OAKLAND – To make a run at a division title, the Giants need Dereck Rodriguez to match his big first half. Perhaps the rookie has bigger plans.
Rodriguez took the ball on the first night of the second half and allowed just one run on three hits against a tough A’s lineup. He departed with one out in the seventh and the bullpen took it home, clinching a 5-1 win that evened this Bay Bridge series at two games apiece.
Here’s what you need to know from the first game back…
— Rodriguez walked none and struck out five. He lowered his ERA to 2.72.
— With Brandon Belt on the paternity list, Ryder Jones was called up for a spot start. He certainly made the most of it. Jones jumped on a 2-0 slider from Edwin Jackson in the fifth, smacking a homer off the right field foul pole. The blast was the third of the 24-year-old’s career. He hit two last season as a rookie.
OAKLAND, Calif. — The San Francisco Giants get an opportunity to ease what they hope will be a healthier Buster Posey back into the lineup as a designated hitter when they continue a six-game series against the Oakland Athletics on the American League side of the San Francisco Bay on Friday night.
Giants rookie right-hander Dereck Rodriguez (4-1, 2.89) and A’s veteran righty Edwin Jackson (1-1, 2.59) are set to duel in the opener of the second half of the series, after Oakland took two of three in San Francisco leading into the All-Star break.
Posey caught all three games in San Francisco, going 4-for-12, before immediately heading to the doctor’s office for a cortisone shot on his ailing right hip following Sunday’s 6-2 loss.
He missed the All-Star Game in order to get four days off in preparation for a second half in which the Giants (50-48) find themselves four games behind Atlanta (52-42) in the wild-card race.
“It’s fair to say he’s done a good job,” Bochy said. “We’re also breaking up our lefties and going right-left-right. All those things came to mind.
Bumgarner, a left-hander, is scheduled to go Saturday, with Cueto, a righty, slated for Sunday.
Rodriguez, an in-season call-up from the minors, hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last five starts.
The 26-year-old has never faced the A’s and has never pitched in an interleague game, but certainly he’s quite familiar with the latter. His dad, Ivan, was a veteran of 2,151 American League games and hit .304 as a DH in 231 plate appearances.
Posey has been even better than that in his DH opportunities, hitting .323 in 111 plate appearances.
Serving as the catcher in the National League park, Posey had a key hit in last Friday’s series-opening win over the A’s. His RBI single in the sixth inning off Jackson broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Giants on their way to a 7-1 win.
Jackson pitched better than the final score would indicate. He was pulled from a 2-1 game after six innings, having allowed only four hits.
The 34-year-old has allowed two or fewer earned runs in all four of his starts with the A’s since being signed off the scrap heap. He’s 5-5 in his career against the Giants with a 4.56 ERA in 13 meetings, including 12 starts.
The A’s rebounded from last Friday’s loss to win the San Francisco portion of the series with 4-3 and 6-2 victories.
Mark Canha was the key offensive weapon for Oakland in the wins, bombing a go-ahead, two-run homer in the seventh inning of Saturday’s triumph, then contributing one of four consecutive A’s hits to a four-run fourth inning in Sunday’s win.
The A’s (55-42) open the second half three games behind Seattle (58-39) in the AL wild-card race.
In short, the rich got richer, and the Giants continue to mind the tax line.
There is, of course, no fun in that position. The A’s aren’t selling for a change, which makes the Giants seem weirdly conservative in comparison to the noisy neighbors they never seem to notice. The Warriors, who move in down the street in a couple of years, are burning money like it’s a college football pregame bonfire, which also makes the Giants look uncharacteristically thrifty.
But Machado is the only real jewel in the trade deadline crown (the Mets have pitcher Jacob deGrom, but nobody expects the Mets to do anything other than standard Met-ism), and not only would he find a way to beg out of any trade to San Francisco on religious grounds (he does not worship in a power-restrictive park), the Giants already have a shortstop in which they are exceedingly proud.
In short, the Giants weren’t in the Machado race, and they don’t look like they will be in many others, either. This is their year of stasis, in which they will either win as they are or lose as they are.
Indeed, the Giants are operating outside their usual shopping norms. They would need to shave salary to acquire salary, which means there will be no 2010 Summer Of Love (Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Javier Lopez, Jose Guillen). And their prospect bin is running pretty low, so they can’t toss young’uns into the wind to see what veteran difference-makers they can attract.
Thus, the Dodgers improving their lot is of little consequence to the Giants save that corner of the fan base that thinks the Dodgers must always be monitored. The Giants need to be more concerned about the Diamondbacks and Rockies and Phillies and Nationals and Braves and Brewers and Cardinals do, which means that there are probably too many teams to keep track of down the stretch.
Indeed, the simplicity of the task before them is clear. Their path to salvation is through a rehabilitated Evan Longoria, and a revitalized Johnny Cueto, and a transformed Jeff Samardzija, and an offense that doesn’t regard seeing its own players on base as evidence of plague. The Giants have to be better at being the Giants, and there is no guarantee of that based on the evidence of not only the past 98 games but the 230-some-odd before that.
But if it helps, someone will enjoy the trade deadline. It just isn’t going to be them. They are, for one of the rare times since they moved from Candlestick Park, a team likely to do almost nothing of consequence this July.
But maybe they can get DeMarcus Cousins to throw out the first pitch at one of the Pirates games in August. I mean, if you can’t be in the market, you may as well enjoy someone who is.
SAN FRANCISCO–Ray Black’s fastball shoots out of his hand at 100 miles per hour. Reyes Moronta’s four-seamer is nearly as blinding.
Starters Andrew Suárez and Dereck Rodríguez have heaters that routinely touch the low-to-mid 90s, and neither pitcher is afraid to throw their fastballs on both sides of the plate.
Baseball is changing and to break into the big leagues, a pitcher must throw hard and must induce whiffs. To stick around, a rookie’s best bet is to listen to Buster Posey.
“Whatever he’s going to call, I never shake him off because he knows more than me,” Suárez said. “It’s crazy how he adapts in the game.”
Posey didn’t play in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, as a hip ailment requiring a cortisone shot prevented him from joining the rest of baseball’s elite. If he did suit up, Posey would have entered the game in the middle-to-late innings as a reserve, which is when the Giants catcher appears to be at the top of his game.
Twice last week, Posey showcased his remarkable feel for calling pitches with first-year pitchers on the mound deep in games.
Before he smashed a walkoff single in the 13th inning of a 5-4 win over the Cubs, Posey caught three scoreless innings of relief from Rodríguez, who marveled at the veteran’s feel for the situation.
“Pitches I haven’t thrown at all,” Rodríguez said, when asked what Posey called. “He’s probably called them with other guys but with me he never called them. Today, I guess he knew with the confidence I have that I could execute those pitches and I felt comfortable throwing them.”
With the bases loaded and no one out in the seventh inning of Friday’s game, Posey developed a plan for Moronta. Instead of having the reliever greet A’s hitter Chad Pinder with 98-mile per hour heat, three of the first four pitches Posey called were soft sliders.
After two fastballs, Posey went back to the well and asked for a breaking ball. Moronta recorded a strike out and soon escaped the bases loaded jam unharmed. The one-run lead the rookie preserved turned into a 7-1 Giants win.
“That’s Buster at his best,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Handling the staff and in particular the young guys. They have so much confidence in him and they’re on the mound and they’re looking at one of the best catchers ever in the game.”
A fastball will get a pitcher to the big leagues, but Posey expects younger players to refine their secondary offerings if they want to stay there. He understands how hitters adjust and he knows what works in the first inning doesn’t always have the same effect in the seventh.
“My changeup has gotten better and he’s told me to start focusing on it between starts,” Suárez said. “Throwing the slider up was a big game-changer for me. I had never done that and he calls it. He’s helped me out a lot and he has a lot of confidence in me.”
Despite losing their top three starters to injuries during the first half of the year, the Giants are 4.0 games out in the National League West thanks to the emergence of rookie pitchers.
After a rough beginning to his career, Suárez has posted a 2.75 ERA since the start of June. Rodríguez’s 2.91 mark in the same time frame has been just as critical, as he’s recorded five quality starts while demonstrating the ability to pitch deep into games.
Moronta is one of the Giants’ top relievers, possessing a 1.93 ERA and the valuable talent of stranding inherited runners. Black may not be far behind, as he rebounded from a terrible major league debut with three straight scoreless outings.
Though all four rookies figure to have important roles during the second half, the Giants will need even more out of Posey, who is enduring one of the most challenging seasons of his career.
Aside from having to help new arms assimilate to the highest level, Posey has played through pain that’s curbed his power and limited him to starting about three quarters of the Giants’ games.
“Everybody’s got stuff they’re dealing with,” Posey said. “You try not to make more of it than what it is. If I hadn’t been fortunate to go to the All-Star Game, you guys probably wouldn’t know about it.”
Despite hitting just five home runs and posting a .774 OPS in the first half, his lowest mark since an injury-shortened 2011 season, Posey was still selected to his sixth All-Star team. His reputation among his peers landed him the spot, but the Giants’ youngest pitchers are proving that the status he has achieved is deserved.
“They trust him,” Madison Bumgarner said. “He’s good, it’s not just them trusting him, he’s seen everybody for the most part and he’s smart. He’s a baseball guy. There’s not really anything that he don’t do.”
Bumgarner evolved into the ace of the Giants’ staff during Posey’s prime, when the catcher had his hand fit for jewelry more often than new mitts. No pitcher understands Posey’s effect on a game quite like the sturdy left-hander, who raves about his innate feel for the moment.
Now it’s the next generation’s turn to experience how Posey’s abilities shape the game.
“That does a lot for a pitcher knowing you have that kind of catcher calling your game for you,” Bochy said. “It’s got to give them a sense of confidence too and make them a better pitcher and it helps take the thinking away from them.”
He’s no longer playing 140-to-150 games a year, and as long as he stays behind the plate, his power may never return. After the Giants drafted prospect Joey Bart with the No. 2 overall pick this summer, a move to first base is likely in Posey’s future.
But as the newest crop of Giants pitchers take the next step in their development, they’re eager to have Posey throw on the gear and guide them along the way.
“He’s just a whole different animal,” Rodríguez said after Posey’s walkoff against the Cubs. “Buster is a future Hall of Famer, so what do you expect?”
Sandoval would be as worthy a candidate as any, depending on how one views the genre. During his 11-year career, he has played five defensive positions — first base, second base, third base, catcher and pitcher (earlier this season).
You can probably hear the voices of the purist (“Sacrilege”), the practical (“Whatever”) and the Red Sox fan (“You’re going to play him at all nine positions? He couldn’t play one for us”).
For the record, five major leaguers have done the deed, including one — Detroit’s Andrew Romine — last season. But before Bochy green-lights Sandoval, he might want to fire up the wayback machine and see how it went for Campy Campaneris, First Man.
In 1965 Campaneris was a 23-year-old shortstop for the Kansas City A’s. The team was owned by blowhard showman (or was it showman blowhard) Charlie Finley. On the morning of Sept. 8, Kansas City residents opened their newspapers to a breathless announcement:
“Campy Campaneris Night,” it began.
“Tonight, for the first time in the history of the major leagues, Campy will play every position for one inning including pitching and catching. For the most exciting and enjoyable evening of the 1965 season don’t miss the thriller. Purchase tickets early — available at all A’s outlets.”
As if the hype wasn’t sufficiently goosed, Finley announced with a flourish that he had taken out a $1 million insurance policy on Campaneris.
Nobody ever accused Finley of under promising. On this night he over delivered, starting with the 21,576 tickets he sold (the A’s averaged 6,523 fans per home game that year). Campaneris? He performed without incident over the first five innings, playing (in order) shortstop, second base, third base, left field and center field.
Then came trouble. Campaneris, playing right field, botched a fly ball, allowing a run to score. Two innings later, more trouble. Pitching for the first time in his major league career, Campaneris gave up a hit and back-to-back four-pitch walks. The Angels led 3-1 thanks to Campy’s miscues.
That was a mere preamble to the ninth. With two out, runners at the corners and Campaneris playing catcher, the Angels worked a double steal. And here is where we get a feel for how Finley’s showmanship set with the Angels. Ed Kirkpatrick, a burly catcher, came roaring toward the plate and nearly slammed Campaneris into 1966. Accounts of the game indicated “a brief tussle ensued.” An AP Wirephoto shows Campaneris apparently winding up to slug Kirkpatrick.
Campaneris was taken to the hospital for X-rays of his shoulder. The Angels won 5-3 in 11 innings.
“It was a silly thing to do,” said A’s manager Haywood Sullivan. “Kirkpatrick was out a mile and simply tried to run over Campy and knock the ball loose.”
Campaneris was in good spirits, all things considered, when he returned from the hospital. “I’ll be ready to play tomorrow,” he said.
”We’re playing really confident baseball and we’re making a charge here.” Piscotty said. ”We’re really happy with how we finished. We’re right there, so we’re excited to keep going.”
Oakland still trails first-place Houston by eight games in the AL West but moved within three games of Seattle for the second wild card spot. Four weeks ago the A’s were 11 games behind the Mariners.
”We certainly have the ability to be a playoff team,” All-Star second baseman Jed Lowrie said. ”At this point it’s got to be a narrow focus. Keep the eye on the prize but narrow the focus.”
Sean Manaea allowed two runs in six innings for his fourth consecutive win. Lowrie walked and scored in his return to the lineup following a scary collision in right field two nights earlier for Oakland. Matt Chapman added two hits.
The surging A’s have won nine of 12 and lead the major leagues with 85 home runs on the road.
All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford had two hits for the Giants, who lost a home series for the first time since dropping two of three at AT&T Park to Arizona from April 8-10.
San Francisco has hit only six home runs in July. Manager Bruce Bochy said his team needs to drive the ball a little bit more the second half of the season.
”That’s what we need more than anything is some power. Not just home runs. We’re not driving the ball like I think we can,” Bochy said.
Piscotty singled in Jed Lowrie in the fourth against starter Andrew Suarez (3-6) then homered off Reyes Moronta in the sixth. It is Piscotty’s 12th this season and fifth this month, all of them coming since July 7.
Piscotty’s hit in the fourth was the first of three consecutive RBI singles off Suarez. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman also drove in runs while Jonathan Lucroy added a sacrifice fly to put Oakland up 4-1.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said Piscotty is hitting his stride after dealing with the death of his mother earlier this season. Gretchen Piscotty passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease on May 6.
”Now he’s just playing baseball and he’s got a nice little angel sitting there with him,” Melvin said. ”I think he’s aware of that, too. It’s an inspiration for him. He’s playing as good as anybody we have on our team at this point.”
Manaea (9-6) gave up five hits, including Chase d’Arnaud’s second home run this season in the sixth. Manaea retired seven of the final eight he faced.
Ryan Buchter struck out the side in the seventh. Lou Trivino and All-Star closer Blake Treinen retired three batters apiece to complete the five-hitter.
Suarez allowed four runs in five innings.
THIS AND THAT
Piscotty has hit 11 of his 12 home runs on the road. . Manaea has an 11-game winning streak in day games dating to May 20, 2017. . The home run by d’Arnaud was his second in five games. D’Arnaud was a non-roster invitee to spring training. . Suarez had given up four runs in his previous four starts (24 2/3 innings) before allowing four in one inning to the A’s.
Athletics: Lowrie had been nursing a bruised bone and calf bruise in his left leg after colliding with Piscotty in right field. . OF Matt Joyce (lumbar strain) received an epidural shot for his sore back. RHP Daniel Gossett (strained right elbow) began a throwing program.
Giants: RHP Jeff Samardzija was placed on the 10-day disabled list because of right shoulder inflammation. It’s Samardzija’s third stint on the DL this season. IF Kelby Tomlinson was called up from Triple-A Sacramento and started at second base.
Athletics: Return to the Coliseum to host the San Francisco in a three-game series beginning Friday. It’s the first time since 1986 that the A’s have played six consecutive games against the same team.
Giants: RHP Dereck Rodriguez (4-1, 2.89 ERA) pitches on Friday night when San Francisco heads across the Bay to play three games in Oakland.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball