SAN FRANCISCO — Hunter Pence emphatically clenched both fists as he crossed home plate, letting out a guttural scream as the Giants took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh.
Andrew McCutchen had just scorched a single through the left side past a diving Paul DeJong, easily scoring the pinch-running Pence from second with one out.
An offense-starved Giants team didn’t exactly emerge from their slump just yet, but another efficient outing from Dereck Rodriguez on the hill, if anything, gave the bats a chance. The home lineup took a while to take advantage with the Cardinals only scoring one run through six frames, but a Pablo Sandoval sixth-inning solo shot and McCutchen RBI knock in the next inning were enough to put the Giants ahead.
McCutchen’s go-ahead single did so for good, and the Giants ended a four-game skid with a 3-2 win over the Cardinals on Friday night at AT&T Park.
Rodriguez, with his Hall of Fame father Ivan watching from the first row beside the home dugout, threw 6⅔ innings of two-run, five-hit, two-walk ball. The 26-year-old righty has now gone five starts without a loss — he didn’t factor in Friday’s decision — and lowered his ERA to 3.09 while seemingly solidifying his spot in the rotation.
A night after the Giants (46-44) first reached base in the sixth inning, McCutchen drew a walk in the first frame on Friday night. Given the hosts’ recent offensive woes — they managed only five runs in the last four games, all losses — they’ll take anything. Like a second-inning wild pitch from Cardinals pitcher John Gant that scored Brandon Crawford, tying the game at one even with the Giants still hitless.
After allowing a run in the second when Alen Hanson misplayed a fly ball in left field, Rodriguez tossed four scoreless frames and allowed one run in the seventh. Johnny Cueto and Co. couldn’t save San Francisco’s stagnant bats against scorching hot St. Louis ones in the series opener, but Rodriguez’s impressive night did enough to bide time for the Giants on Friday.
Sandoval’s homer narrowly cleared the left-field wall to give the hosts a one-run edge. The lead didn’t last long, though, as the Cardinals (45-42) tied the game in the next frame following a DeJong single to center and Kolten Wong triple to right. Rodriguez left the game to a standing ovation with two outs, and Reyes Moronta struck out Harrison Bader to end the seventh with Wong still on third, preventing Rodriguez from being charged with a third run and potentially the loss.
After McCutchen’s go-ahead single and a scoreless eighth from Tony Watson, Will Smith earned the save with a seamless ninth as the Giants broke their four-game slide.
Cardinals: SS Paul DeJong was activated off the disabled list before the game after missing 45 games with a fracture in his left hand. DeJong had not missed a game this season before getting hurt. To make room, LHP Austin Gomber was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.
Giants: 2B Joe Panik was removed from the game with a strained left groin after going from first to third on Gorkys Hernandez’s double in the fourth. ... Evan Longoria could begin swinging off a tee and taking grounders by the end of the weekend, less than three weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand. Longoria is on pace to rejoin the team in the first week of August.