Dereck Rodriguez tosses gem for Giants in return from minors

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PHOENIX — Exactly one month after Dereck Rodriguez made a Coors Field cameo to lead the San Francisco Giants to a victory in Game 2 of a doubleheader, the right-hander returned to the rotation on Thursday in Arizona.

After coming up from Triple-A to toss five innings of one-run ball against the Colorado Rockies, Rodriguez was rewarded with a plane ticket back to Sacramento.

After logging seven innings of shutout ball in a 7-0 victory over the Diamondbacks, the next flight Rodriguez should board is the Giants’ team charter on Sunday evening to Chicago.

In the midst of a terrible stretch for young Giants starters, Rodriguez was summoned from Triple-A Sacramento for the fourth time this season with a chance to secure a coveted spot in the starting rotation.

With one of the best outings of his professional career, Rodriguez earned the right to stick around.

The Giants had played 27 games since a starting pitcher not named Madison Bumgarner or Jeff Samardzija earned a victory, but Rodriguez put an end to that streak by allowing just three hits in his longest outing since April 10.

The Giants’ lineup gave Rodriguez plenty of breathing room Thursday as the pitcher was able to exhale before he even stepped on the mound. Third baseman Evan Longoria drove in two runs with a single in the top of the first and added two more with his 15th home run of the season in the top of the fifth.

Each of the first four hitters in the Giants’ lineup recorded multiple hits, but no position player enjoyed a better night than Austin Slater who finished 3 for 3 with a pair of walks.

Despite spending the majority of the first half in Triple-A, Slater earned a July call-up and has developed into a critical component of the team’s lineup against left-handed pitchers, such as Arizona’s Alex Young, who pitched Thursday.

On July 1, the Giants actually optioned Rodriguez to make room for Slater, but if the club is going to remain in the National League wild-card race, both players will need to be significant contributors down the stretch.

So will Longoria, who returned from the injured list on Aug. 4 after missing three weeks with a plantar fascia strain in his left foot. The Giants’ third baseman convinced the coaching staff he didn’t need a rehab assignment and instead focused on regaining his timing and rhythm at the plate against major league pitchers.

After a 4-for-20 stretch in his first five games back, Longoria has emerged as a force in the heart of the Giants’ lineup, which is exactly what happened when the team began its best stretch of the season at the beginning of July.

Longoria has recorded nine RBIs in his last five games, including four on Thursday, and is now 10 for his last 20 after a three-hit game on Thursday.

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