Giving the Oakland A’s a taste of their own medicine, the San Francisco Giants, behind six strong innings by Matt Cain, regained their AT&T Park magic and defeated the A’s, 5-2, Wednesday night, in the opener of the two-game set in the City by the Bay. Hunter Pence went two for four with a home run to lead the Giants’ attack.
After submitting meekly the first two games played in Oakland, San Francisco came out fired up and scored one run in each of the second, third and fourth innings, and added two insurance runs in the sixth.
Demonstrating why Bruce Bochy keeps inserting Gregor Blanco into the lineup, Blanco raced from first to home on a single by Joe Panik in the second inning, that was bobbled by Yoenis Cespedes, to score the game’s first run.
With the play developing in front of him, Blanco was able to fire up the afterburners, once Tim Flannery gave him the signal to go for it. Cespedes unwisely threw home, allowing Panik to advance to second, where he died when Brandon Crawford struck out and Matt Cain grounded out to second base.
The Giants added a run to their lead in the third on a Buster Posey RBI single, and Pence’s homer in the fourth made it 3-1. The A’s would counter with a solo shot by Stephen Vogt in the fourth, but that would be it for Oakland runs. Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford each had two hits for the Giants.
Brandon Crawford got two hits tonight, hopefully on the way out of his mini-slump.
Matt Cain (105 pitches) started and went six innings, giving up two earned runs, on five hits, while striking out four and walking two, neither of whom scored. His victory was only his second of the season; it was a crucial outing by the guy fans like to call the Horse.
Jeremy Affeldt came in to pitch a one-two-three seventh and Sergio Romo did likewise in the eighth, including two K’s in his three batters faced. Santiago Casilla, in his new role as closer, needed only eight pitches to dispatch the A’s in the ninth, and that allowed Giants fans to breathe a quiet sigh of relief.
For the A’s, Jason Hamel (99 pitches) started and made it through five, giving up three runs (two of them earned) on six hits, while walking three and striking out three
Eric O’Flaherty relieved Hamel for the sixth and promptly gave up back-to-back singles to Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik. Matt Cain, due to be pinch-hit for anyway, attempted to bunt the runners over and ended up striking out when his bunt went foul. Hunter Pence picked up Cain by knocking in Panik with a single, and Crawford, who had ended up at third base, scored on a wild pitch, bringing the score to 5-2.
Jim Johnson came on for the A’s in the seventh, and recorded five of his six outs on ground balls, in regaining the form he employed while serving as a closer, at least for one night.
In their last fifteen games, eleven of which were losses, the Giants have scored five runs in each of their four wins, and a total of eleven runs in their eleven losses. It’s not hard to pin-point the cause the the Giants’ current woes.
Bright spots in tonight’s game include a fine defensive play by Brandon Belt in the third inning on a smash by Alberto Callaspo, that Belt dived to his right to field and then flipped to the hustling Cain to beat the speedy Callaspo handily. Additionally, Buster Posey threw out the speedy Coco Crisp to end the third inning, but some credit has to go to Cain who was diligent about keeping Crisp close to the bag.
Add Pence’s home run to the list and cap it off with the strong performance by not only Matt Cain, but the bullpen as well. And on the top of it all, place the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers fell prey to the Detroit Tigers again today, and that leaves the Giants tied atop the National League West with Los Angeles.
If the Giants can take the finale tomorrow, not only will they have evened the series with Oakland, but they will apply pressure to LA.
It’s nice to be back in a pennant race again.
Jun 3, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) bats during the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports