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Bullpen, bats bail out Rodón

Giants win 6-5 over Arizona to extend winning streak to 5

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As the old saying goes: “I’d rather be dead in California than alive in Arizona” whether that rings true for you or not, I think Carlos Rodón vibes with that sentiment as of late.

The pitcher has made two starts in Phoenix and neither of them have gone particularly well, which includes a lot of huffing and puffing and verbal processing avec expletives while on the mound.

On July 4th, Rodón went 5 innings, allowing 4 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7. In Friday’s game, the results were similar.

Tagged for 4 runs on 4 hits—including a booming 2-out 2-run homer from the hot hands and hot headed sheriff’s deputy and part-time Diamondbacks rookie outfielder Stone Garrett—Rodón was pulled with one out in the 4th, responsible for 2 runners on base. Both came in to score on a double off reliever Yunior Marte that Mike Yastrzemski nearly corralled with a diving attempt in right.

What got Rodón into trouble was the temporary lack of command with two outs. After bagging his 5th strikeout on the night for the 2nd out in the 3rd, Rodón lost his feel for the zone and walked Ketel Marte on 5 pitches above the letters. The next batter, Garrett, took a 95 MPH fastball above the letters to deep left-center field.

Similar trouble in the 4th, instigated by a 2-out walk, continued to extend innings and bury Rodón’s pitch count. Garrett’s double with an out in the 5th served as the final nail in the coffin for the ace, finishing the night with 7 K’s, a 3-run lead, but a mess on the bases.

It was the San Francisco Giants bats that kept them afloat in this one.

Both Brandon Crawford and Austin Wynns muscled out solo shots in the 2nd and 3rd innings and David Villar responded to Garrett’s 2-out, 2-run blast with a 2-out, 2-run blast of his own to reclaim the lead in the 4th.

With two outs in the 9th, a throwing error by third baseman Sergio Alcantara set-up an RBI double by J.D. Davis that brought in the eventual winning run.

Based on how sideways the 2022 season has gone for San Francisco relievers, it’s pretty danged surprising how effective they’ve been as of late. With an increased workload from starters Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani on the IL, and usual bullpen stalwarts from Jake McGee to Dom Leone and Zach Littell out of the pitcher (pun), the odds of their season all but bursting into flames seemed certain.

Yet, thanks to some fresh faces and an electric Camilo Doval as the last line of defense, the bullpen has been, dare I say, good?

With an assist from some recency bias, the answer is Hell Yeah! Over the last 5 games, 70 percent of the innings played have been thrown by a reliever, and somehow the Giants have won all of those games. Wonky!

It’s a good reminder of how valuable consistent relievers are going into the offseason. Aaron Judge isn’t a cure-all. They will never be sexy signings, but bullpen pick-ups can be foundational for a team’s overall success.

Enter newly acquired reliever Shelby Miller.

Miller, who’s pitched in the Majors since 2013 for 6 teams, last appearance came in October 2021 for Pittsburgh, before electing free agency, signing with the Yankees, being relegated to the minor leagues before getting released in May of this year. The Giants picked him up in June and on Friday night became the 64th player used by the team in 2022, tying a franchise record.

To celebrate the auspicious occasion and his long journey back to the mound, Miller took over a tie ballgame in the 6th and left it with 2-outs in the 8th. In that span of 8 outs, he struck out 7 with a two-pitch tango of mid-to-high 90s fastball and a wrinkly slider. The mix worked and allowed him to get away with some hanging breaking balls up in the zone.

Alex Young somehow picked up the win by getting one out that looked like this and Camilo Doval stranded the tying run at second to close out the game while casually breaking the sound barrier.