For most of May, the Giants’ pitching and defense have been good enough to mask a quiet offense. Before Tuesday night’s game against the San Diego Padres, manager Bruce Bochy said he preferred that to the alternative – a struggling pitching staff requiring his offense to have big games regularly in order to win.
Tuesday night, Bochy didn’t have to choose. Jeff Samardzija held the Padres to one run while pitching into the seventh inning. The Giants’ outfield threw out two runners on the bases. And the offense, which hadn’t scored more than five runs in a 16-game span since May 6, broke out in the late innings of an 8-2 win at AT&T Park.
The Giants improved to 17-6 in May and won for the 12th time in 13 games. Coming on the heels of consecutive 1-0 victories, Tuesday’s eight runs were a veritable explosion.
“We haven’t been clicking offensively, so it was good to see these guys break out,” Bochy said. “Because it was a tight ballgame.”
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Samardzija held the Padres scoreless until Jon Jay’s leadoff home run in the sixth inning, which snapped a streak of 23 scoreless innings by Giants pitchers. It tied the score at 1-1, but a Giants offense that itself had totaled just three runs in its previous 28 innings chose the opportune moment to wake up.
Joe Panik walked to lead off the sixth against Andrew Cashner and scored on a double by Buster Posey. Two batters later, Brandon Crawford lined a single to score Posey.
Crawford’s next at-bat broke the game open, as he came up with the bases loaded in the eighth and cleared them with a triple to right-center. Jarrett Parker, just recalled from Triple-A Sacramento to replace injured Angel Pagan, homered to straightaway center, completing the rout.
“I got under it a little bit,” Parker said of the blast, which cleared the center-field wall by plenty on a cool night in San Francisco. “I got it a little better than I thought, I guess.”
Parker had already made a contribution on defense in the first inning, when he corralled Matt Kemp’s line drive off the wall in left field, whirled and threw Kemp out at second trying for a double. Parker said that getting involved immediately helped him to settle in.
“All the guys were riled up,” he said. “So I was definitely happy about it.”
The Giants cut Kemp down on the bases again in the eighth, when he tried to stretch his double to right field into a triple. Gregor Blanco and Joe Panik executed relay throws and Matt Duffy fielded Panik’s short-hop while placing a tag on Kemp in one motion. Kemp was originally ruled safe, but the Giants challenged and the call was overturned.
“That’s kind of a lost art in a way,” Samardzija said. “Everybody wants their hitters to bang and then kind of put defense on the back burner. But to see these guys go out and execute something as simple as a cutoff and a relay, it’s awesome to watch. And it’s fun baseball to watch, to tell you the truth.”
The Giants have enjoyed watching the early returns on their investments in Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, the two starters to whom they committed $220 million last winter. Samardzija fell an out short of completing at least seven innings for the first time in his five starts this month, but still improved to 4-1 with a 1.41 ERA in May.
Overall, Samardzija on the season is 7-2 with a 2.54 ERA. Cueto is 7-1 with a 2.38 ERA. Madison Bumgarner, the staff ace, is 6-2 with a 2.17 mark.
The Giants are 23-7 in 30 games started by their top three pitchers, including 18-1 over their past 19 outings.
“We thought a lot of them, obviously, with us going after them,” Bochy said. “That was our thinking, that we’re getting two really, really good pitchers that could give us a lot of innings, quality innings. We really thought that they could do what they’re doing now.
“I think when you go out and sign free agents you do expect good things from these guys, and we’re getting it. But I will say, as well as they’ve thrown, it’s been impressive.”
Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija all rank in the top 10 in the National League in ERA. Behind the latter two, the Giants improved to 8-0 this season against the Padres.
“I don’t know if it’s contagious, but we definitely feed off each other competitive-wise,” Samardzija said. “To see the success especially Johnny and Bum have had fuels you to go out and do your part, and not be the sour grape, for sure.”