SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants know how it feels to play a clean game, get a terrific performance from a starting pitcher, build that sand castle to the sky … then have Paul Goldschmidt zombie walk onto the beach and topple everything with one swing.
That’s what happened back in Arizona on June 7, when Goldschmidt’s three-run homer off Jeremy Affeldt had the Giants wailing for momma.
It came down to Goldschmidt in the eighth again. In what could be a taste of the wildness that awaits in the eighth for the Giants in this second half, manager Bruce Bochy used four relievers – no, Affeldt wasn’t among them – and Santiago Casilla got Goldschmidt to hit into a bases-loaded fielder’s choice.
The turrets and moats remained intact for Sergio Romo, who shut down the Diamondbacks in the ninth to save a most vital 2-0 victory at AT&T Park Friday night.
Chad Gaudin was masterful while holding Arizona to three hits over seven innings, Buster Posey hit an RBI double in the first inning, and for once, the Giants didn’t lament those lost chances to add to their lead.
The Giants won for the fourth time in five games, trimmed their NL West deficit to 5 ½ games behind Arizona and started their unofficial second half with the kind of win they’ll need to replicate if they hope to keep climbing.
They’re a game back from matching Colorado for third place, by the way.
Starting pitching report
Gaudin (4-1) worked as quick and clean as a contract assassin.
Not only did he hold the Diamondbacks scoreless over seven innings, but he didn’t allow a single runner into scoring position. Miguel Montero singled in the second inning, Adam Eaton singled in the third and Montero collected another hit in the fifth.
And that was it.
In six of his seven innings, Gaudin retired the first two hitters he faced – and then he avoided the trap that has ensnared so many Giants pitchers this season. He finished the inning off.
He struck out seven of Arizona’s starting nine, and registered eight strikeouts in all. Over his last three starts, he’s struck out 22 in 19 innings.
He even worked efficiently despite all the strikeouts, throwing 92 pitches in seven innings while capturing his first home win of the season.
It was the first time Gaudin blanked an opponent over at least seven innings since June 28, 2009, with the Padres.
With a 2.23 ERA in his seven starts, it’s clear that Gaudin isn’t yielding his place when Ryan Vogelsong returns from the disabled list in a couple weeks.
It sure must be nice for Bochy to get the matchups he wants. Now that Casilla is back, Bochy has a second right-hander he can trust along with Sandy Rosario.
The manager wasn’t afraid to go batter-to-batter to get through the eighth inning, first summoning Javier Lopez to retire Gerardo Parra. Rosario couldn’t retire his man, as A.J. Pollock hit a pinch single. Jose Mijares had his issues as well, first retiring pinch hitter Cody Ross on a deep out to center field, and then giving up a bunt single to Eaton.
In came Casilla, who had one inning under his belt since coming off the disabled list. He got ahead 1-2 on Aaron Hill but lost him on a walk to load the bases for Goldschmidt. After throwing a power two-seamer to get ahead 1-2, Casilla threw a slider that stayed off the barrel. Goldschmidt hit a grounder to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who flipped for the short force to end the inning.
Romo didn’t allow the tying run to the plate and improved to 22 for 25 in save chances.
At the plate
Posey was a second-half terror last season. He started this unofficial second half the same way, by crushing an RBI double off Kennedy in the first inning.
Giants third base coach Tim Flannery made an aggressive call to send Gregor Blanco, who had drawn a leadoff walk. The relay throw from Arizona shortstop Didi Gregorius beat Blanco to the plate, but it went off Miguel Montero’s cleat and bounced away.
Hunter Pence followed with a bloop single that scored Posey – a bit of a cheap hit with a runner in scoring position, but one he’ll gladly accept after his massive slump in late June and early July.
The Giants loaded the bases but Brandon Crawford flied out to end the rally. Ian Kennedy didn’t allow another run in his six innings
Jeff Francoeur had a nice home debut, though. After catching an early-morning flight from Atlanta following the birth of his first child, Francoeur made his AT&T Park debut as a Giant and worked a 10-pitch at-bat that ended with a pinch double in the seventh inning.
Kensuke Tanaka, take a bow. The five-time Gold Glove second baseman continues to make the transition to left field look buttery smooth. He actually overran Goldschmidt’s drive into the left field corner, but reached back while making a sliding catch in the fourth inning.
The Giants announced 41,924 paid, including one lucky fan who was whisked away for a whirlwind weekend in Kiwi country courtesy of Air New Zealand. She’ll return in time for Sunday afternoon’s game.
The Giants and Diamondbacks continue their three-game series on Saturday. Matt Cain (5-6, 5.06 ERA) hopes for a clean start against left-hander Wade Miley (6-7, 4.01), who had his own struggles in the first half but has a 2.77 ERA over his last eight starts. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. PDT.