PHILADELPHIA – The Giants’ depth is questionable at best, and GM Brian Sabean is trying to remedy that with 10 days to spare before the non-waiver trade deadline.
But they wouldn’t have scored a 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies Monday night if not for two players who jostled for possession of the armrest on two flights from Triple-A Fresno a day earlier.
You don’t get any deeper than that.
George Kontos entered a situation that was unstable in more ways than one and reestablished containment. Then Adam Duvall’s two-run home run off Cliff Lee gave the Giants a lead in the sixth inning they would not relent.
The result was a series-opening victory – the third consecutive of those the Giants have won after dropping the previous six series openers.
They very nearly had a loss, and something worse that would have lingered for days. Managers can pace themselves a canal when their starter has allowed 11 hits in the fourth inning, they’ve already put another starter on the DL and their long guy is off limits because he’s down to pitch the next day.
That’s the depression Bruce Bochy formed when Matt Cain went on the disabled list, Yusmeiro Petit went back into the rotation and Ryan Vogelsong had one of those days when every filet and chop hit the slaughterhouse floor.
“Oh yeah,” said Bochy, who took out Vogelsong in the fourth after Ryan Howard dunked a two-run, check swing single into left field. “When Howard placed that ball with the bases loaded, you think, `OK now, it could be one of those nights that tear up your bullpen.. … That’s why it’s so important when your first guy can come in and settle everybody down.”
Enter Kontos, who entered with the Giants down 4-3, runners at the corners and no outs. He threw a cutter that froze Marlon Byrd, a backdoor slider that froze Domonic Brown and got a fly out to strand both runners. Then he tossed a scoreless fifth inning.
“Every time I come up, I expect to be here the rest of my career,” said Kontos, who is in the unfortunate position of riding the Fresno shuttle because he’s the only reliever with a minor league option. “You can’t control it, but wherever I’m pitching my job is to get outs, locate my pitches and do my job. Hopefully it’s here.”
Bochy said Buster Posey noted after Kontos’ sixth inning that the right-hander’s stuff was among the best he’s seen.
“Velocity, movement, his slider, his change,” Bochy said. “He’s worked hard and it’s evident he’s worked hard.”
Javier Lopez, Jean Machi, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla allowed one baserunner over the final four frames. The Giants not only won, they emerged with their bullpen mostly intact.
They didn’t have high hopes for that in the fourth inning, when Vogelsong got check-swinged out of the game. The right-hander was fighting a cold that sapped him of energy.
“Well, I’m not going to say I knew it was going to be like this, but I knew it was going to be like this,” Vogelsong said. “I can’t kick this cold. I had no energy going into the game. I knew I was going to have to battle. The one thing about baseball and about me, on a night when you don’t need a tough night, it’s probably going to be a tough night.
“Hopefully I get my energy back because I feel I’ve thrown extremely well these last four or five games. Chalk it up to a bad night and move on to the Dodgers.”
The Giants will have Tim Lincecum, Vogelsong and Petit against Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Brandon Belt will be out for at least the first two games of that series, too, while on the 7-day concussion DL.
So perhaps Duvall will get more chances until then. Kontos likes that prospect, too.
“I mean, he’s got 26 homers down there,” Kontos said. “He’s got easy power to all fields. When he gets jammed, the ball still has a chance to go.”
He didn't get jammed against Lee, hitting a 1-0 fastball to dead center.
“It’s cool to face guys like that,” Duvall said. “I thought I got it and then it looked like it started to die. I wasn’t sure. I had enough backspin on it, I guess.”
From Fresno to a connection in Dallas to Philadelphia and a 1 a.m. arrival at their hotel early Monday morning, it was quite a trip for Kontos and Duvall.
“We didn’t talk too much,” Duvall said. “Headphones on and surf the Internet.”
They went from sharing an armrest to top billing in a big league victory. No upgrade fee required.