Just Get In

Giants closer (?) Sergio Romo throws a pitch in Los Angeles on September 20, 2016. He secured his first save of the year, striking out 2 of 3 batters faced.

The Giants have a bullpen problem. That might be the most obvious note I’ve ever typed. They’ve blown 30 saves this year, including giving up 5 of 9 leads heading into the 9th inning this September.

Fortunately, they’re back to .500 after last night.

Sergio Romo, who most famously struck out Miguel Cabrera to secure a Giants’ sweep in the 2012 World Series, shut the door on the Dodgers to save a 2–0 victory in enemy territory.

The Giants bullpen has been hurting, for a number of reasons. Yusmeiro Petit is no longer the Giants’ long man and spot starter. Jeremy Affeldt, the sure-armed lefty who won Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, is retired. And Santiago Casilla turned in middle-of-the-road performances as the club’s closer in the first half, before leading the charge to the basement in the second half with the most blown saves in the majors. The young arms the Giants have promoted to pick up the slack have also fallen off lately: Corey Gearrin hasn’t been the same since coming back from an injury, Hunter Strickland looks very far off from the closer the Giants probably hope he’ll become, and the rest of the ‘pen has blown more than their share of saves down the stretch.

Giants fans have to hope that Romo can be the answer, now. After last night, that hope may not seem so far-fetched as it once did.

Johnny Cueto got the start for the Giants, facing Rich Hill in a rematch of his last start against LA. This time, he wouldn’t give up even the single run he did previously. Unfortunately for the Giants, Cueto also left the game in the sixth inning with a groin injury. He’s set to have an MRI today, and the Giants have to hope he won’t miss any time. Every one of his scheduled starts before the end of the year will be must-wins.

Happily, the bullpen was able to pick up their starter. Steven Okert, in just his 14th appearance, went 1 2/3 solid innings, giving up a single hit and striking out 3 Dodgers. Will Smith secured his 22nd hold of the season in the 8th, and Romo followed suit in the 9th to grab his first save. It was a bullpen performance that’s become all too rare in the past few months, and it was a welcome sight for a Giants team that finds itself in a 3-way tie for the National League Wild Card.

Offensively, the Giants benefited from solo home runs courtesy of Eduardo Nunez and Brandon Belt. Belt was 2–4 overall, Nunez 2–5. Buster Posey went 2–4 as well. It was a quiet night for the bats on both sides, as it often is when the Giants and Dodgers play. That the first two games of this series were decided by 2 runs or less shouldn’t shock anyone familiar with the rivalry.

What to Look For:

Belt hitting that home run was a welcome sight. It was just his second dinger in his last 30 games. He also collected his first hits since game 2 of the Cardinals series last week. He’s still 6 for his last 25 at-bats, so he could use a few more 2–4 performances to round out the year.

The Giants need a solid closer by two months from yesterday. They’ve got to hope Romo can follow last night’s performance with a few more clutch saves, or else hand the ball to a very young Derek Law in the 9th inning. Romo has proven in the past that he can handle the big stage, and there’s a microscope on the mound in the late innings for the Giants right now.

Up Next:

Matt Moore will start today against Kenta Maeda. Maeda is pitching on regular rest for just the third time this season. He is 1–2 in those starts. Matt Moore came one out away from no-hitting the Dodgers on August 25. Expect another low-scoring affair.

Elsewhere, the Cardinals are still in Colorado. Luke Weaver will face German Marquez as the Cards go for the sweep of the Rockies. Weaver is coming off the shortest start of his career — just 2 2/3 innings last Friday. Marquez will take the hill for his first major league start. He was this year’s Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, carrying a 2.85 ERA in 135 2/3 innings for the Rockies’ AA club.

In New York, it’ll be rookie vs. veteran in the final game of the Mets-Braves series. Ryan Weber will go for the Braves in his second career start with the big club. He’ll face Bartolo Colon, and the 43-year-old starter has been dealing lately. He’s posted a 2.29 ERA over his last 6 starts, going undefeated in those games. With Jacob deGrom out indefinitely, and Steven Matz’s status still uncertain, the Mets will rely on Colon to do what he’s done his entire career: be an uninjured rock in the rotation.

Injury Report:

If Eduardo Nunez’s oblique is still bothering him, he didn’t show it last night. The home run he hit off of Rich Hill in the 5th inning showed he’s getting plenty of torque into his swing.

Johnny Cueto is set to have an MRI today on his strained groin. As of this writing, there hasn’t been any news. Hopefully the tests will come back negative. The Giants will need Cueto down the stretch and, if they make it, into the playoffs. He pitched 5 1/3 innings of shutout baseball last night before asking to leave the game with a gum-throwing show of frustration over the injury.

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