SAN FRANCISCO — After traversing four cities over the past 11 days, the Giants’ team charter landed back home at about 2 a.m. Tuesday. And later that night, they began their brief home stand in the same fashion as the final four games of their road trip: with another notch in the win column.
The season is only 18 games old, yet San Francisco is already able to claim its second winning streak of five games. And seemingly a new cast of contributors is leading the way each night.
Kicking off the Bay Bridge series Tuesday, it was Wilmer Flores’ turn, driving in half of the Giants’ runs and scoring twice to back up another excellent showing by Carlos Rodón in a 8-2 win over their crossbay rivals. Flores doubled and homered — later padded by a three-run blast by Austin Slater — and Rodón tossed six innings while limiting the A’s to a single run.
Whatever implications of the rivalry were lost on a team that was simply excited for the opportunity to sleep in their own bed.
“I don’t know that we’ve fully made the transition yet,” manager Gabe Kapler said before the game, a little over 12 hours after the team plane landed back in San Francisco. “I know it’s exciting for a lot of fans here in the city and the Bay Area and we share that excitement, but probably haven’t made the transition fully to be fully invested.”
Maybe the rivalry had lost a little luster, too, as one side actively explores avenues out of the region.
A’s president Dave Kaval marked the occasion by naming two potential sites in Las Vegas for a new ballpark and posted several messages on social media mocking the crowd size of 32,898 at Oracle Park, which outnumbered any two combined games at the Coliseum this year, despite a patchwork squad of prospects taking a surprising 9-8 record in to Tuesday night.
But this A’s squad was no match for Rodón and the red-hot Giants.
If there’s been one constant during the Giants’ 13-5 start to the season — a better winning percentage than any team but Mets, overtaking the Dodgers with their loss to Arizona — it has been Rodón’s ability to make hitters look foolish, if they dare swing at all.
Rodón got a head start on his teammates and a full night’s sleep, flying directly back to San Francisco from Washington, D.C., Sunday night rather than join the team on its pit stop in Milwaukee.
He used that rest to cross the 100-pitch threshold for the first time this season, mostly out of necessity to complete six innings despite delivering a clean, if not the most efficient, set of frames. Rodón only ran in to real trouble once, issuing a walk to Nick Allen and allowing him to score on Sheldon Neuse’s second single of the game in the third inning.
The A’s attacked Rodón’s fastball, swinging at 42 of his 66 offerings, but to little avail.
Rodón surrendered only three hits over his six innings while striking out nine. The outing actually raised his ERA slightly, from 1.06 to 1.17, still good for the fourth-best mark in the majors.
With 38 strikeouts through his first four starts, Rodón not only leads the majors this season but eclipsed Tim Lincecum for the most through the first four starts of a season in franchise history.
And unlike his previous outing, where the heater was the only pitch Rodón had a feel for and threw it 80% of the time, Rodón had his slider working again Tuesday night. The final six of his nine strikeouts came via his slider.
The A’s plated one more run off reliever Dominic Leone but mounted no real threat to the Giants, who got all they needed from Flores and more from Austin Slater.
Flores made good use of batting behind Brandon Crawford, who drew walks in the second and third innings and was driven home by Flores each time.
In the second, after Crawford’s first walk, Flores launched a fly ball that looked destined to leave the yard but settled for an RBI double off the base of the left-center field wall. Flores’ next fly ball an inning later, with Crawford and Brandon Belt on base, couldn’t be contained by marine air or padded walls, sailing into the left-field seats for Flores’ second homer of the season.
It was Joc Pederson, MLB’s home run leader (6), who played the hero along with rookie Luis Gonzalez in the Giants’ 4-2 win to cap their trip Monday night. And on Tuesday, it was his platoon partner who parked one to pad the Giants’ lead, as Slater sent a seventh-inning pitch just over the arcade in right field for a three-run blast that made it 8-2.
Flores’ five-game hitting streak came to an end Monday in Milwaukee, but he picked up right where he left off Tuesday. His 2-for-4 showing made him 10-for-27 over his past seven games. Now, Slater is riding a four-game hitting streak, reaching base five times in his past 11 at-bats, including both of his home runs this season.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism