SAN FRANCISCO – For fans, media and team managers, this one was one of the better early season hypes. For players, as Giants’ second baseman Joe Panik thought, “it is not September baseball.”
Still, the Wednesday night match-up between the Diamondbacks’ Zack Grienke and Giants’ Madison Bumgarner drew more than the usual attention. Both showed why they are among the two best in the game, and each was nearly unhittable through the opening innings.
In a classic pitcher’s duel which seem to turn the baseball clock back to the 1950s, the Diamondbacks managed to get Bumgarner first. Yasmany Tomas led off the seventh with a single to center and Welington Castillo followed with his third homer of the season. That held up for the Diamondbacks defeated the Giants, 2-1 before 41,497, the 415th straight sell-out at AT&T Park. With the win, the Diamondbacks extended their winning streak to four, and go for the series sweep Thursday afternoon.
Before this all started, Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy put the event in perspective. Noting the calendar worked in favor of this marquee match-up, he said the time was ripe for this kind of excitement. Characterizing the contest as “fun,” Bochy said he looked beyond the Greinke-Bumgarner set-up, and indicated the Giants need runs and wins at home.
What happened was the Diamondbacks continued their mastery of the Giants at AT&T. Mainly because of Greinke, Arizona managed to score just enough to put them in the verge of sweeping the series. With the victory, Greinke is now 8-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 11 career starts against San Francisco. For the season, the 32-year-old picked up his first triumph as a Diamondback, and lowered his season ERA to 5.25. He started the game with an 0-2 mark and 6.75 ERA.
If the Diamondbacks managed to get Bumgarner late in the game, Greinke kept the Giants at bay. He pitched out of a two-on and one out situation in the first, one-out doubles in the third and fourth, and at one point, retired nine Giants in succession.
“Definitely, this was the best game so far,” Grienke said. “I just try and make a good pitch every time. The change was good, and everything was all right.”
Clinging to that 2-0 lead in the seventh, the Giants managed a one-out triple from Gregor Blanco off of Greinke, and the right-fielder scored on a single by Angel Pagan. Into the seventh, Greinke reached a pitch count of 102, and said because pitching coach Mike Butcher already made a mound appearance in the seventh, manager Chip Hale’s visit after Pagan’s single ended Greinke’s night.
To close this one out, Tyler Clippard, pitching behind Greinke and Andrew Chafin, retired the Giants in the eighth in order. Closer Brad Ziegler survived a one-out double from Matt Duffy in the ninth, and ended the game by getting Blanco to ground the second and struck out Trevor Brown looking.
“The one to Duffy was up and I wanted to keep the ball down,” Ziegler said afterward. “The Greinke-Bumgarner match-up was fun to watch, and both were fantastic. For me coming into this kind of tight game, you have to think you’ll be mentally ready.”
Against the Giants, Ziegler continues to put up extraordinary numbers. Ziegler extended his consecutive scoreless appearance streak against the Giants to 22 straight outings. That stands as the longest streak all-time by a Giants’ opponent. The save was also his 32nd straight over two seasons.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
The current road trip concludes with a Thursday matinee. The Diamondbacks send right-hander Shelby Miller (0-1, 8.53 ERA) to the hill and draws righty Johnny Cueto (3-0, 3.38 ERA) as his mound opponent.
In his last start, Miller was taken out in San Diego with a bruised hand. That resulted from scrapping his hand on the mound during his follow-through.
Manager Chip Hale said miller worked with Mike Butcher, the Diamondbacks pitching coach, on staying up-right. That way, Hale pointed out, “Shelby gets more extension and doesn’t touch the ground.”
The Diamondbacks return to Chase Field Friday night and open a 10-game home stand. First in are the Pirates for three, and followed by the Cardinals for four, and the Rockies for three.