Rodon pitches Giants to 5-3 win over Pirates at Oracle Park

San Francisco Giants third baseman Wilmer Flores (41) makes the catch for a force out on the Pittsburgh Pirates Josh Van Meter (26) in the top of the sixth inning at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Fri Aug 12, 2022 (AP News photo)

Pittsburgh (45-68).     3. 10.  0

San Francisco (55-57) 5.   7.  0

Friday, August 12, 2022

By Lewis Rubman

SAN FRANCISCO–If you glanced at the MLB standings and probable pitchers for tonight’s first game of the weekend series between the Giants and the visiting Pirates, you’d think that a San Francisco win was in the bag. The Giants got help from starter Carlos Rodon holding the Pirates to three runs in a 5-3 win.

After all, the Buccos came to town at 45-67, 14 games behind in the race for the National League’s last wild card spot while Kapler’s Crew, at  54-57, was only (only!) 7-1/2 short of a playoff shot. Pittsburgh sent Bryce Wilson, a 24 year old right hander who has bounced back and forth between the Pirates and their triple A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians, all season, and all he had to show for it was a 2-6, 5.86 big league mark. It should be said in his favor, however, that between July 1 and today, he had gone 2-2, 3.34. 

The Giants, on the other hand, entrusted their fortune to one of  the two aces on their staff, the left handed veteran Rodón, who, at 10-6, 2.55, had been credited with  18.51% of the team’s victories. If he had been the winning pitcher in that percentage of the 107 games San Francisco won last year, Julio Urías would have been the only major league pitcher to have won more games, and that only by a fraction of a game. 

Your sanguine assumption would have been reasonable, but you would have been wrong. The Giants won, all right, but it was a gut wrenching victory that wasn’t decided until the last pitch. The Giants 5-3 win was no walk in the park.

Both teams announced roster changes earlier today. The Pirates promoted Austin Price, a right handed pitcher, to replace Yerry de los Santos, ditto, who went on the 60 day IL. San Francisco optioned Yunior Marte to Sacramento and recalled southpaw hurler Thomas Szapucki from the River Cats.

Wilson lasted 5-1/3 innings and surrendered four runs, all earned, on six hits and two walks. He fanned one Giant and allowed one home run. Of his 85 pitches, 34 were balls. He took the loss, bringing his record to 2-7, 5.93.

Rodón, who, in spite of having thrown a complete game in June, had averaged a little less than six innings per start this season, lasted exactly six tonight. He gave up two runs, both earned, on six hits, both of which went yard,, and didn’t walk a man. He threw 110 pitches, 72 going for strikes. He improved his won-lost  record to 10-6, although his ERA rose to 2.95.

Mike Yastrzemski, batting cleanup, put the orange and black on the board with a leadoff home run in the second, a 384 foot blast that sailed over the National Car Rental sign in left center. It came off an 89 mph sinker and gave Mike Yastrzemski an even dozen round trippers for the season. The Giants continued attacking after Yastrzemski crossed the plate.

Brandon Crawford singled to left and moved up a notch when Thairo Estrada followed suit. Both advanced on beautiful sacrifice bunt by LaMonte Wade, Jr. Crawford scored on Luis González’ sacrifice fly to left, but Estrada rounded third too widely and got put out in a rundown, Tucupidta Marcano to ONeil Cruz to Kevin Newman to Cruz, left field to short to second to short, to end the frame with San Francisco up 2-0.

The Giants loaded the bases quickly in their half of the third. Ausin Wynns singled to left, and  Wilson hit Joc Pederson with a pitch. After Brandon Belt fouled out to third, Wilmer Flores clogged the basepaths with a sharp single to center. Yaz grounded to second, and it looked like Newman’s throw home might force Wynn out at home. But the ball bounced off the mitt of Pittsburgh catcher Jason Delay, allowing Wynns to score. The play was ruled a fielder’s choice, giving Yastrzemski his second RBl of the evening and 43rd of the season. The Giants now led 3-0.

The team from Steel City got one run back in the top of the fourth, thanks to a full count, two out dinger by third baseman Rodolfo Castro, who parked a 96 mph four seamer 409 feet into the left field bleachers for his second home run of 2022, of which this was his 25th game.

Yastrzemski made it 4-1 in the home half of the fifth. With two down and Belt, who had walked, on first, the Giants’ center fielder sent a towering fly to the warning track in front of the 391 foot sign in dead center.

Bryan Reynolds let the ball fall for an RBI double that gave Yaz three RBIs for three ABs. Crawford then was granted an intentional walk but got picked off at first by Delay, who promptly fired a strike to first sacker Michael Chavis after Estrada had swung at and missed Wilson’s first delivery.

The three run margin didn’t last long. Rodón struck out his first two batters in the Pirates´ sixth, but Ben Gamel sent a 98 mph four seamer over the fence in left center, between the National Car Rental and Bank of America advertisements. The ball traveled 397 feet. Castro, up next for Pittsburgh, also traveled,  270 feet from home to third, on a triple to the left field corner.  Rodón recovered to strike out Cruz, his third K of the inning and seventh of the game.

After Estrada led off for the Giants in the sixth by flying out to left, the Pirates sent Manny Bañuelos to relieve Wilson, a move San Francisco countered by sending Evan Longoria to the plate to hit for the DH Estrada. He went down swinging.

.Newcomer Thomas Szapucki made his Giants debut to start the top of the seventh. (He previously had made one appearance for the Mets). He pitched an ugly third of any inning, allowing a leadoff homer to Allen that made it a 4-3 ball game and a single to Marcano before unleashing a wild pitch on his way to striking out Delay.

John Brebbia replaced the unfortunate Szapucki after he’d faced the reglementary three hitters. He got the Giants out of the inning without any further damage, although he needed a favorable ruling from Sam Holbrook and Greg Gibson in New York on a challenge to the second out, a close play at first on Newman’s grounder to short.

When Austin Slater was announced as pinch hitting for Pederson with one out in the home seventh, the Bucs responded by bringing in the right handed Colin Holderman to replace his left handed predecessor. 

Holderman held the Giants at bay even though he walked Slater and Flores and required a fine catch of Yastrzemski’s hard, falling liner to right to end the frame.

Josh Van Meter hit for Chavis to lead off the Bucco’s half of the eighth. He and Gamel hit singles to right. Castro tried to bunt them along, but his attempted sacrifice was foiled by Brebbia’s throw to third. It was a close play, but Pittsburgh couldn’t contest it because they lost their challenge in the seventh. That was it for Brebbia, though.

Alex Young entered the game and walked Cruz to load the bases. He fanned Allen but still had to deal with Marcano, whom he retired on a grounder to second. The Giants still clung their 4-3 lead.

Austin Brice set down Crawford and Estrada in the bottom of the eighth but granted a base on balls to Longoria. Then González looped a fly that landed between the two fielders in left center to send Longoria home with San Francisco’ s fifth tally, a much needed insurance run.

Camilo Doval had to hold on to the 5-3 lead the Giants now enjoyed if he were going to gain 16th save in 18 opportunities. Bligh Madris, hitting for Delay, grounded out to second. Newman hit a grounder to third; Flores made a nifty play on it,  and there were two outs.  Doval struck him out, and that was it, a hard fought win for the beleaguered San Francisco Giants.

Tomorrow at 6:05, Pittsburgh will send Tyler Beede (1-1, 3.57) against the Giants’ other ace, Logan Webb (10-5, 3.17).

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