© Cary Edmondson | USA Today 2018
OAKLAND – The All-Star break hasn’t slowed down Dereck Rodriguez. The 26-year-old rookie has been outstanding for the Giants in his first full season in the majors and Friday was no different. In front of the first sellout crowd of the season at the Oakland Coliseum, Rodriguez pitched 6 1/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout baseball to lead the Giants to a 5-1 victory over the A’s. It is Rodriguez’s fourth straight win, and gives him a 5-1 record and 2.72 ERA this season.
The win evens this year’s Bay Bridge Series at two games apiece. The A’s took the last two games before the All-Star break in San Francisco, placing themselves 3 games back in the American League Wild Card race and pushing the Giants to 3.5 games back in the National League West Divison.
The Giants were without first baseman Brandon Belt, who was on paternity leave as his wife, Haylee, gave birth to the couple’s second child and second son, August “Augie” Kyle Belt. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Belt is expected to return Saturday, but his temporary absence resulted in the call-up of 24-year-old third baseman Ryder Jones from the Triple-A Sacramento Rivercats. Jones started at third base while Pablo Sandoval took Belt’s place at first.
The replacement duo showed out for the Giants. In Jones’s first major league appearance and first start of 2018, he hit a solo home run high off the right-field foul pole to give the Giants a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning. Sandoval hit a solo shot two innings later to give the Giants a 4-1 lead and later doubled off the left-center field wall.
While it was Jones’s first start and home-run in the majors this season, it is not his first home run time playing at the top level with the Giants. Jones batted .192 and had two home runs in 52 games last season for the Giants. Before Jones was called up, he was batting .299 with nine homers and 48 RBIs in 81 games in Sacramento.
Prior to the game, the A’s removed the tarp which normally covers the top section of the Coliseum, in anticipation of a larger than normal Bay Area crowd. The A’s also came into the matchup with the best record in baseball since June 15, at 21-6. Bochy said the postseason ramifications and the A’s recent performance should excite fans.
“I think you look at the last month, I don’t think there’s been a better overall team playing the type of ball that they’re playing,” Bochy said. “So (fans) should be excited and you know, you have both teams that are fighting to get to the postseason. So it should create a lot of interest here. They got the series there in San Francisco. We have to bounce back and try to find a way to win some games now.”
The win improves the Giants to 51-48 on the season, but keeps the team 3.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West after a 6-4 Dodgers win over the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier in the day. Bochy said before the game the Dodgers’ recent acquisition of All-Star third baseman Manny Machado was out of the Giants’ control, but their performance is not.
“The only thing we control is what we’re doing here and we’ve got to pick it up here a little bit,” Bochy said. “I don’t think playing a couple games over .500 the rest of the way is going to work, so hopefully we find our niche and find a way to get on a roll.”