Bivens, bullpen lead Giants around 'a ton of traffic' in Cleveland

July 6th, 2024

CLEVELAND -- Spencer Bivens has done everything the Giants have asked of him this year.

In his debut, he picked up his first MLB win with three effective innings against the Angels. Last week, he pitched five innings against the Dodgers in his first MLB start. And on Friday, he set the tone for the Giants' bullpen with three effective and important innings in the Giants’ 4-2 win over the American League-Central leading Guardians at Progressive Field.

While the Giants ended up allowing 11 hits, they were able to bend but not break against one of baseball’s best offenses.

“They had a ton of men on base and a ton of traffic, but we were able to make the pitches we needed to,” manager Bob Melvin said. “[The Guardians] are pretty relentless but at times you’ve got to make big pitches.”

Bivens, who was the first pitcher called upon from the Giants bullpen after Erik Miller tossed a scoreless first, opened with two scoreless innings but was tagged for a run right out of the chute in the fourth inning when Josh Naylor crushed a leadoff homer.

After that, David Fry and Andrés Giménez tagged him for back-to-back singles to put the potential tying run at the plate with no outs. But instead of making a move, Melvin elected to stick with his 30-year-old rookie.

Bivens immediately rewarded that faith by getting Daniel Schneemann to fly out before inducing an inning-ending double play from Gabriel Arias. Crisis averted.

“That was huge,” Melvin said.

Two innings later, the bullpen wiggled out of another jam when the Guardians tagged Randy Rodríguez for a run and had a chance to strike for more before Ryan Walker entered and got a fielder’s choice and inning-ending strikeout. Crisis averted again.

“I wanted to get out of that for Randy,” Walker said. “We want to pick each other up. I wanted to go in and do my thing for Randy.”

In the eighth inning, it was Tyler Rogers’ turn to walk the tightrope after a Brayan Rocchio double put runners on second and third with two out, but he was able to get Bo Naylor to ground out to end the threat.

Camilo Doval kept that trend up in the ninth when he allowed the first two runners to reach, which led to Melvin doing some mental math to try to figure out what he’d do if the game went to extras.

But Doval ended up making sure those plans could get thrown aside , as he struck out All-Star José Ramírez before getting Josh Naylor to ground into a game-ending double play.

In total, Giants pitchers held the Guardians 0-11 with runners in scoring position against Giants pitching.

“We’re not trying to do too much or be too fine,” Walker said. “We’re going in there trusting our stuff and just staying mentally aware of who we are as pitchers. When you start being too fine is when you get in trouble.”

The Giants staked their cavalcade of relievers to an early lead thanks to a three-run outburst in the first inning off Guardians starter Tanner Bibee, with the big blow coming in the form of a two-run double from Michael Conforto.

Conforto helped generate another run in the fourth inning when he led off with a double, moved to third on an error from Arias and scored on Nick Ahmed’s bunt single.

“It’s always big to jump on the opposing starter early, especially against these guys with the bullpen they have,” Conforto said.

While Melvin has had to spend most of the season piecing 27 outs together thanks to injuries to rotational cogs like Blake Snell, Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn, Robbie Ray and Alex Cobb, things are beginning to turn.

Harrison, who’s missed close to a month with a right ankle sprain, will make his return to the mound on Saturday. Snell should be back early next week. Ray and Cobb should be back shortly after the All-Star break.

But even when those reinforcements come back, Walker and his ‘pen mates will still be ready to answer the call whenever they’re asked.

“Yeah, we’ve had to cover a lot of innings, but everyone’s been down to do it,” Walker said. “Everyone’s ready to go.”