Bullpen game leads SF Giants to second straight win over Cubs

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Giants added to their rotation last offseason, the hope was that bullpen games would become rare. Injuries made it necessary to return to it more often than desired. Over the last two nights, the San Francisco relievers rose to the challenge.

Led by an electrifying outing from Randy Rodríguez, six relievers covered nine innings as the Giants beat the Cubs, 5-1, Tuesday night at Oracle Park.

“I think as a collective unit, it’s been really fun to be a part of this year and to be out there,” said Sean Hjelle, who pitched two scoreless innings. “I feel like the guys are ready at any time in any situation. No one is really afraid of sleeves. It’s pretty fun to be a part of it right now.

All six San Francisco pitchers pitched well on a night where Chicago had just one run on four hits, but it was Rodríguez who particularly wowed. Making his first career start, Rodríguez allowed one run in 2 2/3 innings to open, tying his career record of five strikeouts.

“We’ve seen him this year go from being a fastball player to a guy who is now throwing off-count sliders,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He also makes some changes, which makes him a little more unpredictable. It’s the fact that he can succeed in any field. Earlier in the season, especially in the spring, he wasn’t able to do that.

Rodríguez’s evening started on a questionable note. The right-hander’s first pitch of the game, a 96.7 mph sinker, nearly hit Nico Hoerner in the head, forcing the second baseman to stumble backwards. Rodríguez made it 3-0 against Hoerner, but fought back to record the strikeout and start his night strong. He couldn’t finish the third, allowing an RBI single to Michael Busch, but Hjelle came in to record the final out of the inning to limit the damage.

Although Rodríguez turned heads with his heat, his best pitch against the Cubs was his slider. Rodríguez generated seven whiffs with his breaking ball, the most he has had in a single game in his young career.

“Randy went out on the field and set the tone for the game,” Hjelle said. “You see a guy on the field and he did his job – and then some. You don’t want to be the guy who stops that moving train. »

From there, the Cubs failed to score a single run. Hjelle pitched two scoreless innings. Taylor Rogers didn’t allow a run in his lone inning of work. Ryan Walker homered in the sixth, then retired the side in the seventh. Tyler Rogers managed the eighth and Camilo Doval closed the door in the ninth.

“It feels like this happens every year for every team that goes through a period like this,” Hjelle said. “You find out he always finds a way out. Take it and, like I said, everyone is ready to deal with any situation there.

Hjelle has made his own case for potentially stepping in as a starter while Blake Snell, Robbie Ray, Alex Cobb, Kyle Harrison and Keaton Winn recover from their respective illnesses.

While Hjelle, who has a 2.39 ERA over 37 2/3 innings, has progressed through the Giants’ system as a starter, he has yet to start at the major league level in his career. This season, his longest outing is 2 2/3 innings. When asked if he would like to expand and launch for longer, Hjelle chose the diplomatic route.

“When my name is called, then my name is called,” Hjelle said. “I’m going to catch the ball and happily accept that that’s how I see it. If anything changes from my role – whether it’s BoMel or (pitching coach Bryan Price) or Farhan (Zaidi) or whoever wants to have that conversation and talk about it – obviously that’s part of my professional responsibility to being able to do what the team wants me to do.

“But at the end of the day, when my name is called, I will take the ball and pass it to the next player. Hopefully it will be quickly.

While the Giants needed an army of weapons, the Cubs, for the most part, only needed Kyle Hendricks. Although he entered the game with a 7.46 ERA, the 34-year-old had a vintage outing, pitching seven innings of two-run ball. Once Hendricks left, the Giants took their haymaker, scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth.

After two straight bullpen games, the Giants plan to host a more traditional game Wednesday as promising pitcher Hayden Birdsong makes his major league debut.

California Daily Newspapers

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