Hicks proves his mettle but 'pen falters vs. Marlins

April 17th, 2024

MIAMI -- continued to show mettle in his nascent starting career for the Giants, but his gutsy effort was squandered after San Francisco’s bullpen stumbled late in a 6-3 loss to the National League-worst Marlins on Tuesday night at loanDepot park.

The Giants jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind a solo shot from Matt Chapman and an RBI double from Wilmer Flores, but the Marlins tied the game by nicking Hicks for a pair of runs in a long fourth inning, then surged ahead by staging a three-run rally against Ryan Walker and Taylor Rogers in the sixth.

Walker entered Tuesday with a 1.93 ERA over his first seven appearances of the year, but he couldn’t preserve the 2-2 tie after replacing Hicks, giving up a leadoff double and a single that set the table for Tim Anderson’s go-ahead RBI fielder's choice.

After issuing back-to-back walks to load the bases with two outs, Walker gave way to Rogers, who surrendered a two-run single to reigning NL batting champion Luis Arraez that extended Miami’s lead to 5-2.

“Not Walk’s best day,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s pretty reliable for us. Once it’s a tie game, we felt pretty good about bringing him in there. But every now and then, you’re going to have an off outing.”

The Giants got one run back on LaMonte Wade Jr.’s pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh, but the rally fell short after Calvin Faucher got Flores to ground into an inning-ending double play. San Francisco finished only 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and struck out 13 times, 10 of which came against Marlins lefty Ryan Weathers.

Hicks didn’t factor into the decision after giving up two runs on three hits over five innings. The 27-year-old converted reliever didn’t have his best command, issuing a season-high three walks, but he managed to grind and keep his ERA at a minuscule 1.57 through his first four starts of the year.

He needed only 31 pitches to breeze through his first three innings, but Hicks more than doubled his pitch count after he was forced to labor through a 37-pitch fourth. The Marlins cut the deficit to 2-1 behind a pair of doubles by Arraez and Bryan De La Cruz and then put runners on the corners with one out when Hicks issued a free pass to Josh Bell.

Hicks came close to getting out of the jam after inducing a potential inning-ending double play ball from Jesús Sánchez, but the Marlins ended up tying the game after the Giants couldn’t record a single out on the play.

Rookie Tyler Fitzgerald -- who was making his first start of the year at second base -- missed the bag after receiving a feed from shortstop Nick Ahmed, allowing Bell to slide into second safely. Sánchez then reached on a fielder’s choice after beating out Fitzgerald’s throw to first, bringing home De La Cruz from third and extending the high-stress inning for Hicks.

“On a slow roller, it’s tough,” Hicks said. “You can’t guarantee that to be a double play anywhere. I wish he would have hit it harder, to be honest. But that’s just part of it.”

The Giants had Erik Miller and Landen Roupp warming in the bullpen after the Marlins loaded the bases on a two-out walk by Nick Gordon, but Hicks managed to limit the damage by getting Rivera to fly out on a 98.6 mph sinker, his second-fastest pitch of the game.

“First few innings, I felt like it was pretty smooth and then I felt like they kind of formed a pretty good game plan against me,” Hicks said. “Just seeing me in later counts. They’ve got some good hitters over there. They had some good ABs. But I’m glad I could limit the damage in that fourth and just take it from there.”

Hicks returned to the mound for the fifth and walked Fortes to lead off the inning, but he came back to retire the next three batters he faced -- Arraez, Jazz Chisholm Jr. and De La Cruz -- to cap his 86-pitch outing.

Marlins manager Skip Schumaker, who served as the Cardinals' bench coach in 2021, said he’s been impressed with the way Hicks has handled the transition into the rotation after spending most of his career as a flamethrowing reliever with St. Louis.

“I think everybody had that in the back of their mind over in St. Louis when I was over there,” Schumaker said. “I was only there one year though as a coach, but it's not surprising seeing that he's being so successful as a starter. He has 100 in the tank whenever he wants it. He can get the ground ball whenever he wants it because the two-seam is so real and he's developed a nice split to get righties and lefties out.”