By Morris Phillips
The series opener at Minute Maid Park afforded the struggling Giants one of two scenarios:
A well-placed opportunity against a good club on a bad stretch in the Astros, just off an ugly brawl and getting swept in Oakland, another distraction for the Major League’s most burdened ballclub in recent memory. Add to that Monday’s starter Lance McCullers Jr. sporting an alarming 9.22 ERA after three starts…
Or another sobering example of the marginally talented Giants being dealt too many road games against contending clubs in unforgiving stadiums in the first 20 games of a gone-before-you-know-it, 60-game season.
A 6-4 loss had the Giants firmly relegated to the second rendering with the Astros blasting off to 6-0 lead only to hang on as pinch hitter Evan Longoria lined out to end it with runners at the corners. McCullers was at his best, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh, after he allowed a career-worst eight runs in his last start.
The 26-year old right-hander retired 19 of the first 20 Giants he faced, with the one hiccup a hit-by-pitch facing Austin Slater leading off the third inning. Donovan Solano broke up McCullers’ gem with a sharply-hit grounder that eluded third baseman Alex Bregman and went for a double.
“We needed a win tonight. We needed to start the homestand on a big, positive note and we did that,” said McCullers, who missed the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery.
While the Giants couldn’t buy a hit, they stacked up the errors, two by Solano filling in at third, and one by catcher Chadwick Tromp, all in the first four innings. Those miscues made life tough for starter Logan Webb, who was charged with five runs, only two of which were earned, before he was lifted in the fourth inning.
“I think he can be proud of going through that lineup and not really giving up on much hard contact,” manager Gabe Kapler said in Webb’s defense. “I think we have better in us behind him that’s for sure.”
Connor Menez steadied the Giants with two plus innings of relief marred only by Martin Maldonado’s solo shot. That homer was the 28th allowed by Giants’ pitching, and it marked the 15th consecutive game they’ve allowed at least one home run, tying an ignominious franchise record for the second time.
Solano’s double extended his hit streak to 15 games. He doubled again in the ninth, part of the Giants’ three-run rally to make things interesting. The 32-year old Solano is hitting .458, second only to Charlie Blackmon at .484 in the majors.
The Giants are 4-8 on the road, with all 12 road games at Dodgers Stadium, Coors Field and Minute Maid Park, traditionally tough places to play. The Giants’ stretch of 14 of 20 on the road to start the season ends on Wednesday.
Tyler Anderson starts Tuesday for the Giants on a matchup against Houston’s Brandon Bielak.