PHOENIX: It required a pair of ninth-inning rallies over the weekend, and a controversial game-ending replay review on Sunday, but the Giants accomplished something at Chase Field that they hadn’t done since the opening week of the season.
They won back-to-back starts from Jake Peavy and Matt Cain. And if they can do that more often, they could be poised to create some separation in the moribund NL West.
Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford hit consecutive singles off Arizona’s Brad Ziegler in the ninth inning Sunday as the Giants snapped a tie and completed a four-game sweep here with a 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The game ended with a bit of controversy, and a double-play grounder that Santiago Casilla induced from Rickie Weeks Jr. Although the ruling on the field was that Weeks beat the throw from shortstop Brandon Crawford, the replay officials overturned the call to end the game.
The Diamondbacks challenged a portion of the play as well, as Crawford slid across second base while taking a throw from Joe Panik. But replay officials did not overturn it. Plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt took off his headset and pumped a pair of out signals while pointing to first base and second base.
From there, the Giants’ biggest problem was figuring out how to go through a victory handshake line when they were already in the dugout.
Cain did not earn the decision but put in a solid piece for the second consecutive time, holding Arizona to a run on seven hits while striking out seven innings. Over his last two starts, he has reduced his ERA from 7.84 to 5.87.
For the first time since his elbow surgery in 2014, Cain has completed at least seven innings in consecutive starts.
In three previous turns through the rotation, the Giants were 0-6 in games started by Peavy and Cain, and 8-1 in games started by Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.
The only run of support Cain received came from his batterymate. Rookie catcher Trevor Brown hit a home run in the second inning, his fourth in just 42 at-bats this season. In his minor league career, Brown hit just seven homers in 1,114 at-bats.
Hunter Strickland was the winning pitcher for the second consecutive day, but under much more pleasant circumstances. Instead of backing into the win by allowing the tying run, as he did Saturday night, Strickland entered a tie game with Javier Lopez’s runner on first base and recorded three outs on two ground balls from Paul Goldschmidt and Welington Castillo.
Cain bailed himself out after his own throwing error created a jam in the third inning. Robby De La Rosa’s bunt took a funny bounce where the grass meets the unique landing strip that connects the mound and plate area here. Cain stayed with the bad bounce, but listed as a result and that might have caused him to misfire to first base.
The Diamondbacks had runners at the corners with one out. But Cain got a ground ball from Jean Segura, and second baseman Joe Panik started a double play.
Cain couldn’t make a clean escape in the fourth, though, after Jake Lamb doubled and advanced on a wild pitch. Paul Goldschmidt lofted a sacrifice fly that scored the tying run.
He made the pitches to get out of the next two innings. A double-play grounder from Yasmany Tomas and another ground out to second base from Segura helped Cain scatter three singles in the fifth inning.
When the Diamondbacks staged a two-out rally to load the bases in the sixth, Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti trotted out for a visit. Cain threw a first-pitch breaking ball and Tomas popped it up to Brandon Belt in foul ground.
Cain had to execute one last time in the seventh, after Brandon Drury hit a leadoff single then moved up on a sacrifice and a deep fly out.
Chris Owings didn’t offer at a first-pitch curve in the dirt, so Cain came back with a slider and got one more ground ball to escape the inning.
The Diamondbacks were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position against Cain and left seven runners on base in his seven innings, including three at third base.
The Giants didn’t punch through until the ninth, when Pence singled up the middle and scored from second base on Crawford’s single to right field.