The young D-Backs played them tough, but with the help of some hot bats, crisp glove work and a gutsy effort from Chris Heston, the Giants left Arizona with a 2-1 record and their first series win in the 2015 season.
Let’s take a closer look at how San Francisco’s pitching, hitting and defense graded out over the three-game set.
Madison Bumgarner and Chris Heston were, in different ways, extremely effective. Ryan Vogelson wasn’t entirely ineffective, but he doesn’t exactly have the stuff to afford mistake pitches, and he paid the price.
Bumgarner allowed at least one base runner per inning and only struck out three, but made the big pitches when he needed to. Vogelsong did the opposite, yielding a pair of homeruns on a hit-me fastball and hanging curve.
Heston was the big surprise for San Francisco. In his second big-league start, the 26-year-old settled into a nice groove after a shaky first frame, keeping hitters off-balance with a combination of location and movement—Vogey-esque in his approach, you might say. No matter how to spin it, six innings of shutout baseball was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Arguably the Giants’ biggest strength coming into the season, the bullpen lived up to its billing for the most part across eight-and-two-thirds innings.
Santiago Casilla quelled the naysaying on his subpar spring, shutting the door on the team’s two wins without issue. His competition at closer, Sergio Romo, gave up a costly double in Game 1, but had his no-dot slider working to perfection in the series finale.
Neither Jean Machi nor George Kontos looked great in their outings, but I suppose that was to be expected.
It wasn’t perfect, but the relief corps has proven that it can still be relied on, which is huge considering the state of the starting rotation.
First off, kudos to Bruce Bochy for going with Nori Aoki atop the lineup despite a subpar spring. The newly minted Giant endeared himself to the fanbase with a team-leading six hits, even drawing a nice, albeit questionable, comparison from one Bay Area analyst:
The entire top-half of the order did an amazing job in the desert, as the Killer P’s (too soon?) of Joe Panik, Angel Pagan and Buster Posey went 12-for-32 (.375) with seven runs and six RBI.
Brandon Crawford’s quality at-bats could signal another step in his progression, and the icing on the cake was Casey McGehee going yard after a stretch of subpar plate appearances (4 Ks in 6 ABs).
Matt Duffy didn’t miss a beat filling in for Panik on Wednesday, picking up where he left off in spring with three hits in five at-bats.
The Duff-man wasn’t the only big bat off the bench, though. Hector Sanchez, the main beneficiary of Brandon Belt missing time, made the most of his plate appearances, going 3-for-7 over two games.
The Giants set the table, strung their hits together and avoided the dreaded double-play ball (just one in three games). No, they won’t have slug .500 for the season, but Chase Field sure is a great place to get the juices flowing, particularly before a trip out to Petco Park.
Crawford was smooth as ever anchoring the infield at short, teaming with Panik for a particularly nice double play in Game 2:
Other than a failed leaping catch by Justin Maxwell, the outfield held its own without Hunter Pence, highlighted by one of Pagan’s signature sliding catches in Game 1:
Most notably, Sanchez sabotaged an otherwise decent night behind the dish in Game 3 with a pair of passed balls, though one was ruled a wild pitch.
On the plus side, he also did this:
Almost as if to say: “Where you at, Andrew Susac?!”
Answer: Playing defense in Triple-A.
When the team’s only series error was charged to Heston for airmailing a pickoff attempt to first, it’s hard to be too critical. That passed ball-“wild pitch” combo was pretty ugly, though.