Streaking Giants look to keep winning in Arizona
PHOENIX — The San Francisco Giants extended their best month in exactly two years with a victory at Arizona on Friday, given a huge boost by rookie outfielder Austin Slater and left-hander Andrew Suarez.
At 17-10, the Giants are having their first winning month since June 2016, and with a victory in the second game of the three-game series Saturday, they will have one more victory than they had that June.
Slater had three hits, including two RBI doubles, in a Giants 2-1 victory on Friday, his sixth day back on his fourth recall from Triple-A Sacramento this season. Suarez gave up one run in six innings and ran his streak to 13 starts without walking more than two.
“He really has that composure out there,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said of Suarez. “He’s got some savvy out there. He knows when to make his pitches. He knows when to be careful, too.”
The Diamondbacks will send right-hander Shelby Miller (0-1, 12.27 ERA) to the mound Saturday for his second start since returning from Tommy John surgery in an attempt so salvage another series win.
The D-backs are 5-0-1 in their last six series since losing two of three at San Francisco from June 4-6. Giants rookie right-hander Dereck Rodriguez (2-1, 3.82) will make his sixth start of the season on Saturday. Rodriguez has never faced Arizona, but he allowed just one run and four hits over seven innings in his most recent start, on Sunday against San Diego. He did not get a decision but the Giants won the game 3-2.
Miller, who underwent Tommy John surgery last May, made his first start of the season in Miami on Monday, when he gave up six hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings while reaching 95-96 mph on the radar gun.
“The fastball command was outstanding,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “I know he is working on his secondary stuff. That’s to be expected. Knowing that he has taken a 15-month journey to get to this point, it’s not going to be a perfect science right away. The secondary pitches are feel pitches, and I know that he is working hard. Landing the second stuff is something that we are hoping to see. We know we see it in bullpens and at different tunes. I know that Shelby is going to be ready for that challenge.”
Miller, the key return in the trade that sent Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson to Atlanta at the 2015 winter meetings, used words of encouragement from Patrick Corbin and the Arizona training staff to get through rehab. Corbin underwent Tommy John in the spring of 2014 season and missed the whole year.
“I talked to Corbin a lot,” Miller said. “The guys in the training room, day in and day out they were giving me reassurance. What to expect. I leaned on them and relied on them a lot. They were big. I am definitely feeling good.”
Miller admitted to feeling some nerves before the Miami start.
“For sure,” he said. “It is different than any other game. It is a big day. I had some minor league rehab starts, but those don’t even compare to the games that are mattering up here. I definitely had some jitters.”
Miller is 2-5 with a 3.51 ERA in nine career starts against the Giants.
Slater has been tearing up the Pacific Coast League in his time between stints in San Francisco. He is slashing .344/.417/.564 with 24 doubles and five homers in 53 games with the River Cats. His 24 doubles were second in the league, and his batting average was sixth when was promoted again last Saturday.
With third baseman Evan Longoria expected to miss at least another month, manager Bruce Bochy mentioned the possibility of giving Slater more time, especially against left-handed pitchers.
Slater is hitting at least .300 against righties and lefties in Sacramento this season, and during his short stay wth the Giants before a leg injury in 2017 hit .333 in 38 plate appearances against lefties.
“We’re missing a right-handed bat, and he could provide that,” Bochy said. “Not that other guys can’t, but you look at what he did tonight and what he’s been doing. He’s going to help stretch out this lineup and us some added offense, which we need against lefties.”
Even with veterans in the outfield, “You have to go with the guys who are swinging the bat well,” Bochy said. “They dictate their lineup.”
Slater has made three starts since being recalled the most recent time Saturday.
“The first couple of times up and down, it is easy to lose focus,” Slater said. “But for me it was try to prove a point that it wasn’t a fluke, that I was here to stay.”