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Black's role increasing thanks to recent surge

Special to MLB.com

PHOENIX -- Right-handed reliever Ray Black completed another hitless outing with a blow-them-away seventh inning Thursday, and his role is evolving along with his success.

Black struck out Paul Goldschmidt on a 99 mph fastball and fanned A.J. Pollock on an 84 mph slider before getting a weak popup while protecting a 3-1 lead in what turned into an 8-1 victory over the D-backs, the first time this season he was used in a save/hold situation. It will not be the last.

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PHOENIX -- Right-handed reliever Ray Black completed another hitless outing with a blow-them-away seventh inning Thursday, and his role is evolving along with his success.

Black struck out Paul Goldschmidt on a 99 mph fastball and fanned A.J. Pollock on an 84 mph slider before getting a weak popup while protecting a 3-1 lead in what turned into an 8-1 victory over the D-backs, the first time this season he was used in a save/hold situation. It will not be the last.

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"He'll be used like he was last night," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "No problem using him in the sixth, seventh, eighth. He's in the mix with those other guys. What that allows you is to rest some of those guys.

"That's the luxury of having five or six guys you are comfortable with pitching high-leverage situations."

Rookie Black extended his hitless to streak to 9 1/3 innings in his last nine appearance Thursday, with 13 strikeouts in that span. He was touched for a three-run homer by the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter in his Major League debut July 8 but has allowed only three baserunners, all walks, since.

"After that, it's been incredible," Madison Bumgarner said. "Not pretty lights out. Lights out, for sure."

Black, 28, averages 98 mph with a fastball that he throws about 70 percent of time, according to fangraphs.com, and uses the slider as a primary secondary pitch.

The key word?

"Conviction," Black said. "Each pitch, attack the hitter. Have conviction with this pitch. Two-two sliders, don't think about babying it over the plate. Let it go. You see guys strike out on pitches in the dirt all the time in this league.

"You just have to trust your stuff and trust your catchers. The guys behind the plate are really the ones that do the most work. I'm just throwing the pitch. They are evaluating the hitters. They have the pregame reports. They have everything. They are the ones thinking. I'm just a robot out there."

Options at second

Chase d'Arnaud started at second base for the third time in four games Friday when Arizona threw left-hander Patrick Corbin, and the Giants will use a platoon there for the time being, Bochy said.

Left-handed-hitting Joe Panik started against Zack Greinke on Thursday, and both d'Arnaud and Alen Hanson were used as pinch-hitters in that spot later in the game.

Panik, who returned from his second stint on the disabled list Monday, has played only 57 games this season because of thumb and groin injuries. After hitting 10 homers and driving in at least 53 runs each of the last two seasons, he has four homers and 14 RBIs.

"No question they [injuries] have taken a toll on his season," Bochy said. "He did get off to a great start. Had a couple of pretty big interruptions, and that's going to play a part in your season. In this situation something could change. Joe gets on a roll, that could change. But we had to rush him up here a little bit because of our injury situation."

Switch-hitter Hanson started four of the five games before Panik was activated and has been effective as a pinch-hitter, going 8-for-14 with a homer and six RBIs, all hitting left-handed.

"I like having him come off the bench," Bochy said. "He's got pretty good numbers as a pinch-hitter. There are few positions I can double-switch with him, so that gives you value there. The speed plays well. Instincts. He has scored a couple of runs where he is probably the only guy on the club who would have scored those runs."

Jack Magruder is a writer for MLB.com based in Phoenix.

San Francisco Giants, Ray Black