Amid bullpen confusion, SF Giants rally to avoid loss to National League’s worst team

Amid bullpen confusion, SF Giants rally to avoid loss to National League’s worst team

MIAMI — Finally having chased Edward Cabrera, the Marlins starter who flummoxed them for six innings Monday night, it didn’t initially look like the Giants’ luck had shifted when Matt Chapman lined a surefire single into center field that found the outstretched mitt of a diving Jazz Chisholm Jr.

But the next batter, Thairo Estrada, ripped a double down the left-field line and advanced to third on a wild pitch. That turned out to be a sign of things to come from George Soriano, who was called on to relieve Cabrera and put two more batters on base via walks and hit another.

Both free passes came around to score in a three-run seventh inning that erased an early deficit and averted a series-opening loss to the National League’s worst team.

Seeing his first action since last Sunday, Camilo Doval recorded his second save of the season and the Giants won, 4-3.

Mike Yastrzemski, the recipient of the first walk, raced home from second base when Jung Hoo Lee lined the seventh pitch of his at-bat — after fighting off three two-strike pitches foul — into left-center field, and pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores followed with a single up the middle to score Nick Ahmed, the second free pass, for the go-ahead run.

“Ahmed’s walk really set it up,” Melvin said of the seventh-inning rally. “Then obviously two big hits after that.”

The ending wasn’t without intrigue, or at least some confusion.

When Doval entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning, he had yet to throw a warm-up pitch in the bullpen. Taylor Rogers, the lefty, had been warming and made it halfway to the mound, the logical choice to face the left-handed pinch-hitter Nick Gordon.

But Melvin signaled again with his right hand, and after some pause, Rogers walked back to the bullpen. Marlins manager Skip Schumaker was ejected protesting the strange situation, which put the game into a standstill as the Giants sorted out the correct pitcher.

“What problem?” Melvin cracked at the first mention of the mix-up.

Well, a communication one, apparently.

Melvin said he had phoned to the bullpen to have Doval ready to enter to record the final out of the eighth if a runner were to reach base. Assisting pitching coach J.P. Martinez, the acting bullpen coach with Garvin Alston away from the team for personal reasons, took the blame. He said he had Rogers ready to face the lefty, the assumption under which Doval was operating, too.

“I wasn’t paying attention,” Doval said in Spanish. “I saw (Rogers) warming up. I thought it was for the lefty. Then, you know, they called him back and told me I was going in.”

Doval confirmed he hadn’t thrown a single pitch in the bullpen before entering the game. He had been working with some weighted balls, getting ready to enter for the save situation the following inning, but that was it.

“I thought it was unbelievable, and I told him that,” Melvin said of Doval’s shutdown performance coming in cold to his first appearance in eight days. “That can mess you up a little bit. Not only having to do it and come in and get the big out in the eighth, but to have to go out in the ninth and keep your composure like that, I can’t be more impressed.”

Added Doval, “When the phone rings, I transform.”

Doval, Tyler Rogers and Ryan Walker combined to blank the Marlins over the final three innings, and the Giants bullpen lowered its ERA on this road trip to 2.25, a stark improvement from the group’s rocky start to the season.

Behind six strong innings from Kyle Harrison, San Francisco improved to 6-1 when holding opponents to three runs or fewer. The Giants have won only one other game.

Harrison could sense something was brewing in the top of the seventh, and he told as much to Blake Snell.

“He was like, ‘Don’t you have treatment or something?’” Harrison said. “But I was like, ‘Nah, I feel it.’ The guys had my back and came out swinging.”

All three of the Marlins’ runs came in the second inning, started by a solo shot off the bat of Avisail Garcia but aided by a miscue by Michael Conforto.

Harrison had already recorded two outs when Bryan De La Cruz lifted a pop fly into shallow left field. The slow-footed Conforto gave chase but seemed to get caught in between pursuing a diving catch — Yastrzemski provided an example later, robbing catcher Nick Fortes of a hit — and the safe play of letting the ball drop in front of him.

With two potential runs on the bases, Conforto launched feebly off his feet and tumbled to the outfield grass as the ball skirted behind him. One run scored easily, and a second barely outraced Nick Ahmed’s relay throw, which snuck past catcher Patrick Bailey and allowed De La Cruz to chug into third on a Little League-looking play.

On a rare day where the roof was open at loanDepot Park, the wind played a factor, Melvin said.

“We haven’t played here with the roof open,” he said. “You could see in batting practice (the wind) was swirling. Sometimes it was pushing it; sometimes it was pulling it. … It just kind of killed it and shot it left. So it looked like maybe a play that should be made, but it was a difficult play because of the wind.”

Harrison missed middle-middle with a slurve to Garcia, which he punished for a 400-foot solo shot to left-center. But that was all the Marlins got off Harrison, who used his fastball and changeup on all but five of his 85 pitches while holding Miami off the board over his other five innings.

“After that inning, I just kind of got pissed off and really wanted to put up zeroes to keep our team in the game,” Harrison said.

Almost entirely abandoning his once-signature slider, Harrison said the change is all of a sudden his second-most comfortable pitch after his heater. Entering his start, opposing hitters were 9-for-18 with two homers in at-bats that ended with something other than his four-seam fastball versus 8-for-46 (.174) against the fastball.

“That’s not ideal for me,” Harrison said. “I want to figure out that slider again. It’s a weird thing because it’s a pitch I’ve never really lost. … (But) the changeup, discovering how well I can throw that and how much of a weapon it is, it’s something I really didn’t utilize last year or even in spring training. I think it’s something that’s coming along and something I can get guys out with.”

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Opposite Harrison, Cabrera didn’t look like a pitcher who missed most of spring training and was making his first start of the season. Not originally listed on the Marlins’ probable pitchers for the series, he was activated from the injured list (right shoulder impingement) shortly before first pitch.

Mixing a changeup with the velocity of an average pitcher’s two-seamer, a heater that sat in the upper-90s and a pair of sharp-breaking secondary pitches, the 26-year-old righty struck out 10 Giants — the most by a Miami starter this season — and induced 17 swings and misses in six innings while limiting them to a lone run.

That effort, however, was put to waste almost as soon as he hit the showers.

“It wasn’t the greatest matchup to have in the first game,” Melvin said. “But we got him out of the game and did some damage a little bit later.”

Up next

The Giants have two chances to clinch their first road series win of the season, with Jordan Hicks (2-0, 1.00) set to start the second game of the series Tuesday and Keaton Winn (0-3, 5.06) in the finale on Wednesday. They will be opposed by a pair of lefties, Ryan Weathers (1-1, 2.57) and A.J. Puk (0-3, 5.91).