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San Francisco Giants take series behind Chris Heston

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The San Francisco Giants, behind stellar pitching from just-arrived Chris Heston (1-0), hammered out fourteen hits Wednesday night in defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-2, their ninth straight series win at Chase Field. Nori Aoki (.429) got on base four times with two singles, an RBI-double and a walk, his double knocking in the game’s first run in the second inning, and Casey McGehee (.333) doubled, homered, scored twice and knocked in two.

Chris Heston (0.00 ERA) started and went six complete, giving up two unearned runs on three hits, while walking two and striking out five. He was not only able to subdue the offensive-minded D-backs, but some of the anxiety created by early injuries to the starting rotation.

Heston had a rough first inning, hitting leadoff batter A.J. Pollock with a pitch, and then throwing the ball away on a pick-off attempt, allowing Pollock to advance to third. He scored a moment later when Chris Owings bounced out to Brandon Crawford. However, the rookie right-hander quickly righted the ship and did not allow a hit until David Peralta’s fourth-inning single up the middle.

After the Giants loaded the bases without scoring in the first, Brandon Crawford led off the second inning with a single, followed by back-to-back infield groundouts, with Crawford remaining at first. Nori Aoki then doubled to center field, scoring Crawford, and Matt Duffy followed suit by doubling down the right field line in a beautiful piece of opposite-field hitting. Aoki and Duffy each got on base the first three times they came to the plate. 

Mar 6, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Matt Duffy hits a home run against the Texas Rangers during a spring training baseball game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Casey McGehee led off the fifth inning with a double and scored on a Crawford single, stretching out the score to 3-1. Later on in the ninth, McGehee added his first home run in a Giants uni with Buster Posey on board. 

Crawford and Sanchez each had two singles, while Justin Maxwell had one in his first start of the season. He also made the play of the game when he prevented Paul Goldschmidt’s double from leaving the yard, deflecting it back onto the field where he retrieved it and got it back to the cutoff man.

The Giants ended up in double digits for hits for the third straight game.

Four times in the first five innings, the Giants were able to get their leadoff batter on base; two of the four scored. For the third straight game, the Giants made it into double digits in hits with fourteen, five of them for extra bases.

Jean Machi (13.50 ERA) came in to pitch the seventh and allowed a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Aaron Hill before retiring the next three hitters. Sergio Romo (0.00 ERA) came on in the eighth and got a quick 1-2-3 inning, with a strikeout and two infield grounders. Santigo Casilla (S, 1, 0.00 ERA) came in to close out the ninth and allowed nothing more than a two-out single to pinch-hitter Ender Inciarte before striking out Cliff Pennington to end the game.

Jeremy Hellickson started for the D-backs and went four-and-a-third innings, giving up three earned runs on nine hits, with two walks and a pair of strikeouts. Daniel Hudson relieved Hellickson, finished off the fifth without incident, and pitched the sixth. Randall Delgado pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and Evan Marshall came on to pitch the eighth and got out of a two-on, one-out jam before allowing the Giants’ two insurance runs in the ninth.

Here are some of the things that impressed me about Heston:

He got out of a bases-loaded jam in fourth.

He allowed a leadoff double to Cliff Pennington in the fifth and stranded him at third.

He came to the plate for his first at-bat, with Sanchez at first in an obvious bunt situation. Bruce Bochy surprised everyone by having Heston swing away on the first pitch, and he hit it sharply foul down the third base line. He then successfully executed the bunt with Sanchez running on the play. If he does not make contact with the pitch, Sanchez is dead at second base.

Hector Sanchez is also in spring training camp for the San Francisco Giants. USA; San Francisco Giants catcher HecMandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Heston bounced back from the disaster in the first inning without missing a beat, getting two grounders to shortstop and a strikeout.

Tim Flannery made a good point after the game, pointing out that Heston pitched around the red-hot Jake Lamb to load the bases in the fourth because he figured he would fare better with Gerald Laird. Laird popped out to Buster Posey in foul territory to end the threat.

After the game, Heston talked about coming up through the system with Hector Sanchez, an element of the game that worked out well for everyone as Posey got a game over at first. Sanchez raised eyebrows with a nice block of a Heston pitch in the fifth with two outs and Pennington at third, which is where he was left stranded.

It was an inspiring performance by Heston, raising hopes that even if some of the rotation needs additional time to recover from injuries, the team will not miss a beat. For those who were starting to get anxious, they can breathe a little easier.

Now the Giants go to San Diego for their first look at the new-and-improved Padres. The series in Arizona was a good tuneup for what is coming this weekend, because what used to be a tough club to beat even when talent was lacking is now loaded with weapons across its roster.

The Giants will open up in front of their second opposing crowd on Thursday, with Tim Hudson going for the Orange and Black and Ian Kennedy for the Padres. Jake Peavy, who is now likely to avoid the disabled list, will probably start Sunday’s game at PetCo Park.

This should be the start of a very entertaining season series between these two teams who are supposed to be battling for second place behind the Dodgers.

We shall see how that works out.

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