For the San Francisco Giants, viva el día de Cueto.
Lost in all the criticism that the San Francisco Giants’ bullpen received in their 6-5 Opening Day loss was the team’s poor performance at the plate with runners in scoring position.
The offense produced three runs in addition to Bumgarner’s historic two home run day but hit 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base. Most notably, both Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford failed to cash in at the plate with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, which would have given their squad insurance heading into the ninth.
With a full day of rest and reflection on Monday due to the championship matchup between Gonzaga and the eventual champions North Carolina in the nearby Phoenix, the San Francisco Giants made the necessary adjustments to shake off a bitter Sunday loss and etch their first win of the new season.
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Behind a five-run fifth inning, the San Francisco Giants out-hit the Arizona Diamondbacks on an offensive filled Tuesday night in the desert by a final score of 8-4.
Six Giants starters recorded multi-hit nights, including Gorkys Hernandez, who totaled two hits and four RBIs in a last-minute start for the injured Denard Span. Hernandez shared the offensive limelight with Joe Panik, who reached base four times by way of a walk and three singles. Brandon Crawford totaled his first home run of the season as well with a solo shot.
The home run ball plagued Cueto as he allowed one each to Arizona’s powerful tandem of Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb, but San Francisco’s shimmying starter churned out five innings while striking out five in his first action of the new season while contributing a hit and a RBI on the offensive end.
Cueto only lasting five innings on the mound meant San Francisco’s bullpen would have to pitch approximately half of the game to preserve the win. The relief unit instilled some confidence after the blown save fiasco of Sunday as Cory Gearrin, George Kontos, Derek Law, and Hunter Strickland all allowed no runs in their respective innings of work.
Cueto received plenty of assistance defensively while crafting his masterpiece from everywhere on the diamond.
Eduardo Núñez robbed a hit in the bottom of the first by fielding a grounder while sliding to his right, smoothly rotating 360 degrees, then firing over to Brandon Belt for the final out of the inning. Joe Panik defended his Gold Glove crown once again, snaring a grounder by diving to his right, then throwing on to first to complete the play.
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The San Francisco Giants put up a pair of runs in the top of the second by way of a Gorkys Hernandez bases loaded broken bat bloop single into right field which just found the outfield grass.
Núñez kicked off the second with a single up the middle, and Joe Panik drew a one-out walk following a Chris Marrero strikeout. Cueto contributed to the offensive attack in his own right, chopping a fastball over the head of Paul Goldschmidt, who was nearly in the left-handed batter’s box to cover Cueto’s fake bunt attempt.
With the bases juiced, Hernandez just barely muscled a fastball into right field which fell between Brandon Drury and David Peralta. Núñez scored easily from third, and Panik read the ball beautifully, allowing him to score from second without a throw to give the San Francisco Giants an early 2-0 lead.
The San Francisco Giants tacked on another run in the top of the third although they could have possibly gone for more. Buster Posey reached first on an error by smoking a ball right at Drury, who couldn’t handle the screamer, and Brandon Crawford followed him up with an opposite field double off the left field wall, putting runners on second and third.
Posey inadvertently killed San Francisco’s chance to put up a crooked number when he found himself in no man’s land on the basepaths.
Both Crawford and he took off when Núñez tapped a ball up the middle, but Posey didn’t get the greatest jump and froze between third and home. With Crawford already occupying third, Posey could do nothing but wait for catcher Jeff Mathis to tag him out.
Despite Posey’s gaff, Marrero cashed in on the opportunity in the following at-bat, launching a ball deep enough into right field for Crawford to cross home standing, extending San Francisco’s lead to three.
Goldschmidt ended Cueto’s bid for a shutout in the bottom of the fourth with a solo shot, his first of the season, to kick off the inning, cutting San Francisco’s lead to two. Cueto kept his changeup low in the zone, but not low enough for the Diamondback slugger, and the pitch ended up right in the wheelhouse for him to send over the left field fence.
Arizona continued to attack Cueto in the bottom of the fourth following Goldschmidt’s long ball. Cueto would walk Jake Lamb, then allow a pair of back-to-back singles to Drury and Chris Owings after inducing a Yasmany Tomás fly out to center, the latter of which drove in Lamb and cut San Francisco’s lead to 3-2. Cueto escaped the jam with the lead still intact, striking out Jeff Mathis and inducing a Daniel Descalso ground ball to end the frame.
With their lead cut to just one, the Giant offense exploded for five runs in the fifth inning, all five of which were charged to Randall Delgado, blowing the game open and ending the top half of the inning with a commanding 8-2 lead.
Crawford kicked off the offensive fireworks with a towering home run to right which cleared Arizona’s bullpen and pushed San Francisco’s lead back up to two.
Núñez kept the offense train rolling right along, hitting another infield single and sliding under the tag of Paul Goldschmidt on an errant throw by Owings. Panik collected his second hit of the night with a single following Marrero’s second strikeout, allowing Núñez to advance to third, bringing up Cueto once again with a runner in scoring position.
Cueto hit a sharp groundball up the middle which would have resulted in an inning-ending double play and kept ballgame still in reach, but the ball ticked off Owings glove and allowed Núñez to score from third, extending the inning and San Francisco’s lead to 5-2.
Owings’s error paved the way for Hernandez, who would double down the left field corner and drive in both Panik and Cueto, increasing the lead to 7-2. Upon review, Cueto may have barely missed or barely touched home while heading home and second guessed whether or not he connected with the plate, but he proceeded to jog right into the dugout. Arizona wanted to review the play but didn’t initiate their challenge in the allotted 30 seconds and the run stood.
Following the short drama, Belt capped off the inning with an opposite-field double to drive in Hernandez, giving San Francisco a six-run lead.
Arizona once again wouldn’t go away quietly and generated some two-out thunder in the bottom-half of the fifth. Goldschmidt kept the inning alive with a walk and his offensive partner-in-crime Jake Lamb splashed down in the right-center pool with his first hit and home run of the season, bringing the Diamondback deficit to only four.
Bochy tasked the San Francisco bullpen with protecting a four-run lead from the sixth inning on and the combined efforts of Gearrin, Kontos, Law, and Strickland churned out a masterful performance. Kontos was arguably the most impressive of the bunch as he struck out both Goldschmidt and Lamb after issuing a leadoff walk to A.J. Pollock.
Over four scoreless innings, the quartet allowed only one hit while striking out six. The closest resemblance of a rally was when Strickland allowed Jeremy Hazelbaker to reach second by way of a walk and defensive indifference, allowing him to advance to second.
Matt Moore takes the hill tomorrow for the San Francisco Giants in the third game of a four-game series.