp weather, San Francisco hitters would have been fortunate to sniff the warning track let alone clear the outfield wall.
But the Pirates’ hitters did. Three times. And Josh Bell, Elias Diaz and David Freese aren’t guys you normally associate with home runs. On Thursday, the Pittsburgh trio surprised themselves.
“I haven’t pulled a ball like that virtually all year,” Bell said of his solo shot, one of two back-to-back homers in the second inning that put Giants’ starter Andrew Suarez in an early hole. “It’s definitely a good sign I’m heading in the right direction.”
When early became not early in the fifth, the Giants finally got cooking. Austin Slater picked up the Giants’ first hit, then Alan Hanson tripled home Slater. Later in the inning Steven Duggar singled in Hanson.
But as quickly as the offense commenced it concluded. Gorkys Hernandez and Andrew McCutchen failed in opportunities to tie the game ending the fifth. And Nova finished his evening by stopping the Giants in the sixth.
We digress here: the Giants had dropped seven of eight at home coming in, then, we pause, they went the first eight innings Thursday trying to subsist on three hits.
That was a recipe for disaster before Mark Melancon’s seventh inning relief stint was marred by Joe Panik’s exchange error and Evan Longoria’s throwing error on consecutive plays. Run scoring hits of Melancon preceded a three-run homer by David Freese off Derek Law, and the Pirates extended their one-run lead to 8-2.
Freese’s home run was the 100th of his career, and the only space vessel to leave the yard after the second inning. No small feat given the air grew heavier as the evening wore on, and Freese doesn’t resonate as a power source.
“It’s a good feeling, I won’t lie. … For a guy that pounds the ball on the ground, not too bad,” Freese said of the home run and the milestone.
The Giants have scored 22 runs in their last eight home games, which qualifies Thursday’s ninth inning as a breakout. Panik doubled home a pair of runs, and Steven Duggar doubled home Panik. But the game ended with Hunter Pence’s groundout.
Derek Holland will get the start Friday when they attempt to break the 0-3 streak on the homestand.