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Chris Heston dazzles, Giants take series

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The Giants won their ninth-straight series in Chase Field, which is absurd.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, that's right. If a team wins the first game, loses the middle game, then wins the last game, that's a good thing. It means there's no reason to freak out about the middle game. Right, right. I remember that now. Sorry about Tuesday night, everyone. It's spring training for me because I ignored the real spring training. My bad.

It appears as if the weird, awful Cactus League didn't mean as much as we knew it didn't. Nori Aoki looked like he was holding his bat by the barrel in March, but he looks like Rod Carew now. The pitching was awful two weeks ago, and now it's quite alright. I can't wait to forget these lessons by next February.

Before talking about the lineup hitting the ball all over the ballpark and scoring runs, it's appropriate to write a paean to Chris Heston. The Giants, eight starters into the season by the third game, had no right to get that kind of outing from the 39th man on their 40-man roster. Laugh at the Diamondbacks' pitching -- and the Giants do have 78 games left against them, so hopefully we'll all get that chance over and over -- but they have more than a couple excellent hitters in the lineup. They have power and gap power and speed and Paul Goldschmidt. They're the kind of team that can win, even when the other team gets six runs. Like Tuesday night.

Heston, though. He looked like an incredibly uncomfortable at-bat, with movement darting in on the hands of right-handed hitters and quick, well-placed breaking balls to all hitters. Every pitcher who doesn't throw hard gets lumped in the Yusmeiro Petit zone, where the ceiling is to be Petit and the floor is to be the thousands of similarly skilled pitchers who can't quite be Petit. That's probably still the case for Heston, except there were two things that bugged me all game.

1. He throws in the low-90s
He was sitting 91-92 for most of the game, which makes him about the second-hardest thrower in the rotation. That's a smartest-Canseco contest in a lot of ways, but, still. We've seen pitchers succeed with that kind of velocity, as long as the ball is put in the right place.

2. That movement
Apparently, I've watched Heston start a game before. Don't remember a thing about it. I certainly don't remember the running movement on his fastball, which seemed like broken thumbs waiting to happen. You hear that, Belt? You stay away from Heston in the intrasquad match-ups.

On Heston's second pitch of the game, that movement ran right into the leadoff hitter's butt. Seconds later, Heston threw the ball down the right-field line. Can you imagine doing that within five minutes at your new job?

Branch manager: And this is where your station will be.

New teller: /chokes on six rolls of quarters

Branch manager: Sweet no, what are you ..

New teller: /gets lips caught in bill-counter

That was Heston's introduction to the team and fans. Hello, other team, here is a free run. After that, He settled the heck down, and it was fun to watch.

Like anything else this early, assume nothing is for real and everything is a lie. Heston is a year-and-a-half older than Madison Bumgarner, so a prospect he's not. But I can regale you with tales of non- or semi-prospects who became valuable pitchers in their mid-to-late 20s. Doug Fister. Jacob deGrom. Tanner Roark. Jason Hammel, Tom Koehler, and Kyle Lohse.

Is Heston going to succeed like any of those pitchers? I don't know. The odds are against it. He didn't allow a lot of runs in the Pacific Coast League last year, though. He pitched well in El Paso and Las Vegas, two of the freakier Coors-like parks in the PCL. He held his own in Albuquerque and Salt Lake City.

He was doing something right down there.

Maybe he'll keep doing things right. It's been too long since the Giants caught a break like that, so here's hoping.

★★★

For now, though, there's one Heston highlight on MLB.com

Oh, sure. It's like going to high school for four years, but you eat one wig on a dare in theater, and suddenly that's the only thing you're known for. Great, just great.

★★★

The thing about the lineup scoring five runs -- five! -- is that they should have had more. Hard-hit balls were caught. Brandon Crawford drove one to the deepest center field in the National League. Buster Posey had a couple of ropes that were caught, and Justin Maxwell almost hit his first Giants home run. It could have been one of those games where we all grumbled about poor luck, like a bunch of weenies. Instead, the Giants looked like a functional group of hitters against a dysfunctional pitching staff.

There will be games and series where they're all cold. But for now, Aoki's hot, Pagan's hot, Posey's hot, Crawford's really hot, I guess McGehee has 20 percent of his 2014 home run total already ... everyone's hitting the ball everywhere.

You know what that kind of roll needs? A series in Petco Park against Lance Peterlance and the 499 other faceless Padres relievers. Jeez, what timing. Still, it's better to have scored and won than it is to never to have scored and won at all.

★★★

When there's a rest day for Belt, it's mildly annoying, often because it means swapping his bat out for the backup catcher's, which is a net loss.

When there's a rest day for Crawford, the defense and lineup get worse. When there's a rest day for Pagan, the lineup isn't as deep. You can do this for almost every position.

When Joe Panik needs a rest, not a whole lot changes. That has to do with Panik not exactly being Bobby Doerr, sure, but it also has to do with the similar skill sets and Matt Duffy being pretty alright. I'm not saying a platoon is inevitable. It's just nice to have interchangeable parts that swap out so seamlessly.