SAN FRANCISCO -- Doesn't it feel like it's been a long time since April 27?In that world of a little over a month ago, Joe Panik was a bright spot on a struggling Giants offense and Chris Stratton was the team's most consistent starter. Since then, Panik has been out
SAN FRANCISCO -- Doesn't it feel like it's been a long time since April 27?
In that world of a little over a month ago, Joe Panik was a bright spot on a struggling Giants offense and Chris Stratton was the team's most consistent starter. Since then, Panik has been out with a thumb sprain and Stratton has struggled with his consistency.
But on Friday night at AT&T Park, Panik and Stratton enjoyed a "Flashback Friday" of sorts. Panik reached base a season-high four times in a triumphant return from the disabled list, and Stratton struck out seven in six shutout innings as the Giants topped the Phillies, 4-0, in the series opener.
"As a club, we played really good baseball tonight," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We did about everything right. Pitching -- it starts with Stratton. What he did, really had all of his pitches going and did a really nice job. Solid six innings."
Stratton gave the Giants a much-needed quality start, just their fourth in the last 24 games, and completed six innings for the first time since May 4. He scattered four hits -- all singles -- and walked one, silencing a Philadelphia lineup that posted 32 runs against the Giants in a four-game series sweep earlier this season but has largely struggled to score since.
Bochy attributed Stratton's success to the 27-year-old right-hander having crisper breaking pitches and establishing better command. Though Stratton acknowledged a laundry list of teammates and coaches that helped him regain his form, he also attributed the increased comfort with his offspeed pitches to a rather surprising source.
"As weird as it sounds, I actually found my curveball [during a bullpen session] in Colorado, which is a weird place to find it," Stratton said. "Just continually working on things and speeding up my tempo a little bit has really helped everything out."
Meanwhile, after receiving a rousing ovation from the AT&T Park crowd in his first at-bat in over a month, Panik didn't miss a beat in getting the Giants' offense off to a fast start, walking to lead off the first inning before scoring on Evan Longoria's two-out RBI single.
"When you're out for 4 1/2, five weeks, when you come back, you're a little excited," Panik said. "Sometimes you feel a little anxious, and that walk in the first inning really kind of settled everything down and got me into the flow of the game."
He followed that with a two-out RBI single of his own in the second inning off Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta before walking in the fourth and reaching on an infield single in the sixth.
Pivetta was chased after allowing three runs in four innings behind RBI singles from Longoria, Panik and Gorkys Hernandez, matching his second-shortest start of the season.
"I was where I wanted to be, swing-wise, physically, seeing the ball, all that type of stuff," Panik said. "Just coming back -- Pivetta, he's a pretty good pitcher. Good stuff, so to have a good night off somebody like him was definitely good."
The Giants tacked on a late insurance run after an Andrew McCutchen leadoff triple and a wild pitch in the seventh, while Tony Watson, Sam Dyson and Hunter Strickland struck out six Phillies over three innings of relief to preserve the shutout.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Odubel Herrera seemed determined to make life interesting for Stratton as he led off the fourth inning. After working a full count, Herrera hit a deep fly down the right-field line that cleared the wall but hooked just foul. One pitch later, he hit a deep fly ball into the left-center-field gap but was robbed of extra bases on a sliding catch by center fielder Hernandez at the warning track.
Per Statcast™, Hernandez had to cover 95 feet in 5.2 seconds to track down the 363-foot fly ball and make a three-star catch. His sprint speed was tracked at 29.3 feet per second, on the cusp of the "elite" threshold of 30 feet per second.
"He's just playing both sides so well," Bochy said of Hernandez. "He can do a lot of things for you. The defense he gives you, he gives you speed with the stolen base, he can get a bunt down, and this year, he's driving the ball more. He's hitting six home runs. He's really been fun to watch. It's been neat to see his progress."
HE SAID IT
"I just found that out right before I came out. I know his stomach was bothering him, but I just found out. You just hope for the best, because you never want to see somebody go through something like that." -- Panik, on Brandon Belt being taken to a local hospital to be tested for appendicitis
The mending Giants should have another significant piece back for Saturday's 7:05 p.m. PT contest against the Phillies, with veteran Hunter Pence expected to be activated from the 10-day disabled list to serve as the team's fourth outfielder. Rookie southpaw Andrew Suarez (1-4, 5.65 ERA) will make his first career start against Philadelphia opposite right-hander Vince Velasquez (4-5, 4.08), who struck out a season-high 12 batters in a May 10 win over the Giants at Citizens Bank Park.
Do-Hyoung Park is a contributor to MLB.com based in the Bay Area.