The Marlins’ starter, 24 year old Venezuelan righty Eliézer Hernández, is a pitcher with a promising past and future and a unprepossessing present. He took the mound at 3-5, 5.24 ERA. His won-lost record is due, in part, to a lack of run support, and he shows signs of being a better pitcher than his ERA indicates. His game time 1.27 WHIP is impressive, as are his 76 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings of work. He has a tendency to surrender the long ball (2.2 per nine innings before today). He improved all those figures this afternoon. The speed of his fast ball is below the major league average, but he’s been developing an effective slider to compliment that pitch.
The Giants aren’t going anywhere either. At 71-78, they already had been eliminated from wild card competition before their starter, Johnny Cueto, threw his first warm up pitch. Cueto, though, is a bright spot, but how long he’ll remain one is an open question. The 11 year veteran was brilliant in his only appearance since returning from over a year on the injured list. That was five days ago, when he shut out Pittsburgh over five innings, allowing only one hit. He’s signed through 2022, which means he’ll be 36 years old on the last opening day of his contract.
To balance the age and experience of their starter, the Giants’ starting lineup featured some of their relative newcomers. Mike Yastremski led off, playing center field. Next to him, in right field, was Mike Gerber, in his second appearance since his call up from Sacramento yesterday. The remaining outfielder was Joey Rickhard, who was promoted from the River Cats on August 27th. Mauricio Dubón, called up from Sacramento the same day as Rickhard, was the second sacker.
It was Dubón who opened the scoring, with a leadoff homer to left in the bottom of the third. It came on a 1-0 count, off a 79 mph slider following a 90 mph fast ball, a squence that had been working pretty well for Hernández this season.
The Marlins tried to mount a comeback in the fourth, and it took Cueto 31 pitches to put down the uprising. The first two batters reached on a single and a walk, but the Giants’ righty then set down Starlin Castro, Lewis Brinson, and Magneuris Sierra in order, the last two on swinging strikeouts after excruciatingly long at bats.
Cueto retired the side in order in the fifth before being removed for a pinch hitter in the bottom of that frame. The starter had allowed three hits and two walks without allowing a man to cross the plate. Of his 71 pitches, 46 were strikes, and one was a wild pitch. As in his first start, he got no decision.
His replacement, Fernando Abad, got Isán Díaz out on a nubber in front of the plate before giving way to Burch Smith.
Hernández, too, came out of the game before the bottom of the sixth began. In his five inning stint, the Marlins’ hurler had allowed one run, which was earned, on three hits and a walk. He struck out nine, throwing 85 pitches, 59 of which were strikes. Like Cueto, all he got for his efforts was a no decision.
Miami tied the game at one in the seventh. With two outs, Magneuris Sierra dropped a bunt towards third base. He beat Longoria’s throw to Belt, and it looked as though Sierra had knocked the first baseman’s glove off his hand. The ball bounced into foul territory in left field, and Sierra bounced into third. He scored on Jon Bert’s single to left. Wandy Peralta relieved the ill-starred Smith and closed out the inning with a fly to left by the pinch hitting veteran Curtis Granderson.
Héctor Noesi took care of the Giants quickly in the seventh with the help of a double play, and submariner Tyler Rogers set the Marlins down 1-2-3 in their half of the eighth.
When Chris Shaw was announced as a pinch-hitter for Rogers in the bottom of the eighth, left hander Jarlin García took over pitching duties for Miami. Bochy responded by sending in right handed Donovan Solano to pinch hit for the left handed batting Shaw. García got Solano out on a fly to center, but Yaztremski singled to left. Belt followed that with a single to center, and Ryne Stanek replaced García on the mound. He threw a wild pitch, which advanced both runners, and then walked Longoria, loading the bases.
Stanek bounced back to fan Stephen Vogt on three pitches. Then, with two outs and the bases still FOG, full of Giants, and Brandon Crawford at the plate, Stanek threw another wild pitch. Yaztremski just beat catcher Alfaro’s throw to Stanek, covering home, to give the lead back to San Francisco. Crawford got a conceeded walk to reload the bases before Gerber struck out to end the inning.
Bochy called on Will Smith to try to get the save in the ninth. In spite of a one out walk to Alfaro and a wild pitch that sent him to second, he did.
The win went to Rogers, now 2-0, 1.59 ERA, and the save to Will Smith, his 33rd. García was charged with the loss. He now is 3-2, 2.93 ERA.
Tomorrow is a travel day for the Giants. They will face Boston in Fenway on Tuesday.