Eyes on Chris Heston

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Eyes on Chris Heston

The San Francisco Giants are known for drafting and developing All-Star caliber pitchers.

Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain were all drafted by the Giants and continue to dominate at the major league level. With Erik Surkamp on the disabled list with elbow issues, the Giants have very little depth within the organization when it comes to starting pitchers. The club even signed former Detroit Tigers starter Brad Penny as a backup plan just in case someone were to get injured or Lincecum needed to skip a start to reboot.

Look no further Giants fans; right-handed pitcher Chris Heston is absolutely destroying Eastern League hitters for Double-A Richmond this season.

It was announced Tuesday that Heston was named Eastern League Player of the Week for the week of May 27th. In that week, Heston made two starts for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, striking out 20 batters while allowing just one run to score in 14 innings of work. On Sunday, he struck out a career-high 11 batters in just six innings of work. It is always an honor to get anything like that, Heston said. There are a lot of good pitchers out here in this league so to know you are taken into consideration for a weekly honor like that is always good.

The 24-year old currently has the lowest ERA in all of Minor League Baseball with a 0.70 earned run average. He has allowed just nine runs to score in 64.2 innings of work. He is holding opponents to a pathetic .194 batting average and has struck out 59 batters while only walking 15. He is 5-2 in ten Double-A starts and hasnt allowed more than two runs to score in a game this season.

The right-hander works with four pitches - a sinker, a slider, a change-up and a curve ball. I have given the team a chance to win every time I go out and that is kind of what you are going for, Heston said. I feel like I am where I want to be right now.

The Florida native was drafted by the Giants in the 12th round of the 2009 first year player draft out of East Carolina University. He made his professional debut with the AZL Giants that same year, going 1-5 with a 4.11 ERA in 11 games. In 2010, he was promoted to Low-A Augusta, where he encountered some trouble. In his first full season, he went 5-13 with 3.75 ERA in 26 games.

RELATED: Chris Hestons Stats

Despite a rough start to his career, Heston turned a new leaf in 2011, going 12-4 with a 3.16 ERA in 24 games for High-A San Jose. Heston said that learning how to throw a sinker and adapting to the demanding schedule of being a professional baseball player helped him settle in after struggling in his first full season. He went on to be named a mid-season All-Star and was awarded California League Pitcher of the Week for the week of May 16th, 2011. He struck 131 batters and only issued 40 walks in 151.1 innings.

If he continues to dominate the Eastern League and whittle his ERA down to nothing he could find himself in Triple-A Fresno this season or better yet AT&T Park. Heston feels like he is ready to compete at the major league level right now.

I feel like you have to have that mindset regardless of what is going on, Heston said. That is really why we are all playing the game right now anyways. I could definitely compete at that major league level.

Until that day comes, he is working on staying sharp, focused and hitting his spots in Double-A Richmond. Heston is scheduled to make his next start for the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Friday, June 1st against the Detroit Tigers Double-A affiliate, the Erie SeaWolves. I try not to look to far into what level I am at, Heston said. I just go out there and try to do the same thing, control the strike zone and try not to let them make contact.
Ellen Ward is a Fresno Grizzlies contributor for CSN Bay Area. Follow the @FresnoForecast on Twitter for updates.

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

SAN FRANCISCO — The momentum generated by Christian Arroyo and Michael Morse late Wednesday night lasted just a few hours. By the end of this four-game series, the Giants were left with a harsh reality: Even with two injections of new blood, they are not hitting. 

Arroyo drove in another run Thursday, but that was it for a lineup that couldn’t support Matt Moore’s effort. The bullpen, which had kept Bruce Bochy’s guys in close games all series, finally broke in the 10th. The Dodgers walked away with a 5-1 win and a split of a series that was rather uninspiring for both sides. 

After scoring 10 runs on the last road trip, the Giants scored just eight during the four games against the Dodgers. Three of those RBI came from Arroyo, called up Monday. A fourth came from Morse, called up Wednesday.

“We’ve got to get this offense going,” Bochy said. “It’s a better offense than what we’re doing right now. You need to find a way to put a few runs on the board. We had our chances, we just couldn’t find ways to get the big hit.”

With Denard Span out for at least another week, Bochy moved Hunter Pence to the top of the lineup. His temporary No. 3 hitter against lefties, Eduardo Nuñez, has one hit in his last 20 at-bats. Buster Posey, the cleanup hitter, is batting .357, but he has driven in just three runs this month. With two on and one out in the eighth, he bounced into a double play. The production closer to the bottom of the order has been nonexistent, leading to constant shuffling that has moved Nuñez and Belt to left at times. Bochy said the staff will continue to search of a lineup that works. 

“You talk about it and do thing to adjust, and it will get better, but right now we’ve got some guys who aren’t swinging the bat well, to be honest,” he said. “You look at the order and we don’t have a lot of guys swinging well.”

The list does not include Arroyo, the rookie who will eventually have to deal with adjustments from pitchers. It doesn’t appear that’ll be a problem. Arroyo has been making adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. He did so against Sergio Romo for his first career homer and said he learned about the depth of Julio Urias’ curveball during their first two battles Thursday. In the sixth, the 21-year-old Arroyo drove in the game-tying run against the 20-year-old Urias. The lefty had walked Posey to face Arroyo, who singled up the middle. 

“He handles himself so well,” Bochy said. “They walked Buster and he smokes the ball. This kid has shown he’s not in awe. The upper deck, the bright lights, he comes to play.”

Arroyo’s effort briefly backed Moore, who was sharp in seven innings. Moore struck out eight, six of them looking, but he didn’t get much help and the bullpen fell apart in the 10th with a series of walks.

Bochy challenged his starters on Saturday at Coors Field and they responded with a strong series back home. The bullpen was tested during the first week but — Thursday’s result aside — it has settled down. The Giants are not as worried about their pitching as they were as they flew back from Denver. They know, however, that this team is going nowhere if two runs per game continues to be the nightly output. 

“We’ll tweak it again,” Bochy said of his lineup. “We'll see if we can get this thing right.”

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Quietly over the past couple of weeks, Bruce Bochy’s bullpen had started to settle. Bochy praised the group before Thursday’s game, noting that roles were being defined by pitchers who entered the series finale with the Dodgers with a 0.94 collective ERA this season. That changed in the 10th inning Thursday.

Three relievers combined to give up four runs on four walks and three singles. The implosion ended with a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers and a split of this four-game series. 

For most of the game, this was a day when youth shined. Corey Seager celebrated his 23rd birthday with a solo homer in the first on a two-strike pitch from Matt Moore that caught the heart of the plate. The Giants will be dealing with Seager for years, and if all goes according to plan, there will be years of Julio Urias vs. Christian Arroyo battles, too. 

The 21-year-old third baseman won the first matchup, lining a single to center. Arroyo flew out in his second at-bat against the 20-year-old Urias, but they faced off a third time in a big spot. Brandon Belt drew a one-out walk in the sixth and went to third when a pickoff throw skipped down the line. After an intentional walk of Buster Posey, Arroyo lined another one back up the middle. Urias stuck his glove up but it ticked off and into center for a game-tying single. 

Arroyo ended the young lefty’s day. Moore was done after seven sparkling innings. He struck out eight, six of them looking. 

The game went to extras, and Cory Gearrin walked pinch-hitter Adrian Gonzalez to lead off the 10th. Chase Utley was called up to bunt but he couldn’t get it down. Instead, he hit an infield single off Steven Okert that stayed true to the third-base line. After a walk of Yasmani Grandal, the third straight pinch-hitter, Andrew Toles lined a single to center to give the Dodgers a lead and the wheels soon came off. 

Utley alertly tagged up and scored on a pop-up to foul territory. Justin Turner’s single extended the lead to three and Hunter Strickland’s four-pitch walk of Chris Taylor pushed another across. 

Starting pitching report: Moore gave up 19 hits and 11 earned runs in his two previous starts, but the Dodgers had just two hits, the Seager homer and a Chris Taylor single. Taylor reached third with one out, but Moore got Scott Van Slyke and Cody Bellinger to go down looking. 

Bullpen report: Mark Melancon came on in a non-save situation for a second straight day and pitched a scoreless ninth. 

At the plate: Buster Posey’s hitting streak ended at 12 games. He twice bounced into double plays.

In the field: Posey chased a high pop-up down the right field line in the fourth, but he was going to come up short. Kelby Tomlinson came out of nowhere with the helping hand, making a running catch near the visiting bullpen. Posey smiled and shook his head as Tomlinson whipped the ball back to the infield. 

Attendance: The Giants said they sold out a 500th consecutive game.

Up next: The Giants have a three-city road trip coming up, so it’s time to take advantage of a weekend at home against the Padres. Jeff Samardzija and Luis Perdomo get the opener.