By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–The Texas Rangers have been rough on left-handed starting pitchers this season, so Alex Wood and the Giants knew they’d need a special performance on Monday night.
Special and timely.
The Giants waited until the last possible moment to pounce, but they did just that with a two-run, seventh inning rally that carried them past the Rangers, 3-1 at Oracle Park.
With Wood lifted from the game for pinch-hitter Darin Ruf, the Giants lefty appeared destined for a no-decision despite allowing just four hits and a run in seven innings of work. But Ruf singled, following Austin Slater’s walk and preceding Mauricio Dubon’s tie-breaking base hit. Suddenly, Wood was in business, cheering loudly from the dugout and leading 2-1.
For those scoring at home, that’s three, consecutive right-handed hitting pinch-hitters–with spotty records–coming through with two outs and the game on the line.
“I liked that (Giants manager Gabe Kapler) used all his pinch hitters there. If they had not scored, then we had them in trouble,” Texas manager Chris Woodward recounted. “We just didn’t execute a pitch there at the end.”
How spotty? Ruf had managed just one hit in ten pinch-hitting appearances coming in, and Dubon, the last guy any manager would want hitting deep in a count, had just one hit in 31 plate appearances this season with a two-strike count.
So what does Dubon do with the game in the balance? He fouls off five, consecutive pitches and singles to center field on the eighth pitch of the at-bat to give his team the lead.
“If you don’t end up scoring a run, you’re almost out of players,” Kapler said. “Dubon’s at-bat was excellent, that’s the one that’s going to stand out. But Slater’s was equally as good and Ruf’s was awesome.”
The Rangers then contributed to the Giants’ fortunes when third baseman Charlie Culberson one-hopped his throw across the diamond for an error that allowed Mike Yastrzemski to reach and Ruf to score.
Wood improved his record to 4-0 (in just five starts) by avoiding any explosive hits outside Khris Davis’ triple off the bricks in the fifth, and hanging around in a matchup with Texas’ Kyle Gibson, who has a similar reclamation story to Wood’s and was almost as good on Monday.
Gibson pitched six innings, allowing four his and a run while striking out six. He did surrender a solo shot to Brandon Belt, the game’s first run in the fourth inning.
Wood became just the third lefty starter to defeat the Rangers joining Steven Matz and Mike Minor, who both accomplished the feat in the season’s first week. Since then, the Rangers have compiled a major league-best 12 wins against left-handed starters, including the last six opportunities consecutively.
The Rangers lost in interleague play for the 13th time in their last 14 matchups. The Giants improved to 13-4 at home, tying their best start to a season at home in their San Francisco history.
The teams conclude their brief series Tuesday afternoon with Texas’ Jordan Lyles facing Logan Webb.