San Francisco Giants

Giants’ Chris Heston shines on ring night

San Francisco Giants' Chris Heston works against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, April 18, 2015, in San Francisco.
San Francisco Giants' Chris Heston works against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, April 18, 2015, in San Francisco. AP

Chris Heston was the first Giants player to receive his 2014 World Series ring before Saturday’s game at AT&T Park. As the Giants’ starting pitcher, Heston -- who pitched in three games for the team in 2014 -- needed to start warming up during the pre-game festivities. So he barely had time to examine his new hardware.

"I gave it a quick glance," Heston said. "It looked real to me. I closed the box. That gave me something to look forward to."

Heston then went out and threw 7 2/3 one-run innings against the Diamondbacks to help the Giants snap an eight-game losing streak, their longest since 2007, with a 4-1 win. He became the first Giants rookie with an outing that long since Madison Bumgarner threw eight innings on July 6, 2010 against the Brewers. He beat Arizona for the second time in two starts against them this season.

And when Heston returned to the Giants’ clubhouse after the game, he said, the first thing he did was re-open the Tiffany box.

"I put (the ring) on my finger and kind of savored the moment," he said. "It was a pretty surreal feeling putting it on my finger."

Heston has been a perfect fit for the Giants’ embattled starting rotation while filling in for the injured Matt Cain to start the season. He has allowed just two earned runs over 20 2/3 innings and pitched well enough to win all three starts (he took the loss in the Giants’ 2-0 defeat against Colorado in their home opener).

The Giants said Heston is the franchise’s first rookie since 1914 to begin a season with three starts of at least six innings and one or fewer earned runs allowed. His only blemish on ring night was a leadoff home run allowed to David Peralta in the fourth inning. After that he retired 13 of his final 15 hitters.

"Good movement, good velocity, he’s got a good breaking ball and changeup, fields his position well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Really has made himself an all-around great pitcher I think. You look at how he attacks hitters and has a good idea of what he’s doing … That’s three good starts for him, and two against the same club."

Bochy said he talked with Heston briefly before the game about controlling his emotions after the ring ceremony. But it doesn’t sound as though much needed to be said. For the second time this season, Heston, the 27-year-old rookie, drew a marquee start following a glitzy ceremony (the flag-raising at the home opener being the other). In neither start has he seemed affected.

"It seems like he just goes out there and pitches like it’s any other game," said shortstop Brandon Crawford. "I think that’s kind of the marking of a good pitcher. He goes out and does his job no matter what kind of opening ceremonies or anything like that we have."

Heston said several times he feels "blessed" to have drawn two high-profile assignments to start the season, and that his success has been a confidence booster. Saturday night was a boost for the Giants as a whole. They have played the past week in front of customarily sold-out crowds at AT&T Park. Finally, they sent those fans home after a win.

For the first time this season, as a result, music blared in the clubhouse after the game and seeped into the interview room during Bochy’s post-game media session. It had quieted a little by the time Heston talked to reporters in the clubhouse. But the glow of a ring night capped by a win remained.

"I’m on cloud nine right now, and I think I have been since I got here," Heston said. "I’m just trying to stick to the process and attack the zone, and hopefully I can keep it going."

* Brandon Crawford hit his third home run of the season in the fourth inning off Arizona starter Rubby De La Rosa. He said the pitch was a changeup - and that was not a surprise.

According to the analytics website FanGraphs, 28 percent of pitches Crawford has seen this season have been changeups. Asked about that after the game, Crawford deadpanned: "That’s seems low." He said he has definitely noticed pitchers attacking him differently, regardless of where he has hit in the order.

"I’ve been getting a lot more off-speed," Crawford said. "I’ve been making adjustments to be able to hit those pitches. I mean, it’s tough to hit. But they’ve been keeping me off balance. It’s tough to hit like that. I need to just stay with my approach and stay with the pitches that I want to swing at."

Crawford has just two hits in his last 30 at-bats. But he said he feels that he’s hitting balls hard without results. Bochy said this home run was "big for him." Brandon Belt also got out of an 0-for-20 slide with a single in the seventh inning and drew a walk, and Bochy said of the two hitters: "These are things that can get them rolling."

* The game story covers the end of the Giants’ streak and details of the ring ceremony. Bochy acknowledged he was a little preoccupied during the festivities by his desire to just see the Giants win a game.

"I’ll be honest, it’s been a tough week," Bochy said. "I just wanted the club to get a win, for them. This is one game, we’ve got to come out and be ready to go tomorrow, but that was more what I was thinking about."

Still, Bochy said he enjoyed watching Tim Hudson receive his first World Series ring and reported the players all found the rings -- 14-karat white gold featuring the "SF" logo set in 18-karat yellow gold with 55 round diamonds -- "beautiful."

"It’s good to see these guys smiling," Bochy said, "and also try to remind them they are the World Series champions. They are good."

They are also off their eight-game skid with a chance to split this series with Arizona in the finale Sunday. It’s Hudson (0-1, 2.03) against Diamondbacks right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (0-2, 6.55). First pitch at 1:05 p.m.

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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