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Giants pitch and bunny-hop their way to another entertaining shutout win

Curt Casali. John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

On a night in which a large rabbit accompanied a fan and fascinated both San Francisco and the viral world, of course a guy named Ruf had the hit that hounded the Marlins.

A lot happened Thursday, when the Giants’ pitching looked pretty doggone good again when matched with Curt Casali, who caught his fifth straight shutout, this time in a two-hitter. There was so much to laugh about and to cheer, although the health of the ballclub is increasingly a concern.

The Giants welcomed a giant service bunny who was repeatedly shown on the big screen into their world, watched as Evan Longoria had to be forced from the game with a tight hamstring and won an eventful game with plenty of pitching and excellent catching, 3-0 over the Marlins in front of 4,580 (not including the bunny) at Oracle Park.

San Francisco (12-7) has won four of five and must enjoy seeing the Dodgers and Padres beat up on each other. The Giants’ offense still has not fully come around, but it has shown enough peeks to give hope that it’s on the way, and the pitching has done far more than they could have asked.

Aaron Sanchez authored the most confounding sterling start of the year for the Giants. The 28-year-old, at his best, could throw in the upper 90s, which was where his fastball resided in the showcase that launched him toward a big-league deal with the Giants. That velocity has not been even vaguely approached since, and his fastball averaged 90.5 mph over his first three (successful) outings.

He could not break 90 mph Thursday, but didn’t need to.

On a cold and windy night that might have bothered the Barstow native, he was around the plate throughout and allowed just two hits in his five scoreless innings without a walk. He induced just three swings and misses, but the contact that the Marlins generated was soft, and the defense was sure-handed.

Sanchez took his at-bat in the fifth and then removed for the sixth, a curiosity that the Giants did not immediately update.

Sanchez leaving left the mound vacant for Gregory Santos’ electric debut. The 21-year-old, who had not pitched above Low-A Augusta, was called up Thursday afternoon then promptly was thrown into his first game against legitimate big leaguers.

With a fastball that touched 98.9 mph and a devastating slider that he could land in the zone or get hitters to chase, he struck out Magneuris Sierra and Jazz Chisholm before Miguel Rojas grounded out. Santos looked to the sky as he walked off the mound.

After him, Matt Wisler, Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee didn’t blink — or give up any hits. Miami didn’t register a hit past the second inning.

The biggest concern for the Giants, though, arose in the fifth, when Longoria was pulled. There did not appear to be an obvious moment he got hurt, but the Giants had to shuffle an infield that already was hurting. With Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Donovan Solano out of the lineup with injuries of varying degree of concern, their makeshift infield was, left to right, Wilmer Flores, Mauricio Dubon, Tommy La Stella and Ruf.

The unit did not embarrass itself, and soon enough Crawford (tight ribcage) was in, which was as encouraging a development as occurred Thursday.

The Giants got just a little bit from their offense, but it’s all they would need.

They jumped out quickly against opposing lefty Daniel Castano, with Mike Yastrzemski lining a one-out double, before the Marlins rightfully feared Longoria against a southpaw and pitched around him in the first. Ruf smoked the hardest-hit ball of the year for the Giants, a 109.9-mph bullet to left for a double, and Casali followed with a single to drive in Ruf.

If Casali is driving in runs and not allowing any, the Giants are in good shape.


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