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Moronta key as Giants hold on for 1st win

@mi_guardado
March 31, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Dereck Rodríguez earned the win and Will Smith recorded the save, but the biggest performance of the Giants’ 3-2 victory over the Padres on Saturday night came from a reliever who helped serve as a key bridge between the two: Reyes Moronta. Moronta made his season debut

SAN DIEGO -- Dereck Rodríguez earned the win and Will Smith recorded the save, but the biggest performance of the Giants’ 3-2 victory over the Padres on Saturday night came from a reliever who helped serve as a key bridge between the two: Reyes Moronta.

Moronta made his season debut after being summoned to face Manny Machado with the tying run on second and no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. It didn’t take long for the 26-year-old right-hander to show why he’s such a potent weapon out of the bullpen for the Giants.

Moronta promptly struck out Machado, Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe on 13 pitches to strand Eric Hosmer. He returned to the mound in the seventh and worked around a one-out double to Greg Garcia to post another clean inning, finishing with a career-high five strikeouts in the dominant 38-pitch outing.

“What a game-saving effort,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I put him in a tough situation there, a man on second, nobody out. Two great innings. He won the game for us. Reyes just did a beautiful job there and kept the one-run lead.”

Moronta’s appearance was briefly interrupted after he was forced to change his gray glove for a darker one that was more distinguishable against the Giants’ road uniforms, but it did little to faze his concentration on the mound.

“Moronta is nasty,” said Rodriguez, who gave up two runs over five-plus innings. “I know they don’t really care about that glove color. It was just trying to mess with him. He just stuck with his plan. He made them pay. He looked great today. He was awesome.”

Moronta’s lights-out performance helped propel the Giants to their first win of the year after dropping their first two games against the Padres. While their offensive deficiencies have been exposed early on this season, the Giants’ bullpen figures to be one of their biggest strengths and should help extinguish fires on most nights.

Moronta emerged as a key workhorse for the Giants as a rookie last year, using his lethal fastball-slider combination to log a 2.49 ERA over 65 innings. Over the winter, Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez also sent an intermediary to tell Moronta that he should develop a changeup to pair with his blistering fastball. Moronta made the pitch a focus of his offseason, and he hopes the addition to his arsenal will help make him even better in his sophomore season with the Giants.

Moronta is also working to cut down on leadoff walks, which occasionally got him in trouble in 2018.

“I concentrate on throwing my pitches for strikes,” Moronta said in Spanish. “When you throw a first-pitch strike, it becomes a lot easier for a pitcher, especially if you have a good slider.”

Rodriguez and San Diego left-hander Nick Margevicius matched each other with five scoreless innings to start the game before the Giants finally broke through in the sixth. Steven Duggar singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch before scoring on Yangervis Solarte’s double to right field to give the Giants their first lead of the season. Evan Longoria then knocked in Solarte with a single up the middle, though he later left the game with soreness after fouling a ball off his left calf.

Buster Posey and Gerardo Parra followed with walks to load the bases with two outs for Panik, who delivered an RBI single to right field to make it 3-0. Posey attempted to score from second on the play, but he was thrown out at home by Hunter Renfroe to end the inning.

Rodriguez returned to the mound in the bottom of the sixth, but he fell into trouble after yielding a leadoff double to Manuel Margot and a single to Ian Kinsler. Bochy subsequently brought in rookie left-hander Travis Bergen to face Hosmer, who lined a two-run double to right field to trim the Giants’ lead to 3-2.

Moronta navigated through the jam before turning it over to Tony Watson and closer Will Smith, who pitched a scoreless inning apiece to seal the Giants’ win.

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.