PHOENIX – For most of this season, when it came to the Giants bench, manager Bruce Bochy didn’t have reserves. He had reservations.
But here and now, in the heat of a pennant race, their rookies and call-ups just keep rising to the moment. Matt Duffy came straight from Double-A in August and straight off the bench in the ninth inning Wednesday afternoon, lining a two-run single that lifted the Giants to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Brandon Belt, seeing a full-speed pitch for the first time since Aug. 6, drew a pinch walk to load the bases for Duffy. And the rail-thin rookie who has custom “Duffman” decals on his bats helped to further tighten the NL West race.
[RELATED: MLB standings]
Brandon Crawford matched his career high with four hits – his other four-hit game came at Chase Field last season -- and had a hand in all three scoring rallies.
The Giants are just two back of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who got crushed for a second consecutive day at Coors Field. In the process, the Giants also took two of three from Arizona – their eighth consecutive series win at Chase Field dating to April, 2012. It’s the first time they’ve won eight consecutive series in a road ballpark since 1932-35 when they beat the Reds at Redland Field/Crosley Field.
Madison Bumgarner did not have his best stuff and remained stuck on 18 victories, but pitched out of enough trouble to hold Arizona to two runs in six innings.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner has two scheduled starts remaining, but one of them is the 162nd and final regular-season game. The Giants would scratch him if their playoff destination is settled by then. So his chance at becoming the Giants’ first 20-game winner since 1993 might have already flown out the window.
Bumgarner had trouble with his fastball command from the outset and the basepaths were a superhighway for most of the afternoon. The Diamondbacks had five batters reach third base in the first three innings alone, but only plated one of them.
Bumgarner’s offspeed stuff had something to do with those escapes. So did a racquetball bounce off the backstop that led to a fortunate out at the plate.
Ender Inciarte sprinted home after a pitch got past Andrew Susac in the first inning, but it took a hard carom back to the catcher and he made an athletic move to dive in front of Inciarte and apply the tag.
The Diamondbacks had three more baserunners in the second inning and scored a run when pitcher Andrew Chafin was effectively late on a fastball, grounding it through the right side for his first big league hit.
Bumgarner skated out of trouble in the third and fourth, stranding Tuffy Gosewich after a leadoff double. He nearly stranded A.J. Pollock after a one-out triple in the fifth, getting the two-strike swing he wanted from Mark Trumbo on a pitch in the dirt. But the ball squirted away from Susac just long enough to plant a seed in Pollock’s mind. The catcher looked back Pollock and fired a throw to first base to record the assist on the strikeout, but it was a bit high and Buster Posey couldn’t return it back to the plate in time. If Susac had thought to pump fake once, which he had time to do with Trumbo running, the Giants might have caught Pollock in a rundown. Instead, the run scored as Arizona tied it 2-2.
Bumgarner finally had a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, but with a runner on base in the seventh inning and right-hander Randall Delgado in the game, Bochy lifted his pitcher for a left-handed batter. Travis Ishikawa drew a walk but Gregor Blanco flied out to strand two – and take away the last chance to make a winner of Bumgarner.
Bumgarner threw 101 pitches while allowing two runs on seven hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out six.
Jean Machi allowed a hit and a walk in the seventh but got Trumbo to strike out to escape the jam. Sergio pitched around a hit in the eighth and Santiago Casilla struck out two in the ninth to earn the save.
At the plate
The Diamondbacks decided a day earlier that they would switch the starting pitcher and throw an assignment to Chafin, a young left-hander who was making his second major league appearance.
That was not good for the Giants, who were 27-29 against left-handed starters. Sure enough, they only managed four hits in six innings against Chafin, but Crawford’s negative-split season continued.
He hit an RBI double in the second inning – his 15th RBI in 15 games – and singled off right-hander Randall Delgado to start a rally in the fifth. Juan Perez walked and Bumgarner, after taking one free swing, got down a two-strike bunt. Gregor Blanco followed with a safety squeeze as the Giants took a 2-1 lead.
Their tiebreaking rally in the ninth started when Pablo Sandoval drew a walk, Crawford lined his fourth hit of the game and Belt, pinch hitting for Perez, took a wide 3-2 pitch from Addison Reed.
Duffy, pinch hitting in the pitcher’s spot with one out, lost one of his custom bats – the knobs depict the fictional beer pitchman from “The Simpsons” – when he took a swing and flung it 12 rows above the Diamondbacks dugout. But Duffy laid off a 2-2 slider down before finding one he could handle, dumping his single to center field.
Duffy is 4 for 10 as a pinch hitter.
The Diamondbacks didn’t give the Giants any extra outs. Nick Ahmed made an athletic stop and balletic turn to start a 6-4-3 double play in the sixth. Hunter Pence nearly beat the relay and the Giants challenged, but the near-tie wasn’t clear enough to overturn the out call on the field.
The Giants did with two outs in the ninth, though, as Sandoval got caught in between bounces for an error. Pollock followed with another grounder to third and Sandoval redeemed himself by converting the out.
The Diamondbacks announced 19,272 paid. And no, they do not sell Duff Beer at the concession stands.
The Giants take Thursday off before beginning a three-game series with the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Friday. Tim Hudson, Yusmeiro Petit and Ryan Vogelsong are scheduled for the Giants. The Padres are expected to start right-handers Odrisamer Despaigne, Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy.