SAN FRANCISCO -- Dereck Rodriguez made his first career start on June 3, more than two months and 59 games into the regular season. That's not quite the traditional recipe for a Rookie of the Year candidate, but Rodriguez's winding path to a Major League mound as a converted outfielder was anything but conventional.
On Sunday at AT&T Park, Rodriguez (6-1, 2.25 ERA) bolstered his Rookie of the Year campaign, quieting the Pirates over seven innings as the Giants salvaged a series split with a 4-3 win. Rodriguez gave up just one run and scattered two hits while striking out four. It was his eighth consecutive quality start.
"He finds a way," manager Bruce Bochy lauded. "He's such a competitor, too. You see how poised he is out there. He's been so consistent getting us deep in the game."
Bochy displayed his faith in Rodriguez early on Sunday afternoon. With two outs and a runner on third in the second inning, Bochy eschewed an intentional walk to face the pitcher and let Rodriguez go after Jordy Mercer. The young right-hander rewarded Bochy by striking out Mercer swinging with a four-seam fastball to end the threat.
"I threw [my fastball] a lot more today," Rodriguez said. "I made an adjustment since my curveball was breaking, just not where I wanted it to be. I just made an adjustment like I did last game and it worked out for me."
The Pirates weren't as fortunate pitching to the eight hitter. Spelling Buster Posey for the series finale, Nick Hundley belted an RBI triple to tie the game in the third inning, and his two-out, run-scoring single in the fourth extended the Giants' lead to 3-1.
Joe Panik provided the rest of the offense, bringing home a run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning and looping an RBI single to center in the sixth.
After seven scoreless innings and a tough no-decision in his last start, the Giants offense was able to pick up Rodriguez. Sunday's outing dropped his ERA to 2.25, the second lowest mark in the National League among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched. Jacob deGrom is first; Aaron Nola, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw round out the top five. That's four All-Stars, two Cy Young winners and one impossibly consistent rookie.
Rodriguez smiled when asked about the Rookie of the Year chatter.
"After every start I think about it and control what I can control," Rodriguez said. "The other guys are having good years. [Juan] Soto's having a great year, and [Ronald] Acuna and [Brian] Anderson, so it's a good run."
Inevitably, Rodriguez baseball career began in the shadow of his father, 14-time All-Star and Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez.
Said the younger Rodriguez: "I've been waiting for that my whole life, to be my own player. I knew it was going to happen when I got called up, the son of Pudge and stuff, but I'm just happy. Slowly but surely I'm starting to separate myself from him a little more."
One thing Pudge never did? Win Rookie of the Year.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In the fourth inning with Gorkys Hernandez on first, Steven Duggar laced a grounder that bounced off first baseman Josh Bell. As Joe Musgrove raced to cover the bag, Duggar beat out the infield single. While Musgrove pleaded his case with first-base umpire Chris Conroy, Hernandez alertly scampered to third. He scored three pitches later on Hundley's infield single.
"I knew [Duggar] was going to be safe," Hernandez said, "but when I saw the pitcher talking to the umpire, I thought, 'Now is the time to go.'"
The Giants are now 46-14 (.767) when they score at least four runs.
HE SAID IT
"That was a long time ago. As you can see, I don't swing the bat quite as well as I used to. It's been crazy, going from an outfielder to a pitcher and being in the spot I'm in now. It's really cool." -- Rodriguez, on his transition from outfielder to pitcher
The Giants will hand the ball to Madison Bumgarner (4-4, 2.69 ERA) for the series opener on Monday at 7:10 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium. The left-hander is coming off one of his best outings of the season, in which he threw seven scoreless frames and struck out seven Astros. San Francisco is 21-17 in series openers this season, and Monday will be the first of an 11-day, 10-game road trip. The Dodgers counter with fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 2.58 ERA).