The San Francisco Giants have a chance to get back to the .500 mark on Tuesday night against the slumping Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.
The Giants have won six of their past seven games, including 4-1 over the Twins on Monday in the opener of a three-game series. San Francisco hasn’t been at .500 since it was 3-3 through April 6.
One big reason for the Giants’ recent surge has been the hitting of Michael Conforto.
The right fielder highlighted a four-run first inning with a three-run homer on Monday, his fifth in the past 11 games and his ninth of the season. He drilled a 1-0 fastball by right-hander Bailey Ober on the outside part of the plate 413 feet into the bullpen in left-center.
Conforto, a left-handed hitter who was drafted 10th overall in 2014 by the New York Mets after starring at Oregon State, is attempting to use more of the field. The recent homer surge came after he was batting .168 with four homers in 31 games through May 9.
“Kind of sick of rolling the ball to second base, to be honest with you,” Conforto said. “I’m trying to hit the inside part of the baseball, stay up the middle. That’s where my strength is. In my best years, I’ve been driving the ball up the middle, using the whole field, power to the gaps.”
It turned out that the big first inning was all San Francisco needed, even with right-hander Alex Cobb having his start pushed back a day until Tuesday. The Giants used five pitchers to four-hit the Twins, with Sean Manaea picking up his second win of the season after tossing 3 2/3 shutout innings in relief of opener John Brebbia.
Manaea gave up three hits and walked three but also finished with eight strikeouts. Scott Alexander pitched a hitless ninth to garner his first save.
“A bullpen game is really challenging to pull off,” San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler said. “It’s nice to get that cushion to work with and pretty impressive that everybody on our staff was able to make that hold up tonight.”
Cobb (3-1, 1.94 ERA), who is 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA in six career starts at Minneapolis, will try to give the Giants the series win on Tuesday. He will be opposed by right-hander Sonny Gray (4-0, 1.64) in a rematch of an Aug. 27 pitching matchup last season at Target Field won by Minnesota, 3-2 in 10 innings.
Gray tossed 4 2/3 no-hit innings in that one before yielding a double to Joey Bart. Gray wound up allowing one run on one hit and four walks over five innings while striking out four.
Cobb allowed no runs on four hits and two walks over five innings while fanning seven.
In nine lifetime starts against the Twins, Cobb is 3-3 with a 5.02 ERA.
Minnesota has dropped four of its past five games after falling in the series opener. Kyle Garlick’s solo homer in the eighth inning was the lone offense for the Twins, who tied a season high by striking out 16 times.
“We need to have more good at-bats than what we’re seeing,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said postgame. “It’s a little frustrating, but what are we going to do about it? That’s the question. It starts tomorrow. Totally new situation tomorrow, and we have to attack it.”
Gray is 2-1 with a 3.21 ERA in five career starts against San Francisco.
–Field Level Media