San Francisco Giants

Giants beat D-Backs, and Chris Heston can pitch

Chris Heston Hunter Pence

There would’ve been no reason to throw in the towel after the first series of the season if the Giants got routed in this game, especially since none of their injuries are of the season-ending variety at this point. But if Chris Heston came in and got rocked, or just looked like he couldn’t handle the pressure, the Giants would’ve had one more reason to worry about the long-term viability of their rotation.

Instead, Heston pitched beautifully. After hitting the first batter he faced, A.J. Pollock, and allowing Pollock to snag two more bases on a bad pickoff throw, Heston surrendered Arizona’s first gift run of the game on a ground ball. It was especially annoying since the Giants had already squandered a bases loaded, one-out opportunity in the top of the first. But Heston pitched really well from then on, and the Giants took the series with a 5-2 win.

Every pitch Heston threw seemed to move. Sinkers that rode in on righties, tight curveballs, and a wicked changeup he used a little less often but no less expertly. The other run was scored by Paul Goldschmidt, who crushed a double to right, but it’s tough to blame Heston for giving up a liner to the wall against one of the best hitters in the game. It’s easier to blame Hector Sanchez for the “wild pitch” and passed ball that allowed Goldschmidt to advance two more bases.

On the other hand, Sanchez seems to have a calming influence and Heston had to have been amped. He pitched a little bit last September with the Giants, but he was a different person and pitcher then. Now he’s on the edge of gaining a spot in a big league rotation that, if he pitches well enough, he might not relinquish for months or even years. Besides an inability to throw the ball correctly whenever he saw Pollock at the very beginning, Heston showed a Bumgarneresque ability as he allowed three hits over six innings to make everything seem surprisingly smooth and tranquil. Well, except for that moment when Heston fell off the mound, as if that particular baseball he threw was actually one of those eight-pound “shots” they use in the track and field event that’s dominated by hulking, sweaty guys.

Player of the Game: Chris Heston

The curveball he threw to end the fifth was filthy. Heston isn’t exactly Adam Wainwright, and we’re getting waaaaayyy ahead of ourselves to plot out each of his next 31 starts with the Giants over the rest of the 2015 campaign, but that’s a good curveball from a right-handed starter right there.

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— Did Jean Machi need a little extra time to warm up? Or did Bruce Bochy walk out to the mound and take the ball from Heston before the bottom of the seventh started to allow the Giants fans in attendance to give Heston a standing ovation? I’m guessing it’s possible that Heston’s family was present, and on the radio broadcast I could hear at least one guy trying to start a “Let’s Go Giants” chant. D-Backs fans already know they should stay away from Chase Field this season.

— I also heard Dave Flemming mention on the radio side how all of Casey McGehee’s at-bats seemed to start with 0-2 counts. That included his ninth inning at-bat after Buster Posey hit a bloop single.

The ball got out of the park quickly enough to get the swing and almost all of Duane Kuiper’s trademark home run call on the same vine — that’s a speedy line drive, and now McGehee is a quarter of the way to his 2014 home run total.

— The Giants had 14 hits, but Posey deserved his ninth inning duck snort after hitting balls hard right at defenders on two separate occasions. Brandon Crawford hit a ball that was caught on the warning track in straightaway center. Justin Maxwell hit a smash to left that was caught at the wall.

— I had a feeling that Nori Aoki would be one of those players who looked like he was born to be a Giant, even if his 2015 numbers end up being the same as his three previous MLB seasons.

— Like Aoki, Matt Duffy is a unique ballplayer who seems to be able to hit the ball wherever he pleases. Maybe Duffy’s cue shot down the first base line was dumb luck, but it sure looked intentional.

— This game was all about calming nerves for the Giants, who were probably glancing up at every window they walked under today — just in case there was a teetering anvil, ready to drop at any time. The bullpen followed Heston’s lead with one nice inning apiece from Machi, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.

— And here’s the reality police to remind everyone that the D-Backs are a bad, bad team with awful pitching and one memorable position player.

— Andrew Baggarly gave Henry Schulman a birthday treat in the form of a churro dog with several candles lit, and Schulman enjoyed his dessert. Most of it, anyway.

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