Blanco: 'I thought I had a chance for an inside-the-park home run'
Gregor Blanco drove in two runs with a triple in the fourth inning against the Marlins on Saturday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Pablo Sandoval slides safely into first base on an infield single as Marlins' Henderson Alvarez falls on Sandoval in the fourth inning. (AP)
MIAMI – If you think the Giants are just showing up and punching the clock until the season ends, then just take a look at Matt Cain’s face after he gives up a 440-foot home run.
Cain cursed in anger as Giancarlo Stanton rounded the bases, one pitch after the power-hitting outfielder nearly went around on a 2-2 fastball.
But that two-run homer in the sixth inning was the only damage the Miami Marlins inflicted on Cain, who keeps throwing with more life and location after such an uncharacteristic first half.
Pablo Sandoval hustled out an RBI single and Gregor Blanco hit a two-run triple in a four-run fourth inning as the Giants beat South Florida’s glorified Triple-A club 6-4 at Marlins Park.
They have a shot at a winning road trip if they can prevail Sunday behind Madison Bumgarner to pull off a three-game sweep here. True fact: they haven’t posted a winning record on a trip of two cities or more all season.
Starting pitching report
Cain (8-8) continued his solid second half, holding the Marlins to two runs on four hits and two walks in seven innings. He has a 2.41 ERA since the All-Star break and has thrown quality starts in five consecutive outings.
He was perfect until the fourth, when the Marlins battled him for a 38-pitch inning but did not score. Cain pitched carefully while walking Stanton in a nine-pitch confrontation, then Ed Lucas walked to load the bases. Adeiny Hechevarria also battled Cain for nine pitches, but the right-hander helped himself with the defensive play of the game. He reacted quickly and made a clean stop of Hechevarria’s hard grounder up the middle, then lobbed to first base to end the inning.
It was a 38-pitch inning but Cain kept his shutout until Stanton hit a 440-foot shot into the beer bar in left field to light up the psychedelic fish fountain. Cain, who clearly wanted the call one pitch earlier, snapped a fresh baseball into his glove.
Then he struck out the next three batters.
He set down the side in the seventh, too. And if circumstances were different, Bruce Bochy probably would’ve let his ace keep going. But Bochy pledged that he wouldn’t stress Cain the rest of the way, and the manager deemed 112 pitches enough work for the day.
Santiago Casilla allowed two runs in the eighth, but only one was earned. Crawford, the shortstop, committed his 12th error of the season when he made a bad flip to second base for an attempted forceout. Logan Morrison followed with a two-run double.
Sergio Romo retired three batters in order to record his 30th save in 34 attempts. He became the sixth Giant in franchise history to record a 30-save season, joining Brian Wilson, Robb Nen, Tim Worrell, Rod Beck and Greg Minton.
At the plate
The Giants followed Friday night’s smorgasbord with enough light refreshments to keep the guests satisfied.
They set up their four-run rally in the fourth when Brandon Belt walked – one of eight issued by Marlins pitchers in the game – and Buster Posey singled. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch and Pablo Sandoval followed with a two-out ground ball to the right side. He hustled down the line and his headfirst slide beat first baseman Logan Morrison to the bag, but it was not a graceful effort. Sandoval hit with a thud, collided with Morrison and stayed on the ground in discomfort for several moments. Although he pointed to his left arm and shoulder, he stayed in the game.
Sandoval’s hustle allowed a run to score. The Marlins, not surprisingly, tested Sandoval with a snap throw to first base. But the cruel joke was on the home team. Right-hander Henderson Alvarez was called with a balk, allowing Posey to score from third.
Blanco followed with a triple that center fielder Jake Marisnick tried to catch with a full-extension dive. He came up well short as the ball rolled all the way to the wall. Third base coach Tim Flannery initially waved Blanco home but threw up a late stop sign. Even with Cain on deck, it was probably the right call. Blanco likely would’ve been out by 20 feet, and there was no reason to risk injury or embarrassment.
(The last thing the Giants need is to lose another player besides Angel Pagan on an inside-the-parker.)
Although Blanco would love to hit an inside-the-park homer at some point in his career, the triple was satisfying enough – especially since he entered as a .118 hitter in 24 games since the All-Star break.
The Giants didn’t score again until the eighth, after Crawford, Belt and Posey drew consecutive walks. Sandoval walked to force in a run and Andres Torres hit a pinch single off an infielder’s glove to drive in one more. The only ball to leave the infield in the inning was Hunter Pence’s fly out to shallow left field.
The two-run rally turned out to be pivotal.
Belt walked twice and scored a pair of runs but didn’t extend his hitting streak past 11 games. He was left in the on-deck circle in the ninth.
Second baseman Marco Scutaro made an early exit for the second consecutive game, this time with tightness in his lower back.
Joaquin Arias replaced him at second base in the bottom of the sixth. Scutato had been hitless in three at-bats and grounded into a double play.
A night earlier, Scutaro was removed as a precaution because of beck stiffness. He had a large icepack and towel wrapped around his neck and shoulder prior to batting practice on Saturday.
The Marlins announced 24,653 paid. And here’s a tip for those who come here: If you don’t want to give Jeffrey Loria $20 to park, there’s a nice guy named Gregory who sells spots in the lot across from his house on NW 15th Ave. between 2nd and 3rd. I don’t know Jeffrey Loria personally, but I’m pretty sure Gregory is a better human being.
The Giants and Marlins conclude their three-game series at Marlins Park on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.73 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler (3-8, 4.62). First pitch is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. PDT.