SAN FRANCISCO — The battle for the National League West figures to be a dogfight, as it’s the only division in baseball with five winning teams. The first two matchups between the Giants and the Rockies have not been particularly competitive, though.
With a 9-2 victory on Tuesday night at Oracle Park, the Giants won their fourth in a row and extended an even more impressive run of success against the Rockies. San Francisco has won nine consecutive games against Colorado and tallied at least 10 hits in each of those contests, its longest such streak against a single opponent since winning 10 straight against the Reds from July 18, 1933, to May 7, 1934.
The Giants, whose lineup is finally clicking following the return of regulars like LaMonte Wade Jr. and Brandon Belt, have outscored opponents 34-17 over their four-game winning streak and will go for a sweep behind veteran Alex Cobb on Wednesday afternoon. Wade and Belt combined to drive in three runs atop the lineup on Tuesday, helping to knock out Colorado right-hander Antonio Senzatela in the fourth inning.
“It makes a big difference because it puts other really good bats down in the lineup and creates some real length,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Whenever Wade and Belt are both in the lineup at the same time, they both see pitches, they’re both selectively aggressive and certainly willing to keep the line moving. … With [Evan] Longoria not that far away, you start to sense that this offense has a chance to really start to come together.”
Here are three takeaways as the Giants improved to 18-12 on the season.
Left-hander Alex Wood took back-to-back losses against the Nationals and Dodgers in his two previous starts, but he got back in the win column with a solid outing on Tuesday. Wood held the Rockies to one unearned run on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 3.60 through six starts this year. The 31-year-old leaned primarily on his sinker and changeup, striking out four and walking two while throwing a season-high 104 pitches.
“Two long innings in a row, so unfortunately I didn’t make it through the full six, but I felt good,” Wood said. “It felt good to throw 100 pitches, if I’m going to be honest. It’s been a while since I’ve done that.”
Wood had to work around traffic, but the only damage he allowed came in the fourth, when Ryan McMahon singled and scored on a double by Yonathan Daza that left fielder Luis González had trouble fielding.
Wood departed with a pair of runners on and one out in the sixth, but Zack Littell bailed him out by striking out Garrett Hampson and Sam Hilliard to end the inning.
“I told Zack I owe him a bottle of wine,” Wood said.
2. Casali’s productive night
With rookie Joey Bart mired in a 3-for-39 (.077) funk that dropped his batting average to .158 on the season, veteran Curt Casali got his 12th start behind the plate. He made the most of the opportunity, going 3-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs to collect his first multi-hit game of the year and boost his batting average from .189 to .250.
“It hasn’t been the best start to the year offensively for me, I feel like lately I’ve been putting together better at-bats and working some walks,” Casali said. “Kind of getting back to what I normally do, getting a lot of 3-2 counts and trying to wear down the pitcher. But it’s nice to barrel a couple of balls the other way, especially because I don’t think I did that once last year.”
González and Casali, who batted eighth and ninth, respectively, combined for five hits to help set the table for Wade and Belt at the top of the order, demonstrating how much more length the lineup has now that the Giants are close to full strength. If Casali continues to swing the bat well, he could end up getting more playing time behind the plate to help take some pressure off the 25-year-old Bart.
3. McGee’s struggles continue
Left-hander Jake McGee emerged as one of the Giants’ most reliable back-end arms last year, but he’s endured a rough start to the 2022 campaign, logging a 9.58 ERA over his first 11 appearances. He took the mound in the ninth looking to rebound from a rough outing against the Rockies on Monday, when he allowed three runs (two earned) over one inning, but he allowed another run after Daza tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly.
While he hasn’t looked as sharp as he did last year, the Giants have been encouraged by the velocity on McGee’s fastball, which topped out at 96 mph on Tuesday.
“The velocity is promising for Jake,” Kapler said. “We’re still trying to figure out the right formula for Jake to be the version of him from last year and 2020, when he was one of the best relievers in baseball. It’s some combination of good arm speed, good pitch characteristics, particularly with his fastball, and then some well-located pitches, as well.”