By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–The Cincinnati Reds’ best West Coast roadtrip in seven years came steeped in subtlety, a lot like the Reds’ season to date.
It surely didn’t get its crescendo on Wednesday at AT&T Park. The Reds did just enough good, delivering the game’s biggest hit–former Giant Adam Duvall’s three-run homer in the first inning–then basically starving out the home team from there in 6-3 victory that, yes, capped their road trip, and helped them avoid yet another three-game sweep. But it wasn’t the cathartic release the Cincinnati players enjoyed by sweeping the Dodgers four straight over the weekend.
After a dreadful 8-26 start to the season that dropped the Reds 13 games behind the NL Central-leading Brewers on May 7, they’ve won six of nine.
Matt Harvey, currently the Dark Knight of Southern Ohio, didn’t resurrect his career on Wednesday, but he certainly looked like he’s working on it. The sensation of a few seasons back struck out five of the final six batters he faced, but was lifted after a generally, rough four innings in which gave up seven hits and three runs. Even Harvey admitted afterwards, following Brandon Belt’s home run that trimmed the Reds’ lead to 4-3, he needed to figure something out to get as far as he did.
“I was telling (his batterymate, Tucker Barnhart) after the game that after the home run to Belt, I threw a pitch to Sandoval or whoever followed him, I kind of felt it click. I realized was flying open and wasn’t really getting out front and executing pitches the way I wanted to,” he said.
Harvey followed that realization by striking out Pablo Sandoval, Double A-Richmond callup Miguel Gomez, Kelby Tomlinson, Andrew Suarez and Gregor Blanco in a six-batter sequence. It wasn’t his finest moment, but it did find the Giants’ weakness. San Francisco’s lineup without Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford was exposed as an easier touch. The Giants squandered too many run scoring opportunities, and struck out 10 times, the 15th time they fanned that frequently in 44 games thus far.
The Giants went the final six innings scoreless, while the Reds added on. Three, pretty good Cincinnati relievers–Jared Hughes, workhorse Wandy Peralta and closer Raisel Iglesias shut the door on the Giants despite allowing a collective, five hits and some hair-raising–and controversial (see Ben Leonard’s story)–moments.
The Giants fell back to .500 (22-22) with the loss, somehow getting the least out of eight base hits, three doubles, Belt’s homer and a pair of walks. Pinch-hitter Austin Jackson struck out with a runner at third, and one out, in the sixth. Sandoval hit into an inning-ending double play in the seventh. And Belt, who hit his team-leading ninth homer in the third, struck out with a runner aboard to end the game.
The game’s hero, Duvall was considered the 25th best prospect in the Giants’ system when they dealt him in July 2015 to get Mike Leake from the Reds to bolster their rotation for that season’s stretch drive. Since then, the former University of Louisville first baseman has hit 77 homers and 78 doubles for the Reds while the Giants passed on resigning Leake for the 2016 season. Duvall homered twice in the concluded series, and also came up with a terrific catch, robbing Sandoval of extra bases in the first inning.
“They made a couple of plays there that saved them,” manager Bruce Bochy conceded.