SAN FRANCISCO -- Andrew Suarez (Andy) took a significant step in his development as a big leaguer Saturday by following one of his worst starts with one of his best in the Giants' 5-3 win over the Rangers.
With this Players' Weekend performance, Suarez entrenched himself a little more as a legitimate Major Leaguer.
The rookie left-hander allowed three hits and equaled a season high by working seven shutout innings. One of those hits was Rougned Odor's (El Tipo) fourth-inning bunt single. This represented a complete reversal from last Sunday at Cincinnati, where Suarez coughed up seven hits and seven runs (five earned) in 2 2/3 innings -- his shortest stint in 22 starts.
Suarez attributed his improvement to some mechanical adjustments he made after studying himself on video. "I just made sure to slow down and execute my pitches," he said.
That approach generated 14 outs resulting from ground balls, a barometer of Suarez's mastery of his fastball and cutter -- which are meant to produce grounders. "He was definitely working those two pitches today," Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (DJ BC Raw) said.
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Suarez's skeptics claim that he lacks enough overpowering or deceptive stuff to survive in a big league rotation. Tell that to the Rangers, who advanced only two runners as far as second base against him.
It was a much-needed triumph for Suarez (5-9). He had a 7.71 ERA in his previous four starts, a stretch that began with an Aug. 4 meltdown at Arizona. There, he allowed eight runs and 10 hits, both career highs.
Overall, Saturday's action bore an eerie resemblance to Friday night's series opener, when the Giants squandered a 6-0 lead and wasted a solid starting effort by Dereck Rodriguez (D-Rod). This time, San Francisco marched to a 5-0 advantage before Texas rallied.
Friday night's game ended with Sam Dyson (Pssst) walking in the go-ahead run with the bases loaded; this contest concluded with Mark Melancon (Mel) coaxing a fly ball to left field from Carlos Perez to leave the sacks full.
Fittingly, the Giants honored their 2010 World Series-winning team -- the one that manufactured numerous pressure-packed victories and inspired the one-word slogan "Torture!" -- in pregame ceremonies.
Offensively, the Giants relied mostly on power. Batting .147 (10-for-68) in his previous 20 games, Crawford interrupted his slump with a three-run homer that fueled a four-run first inning for the Giants. Hunter Pence (Underpants), who has long occupied a reserve role, added a homer in the seventh while pinch-hitting for Suarez.
Pence's drive inspired hearty cheering from the AT&T Park audience, which doubtlessly sensed that the popular outfielder could be in his final weeks as a Giant and perhaps in baseball.
"I have a tremendous amount to be grateful for, as far as just being a part of this organization, this fan base, these teammates," Pence said. "So, whether I'm playing every day or coming off the bench, whether people think I'm done -- maybe I am, maybe I'm not -- every day, you're not promised tomorrow and I definitely feel very fortunate every day, being able to do what I love for so long."
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HE SAID IT
"You never know who's watching. So I feel like it's important to respect the game, because you could have a kid or a family that this is their one game to come see and don't forget that, whether you're losing big or winning big. Make sure you're carrying on the tradition of playing the game as hard as you can." -- Pence, echoing the sentiment that the legendary Joe DiMaggio expressed when he said, "A reporter asked, 'Why did you play so hard?' Because there might have been somebody in the stands today who'd never seen me play before, and might never see me again."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
After singling with one out in the first inning, Odor was trapped off first by Suarez but returned to the base safely. At least that's what most observers thought. The Giants begged to differ and requested a replay review, which revealed that Odor was indeed tagged before reaching the bag. The call was overturned.
Derek Holland (Last Name) might feel more excited than usual on Sunday when he opposes the Texas Rangers in a 1:05 p.m. PT series finale. Holland pitched for Texas from 2009-16, compiling a 62-50 record with a 4.35 ERA in 179 games (including 158 starts). Holland lost both of his previous appearances against the Rangers since leaving them, surrendering 12 earned runs in eight innings. Texas will counter with right-hander Yovani Gallardo (Yo), who's 6-4 with a 3.21 ERA in 10 career starts against the Giants.