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Rookie helps Giants get back on track

MLB.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mired in a four-game losing skid, the Giants turned to Dereck Rodriguez on Friday to effectively be the stopper and even the series against St. Louis. Like he's done all season, the rookie delivered.

The right-hander continued his masterful freshman campaign, scattering five hits and two runs across 6 2/3 frames in a 3-2 victory over the Cardinals at AT&T Park. It was his third consecutive quality start, and more importantly, the Giants have won his last five outings.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Mired in a four-game losing skid, the Giants turned to Dereck Rodriguez on Friday to effectively be the stopper and even the series against St. Louis. Like he's done all season, the rookie delivered.

The right-hander continued his masterful freshman campaign, scattering five hits and two runs across 6 2/3 frames in a 3-2 victory over the Cardinals at AT&T Park. It was his third consecutive quality start, and more importantly, the Giants have won his last five outings.

View Full Game Coverage

"I felt good today, commanded the ball in and out of the zone, threw a lot of strikes," Rodriguez said. "I think I was just getting ahead of guys because I didn't punch a lot of guys out. Getting ahead of guys and getting them to roll over on a lot of pitches."

Manager Bruce Bochy agreed with his starter.

"He did a terrific job and you just like his command, doesn't beat himself," Bochy said. "He's just been pitching outstanding."

Video: STL@SF: Bochy on Panik's injury, Rodriguez in 3-2 win

Of the 20 outs that Rodriguez recorded, 13 of them came on ground balls. Despite being a rookie, he's gone beyond the sixth inning in three straight starts. He's also lowered his ERA to 3.09, the lowest among National League rookie starting pitchers (minimum 40 innings pitched).

"He's got the strength and stamina to be one of those guys that, when he goes out there, you feel comfortable that he's going to find a way to get you deep in the ballgame," Bochy said.

Rodriguez, who departed with a runner on third in the seventh inning, was picked up by his bullpen. Reyes Moronta (5-1) struck out Harrison Bader to end the threat, Tony Watson pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and newly appointed closer Will Smith threw a flawless ninth to record his third consecutive save.

Video: STL@SF: Smith fans Gyorko to record save in 3-2 win

After managing just five hits the past two games and flirting with the wrong side of a perfect game Thursday evening, the Giants offense found life as the game wore on.

Pablo Sandoval squared up a two-seam fastball and sent it over the left-field wall to put the Giants up, 2-1, in the sixth inning. After the Cardinals tied it in the seventh, Andrew McCutchen responded in the bottom of the frame by ripping an RBI single to left.

"Our game is playing well in close games," Bochy said. "That's where experience comes in."

Fittingly, it's been one of the least experienced Giants who has anchored the staff in the absence of Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. Only 25, Rodriguez seems to be an indelible part of the Giants' rotation.

"I go out there, I got all the confidence in the world," the rookie said. "Whatever happens, I get a ground-ball double play or I give up a home run, I'm just going to go after the next hitter."

Video: STL@SF: Matheny on offense in 3-2 loss to the Giants

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pinch-hitting to lead off the seventh inning, Hunter Pence saw three straight sliders and fell behind in the count, 1-2. The fourth slider Pence squared up, lacing a line-drive single to center field. He advanced to second on Alen Hanson's sacrifice bunt and scored the go-ahead run on McCutchen's single.

"Pence got us started there and we executed, got the bunt down and Cutch came through," Bochy said.

Video: STL@SF: McCutchen hits go-ahead RBI single in the 7th

SOUND SMART
In their four-game losing skid, the Giants had walked against opposing starting pitchers just three times. Additionally, opposing starters had pitched seven innings or more in each of those four games. On Friday, the Giants walked three times against Cardinals starter John Gant, two of which came in the second inning and helped them score in that frame without notching a hit.

Video: STL@SF: Crawford scores Giants' 1st run on wild pitch

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Three-time Gold Glover Brandon Crawford niftily backhanded Paul DeJong's grounder in the second inning and threw out Jedd Gyorko at home to preserve a scoreless tie. It was Crawford's second assist to home plate this season.

HE SAID IT
Rodriguez was surprised when he was told he got 13 ground-ball outs on Friday. "How much, 13? I don't think I've ever gotten more than 10 in my life." When asked if he was a fly-ball pitcher in the Minors, he laughed. "Yeah. By a long shot."

UP NEXT
In his first start back from his second DL stint of the season, Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 6.56 ERA) will face the Cardinals for the 24th time in his career (13th start) at 1:05 p.m. PT on Saturday. The Giants are hoping to turn the right-hander loose, given that he's five days removed from his fourth rehab start. For Samardzija, it's all about finding the strike zone. He's walked at least three batters in six of eight outings this season. He'll be opposed by Carlos Martinez (5-4, 3.20).

Martin Oppegaard is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area.

San Francisco Giants, Dereck Rodriguez