SAN FRANCISCO — Santiago Casilla has experienced the extreme ups and downs of this bizarre 2016 Giants season as much as anyone, so it’s only appropriate that the closer offered the pulse of the team Wednesday as it heads into Wrigley Field, the month of September and the final tell-all 30 games.
“I think August was a month that gave us a test for us to see exactly where our heads were,” Casilla said through an interpreter following the Giants’ hard-earned 4-2 victory over Arizona at AT&T Park. “Now here comes September, and this is the month we need to actually win.
“After September, there are no more months left.”
Casilla got a four-out save to finish off a dismal 11-16 August on an up note, something the Giants desperately needed heading into Chicago to play the team with the majors’ best record in the Cubs. They departed for the Midwest understanding they could have been 3 games out in the National League West with a bad day. But with a victory and the Los Angeles Dodgers splitting a doubleheader at Colorado, they are just 1 games out of first.
Casilla’s 29th save was no cheapie. He entered the game with two outs in the eighth after Sergio Romo had loaded the bases by surrendering a double to Jean Segura and walking Paul Goldschmidt and Rickie Weeks Jr. The Diamondbacks had Casilla’s personal nemesis Jake Lamb on the bench — or as locker neighbor Johnny Cueto joked, Casilla’s “daddy” — but elected to send up Yasmany Tomas despite the fact that Tomas had already struck out three times in the game.
Casilla delivered a fourth K, whiffing Tomas on a fastball to end the last big threat. Interestingly, Lamb wound up pinch hitting with nobody on in the ninth and ripped a solo homer. As one might remember, Casilla threw a tantrum back on May 13 when manager Bruce Bochy yanked him with the bases loaded in favor of Javier Lopez to get the final out of a 4-2 win in Phoenix.
That drama seems like ancient history these days. The Giants were going incredibly well then compared to now, where they’re still trying to find their competitive bearings for the final sprint to the finish. But they head to Chicago having won four of six, and now it’s time to find out what they’re truly made of against the Cubs for four games.
“It’s going to be fun,” said catcher Buster Posey. “These are the games you look forward to. It should be good atmosphere, those guys are playing well, and you always enjoy the challenge of playing the best teams out there.”
The Giants finished up a stretch in which they played 15 of 18 at home by getting another strong effort from Matt Moore (9-10, 2-3 as a Giant). He threw 41 fewer pitches (92) and wasn’t quite as dominant as he was in his last outing against the Dodgers, when he came within one out of a no-hitter.
Moore pitched 51/3 innings and allowed just one run on five hits, walking one and striking out seven. His biggest issue was letting the leadoff man get on to start five of his six innings.
“I wasn’t as sharp as I’d like to be,” Moore said. “At times there were some good at-bats where I think the sequences went a lot like Buster and I had planned. I felt like I was having a tough time getting the first guy of the inning out, which usually kind of sets the tone. Having a guy on early, the tendency is you’re going to work a little harder throughout that inning.”
Moore’s most tenuous moment came in the sixth when Pollock led off with a single, and Goldschmidt followed with a deep drive to center that looked like trouble. But Gorkys Hernandez, subbing for Denard Span (neck), scurried back and made a spectacular backhand catch at the fence.
Hernandez hasn’t done much at the plate since he’s been with the Giants, but his glove may have won this game. At least he thought so.
“I saw it really good and I jumped to catch it,” he said. “I made a great play for the team, and with that play, we win the game.”
The Giants also got a big 12/3 innings of relief from Hunter Strickland, and while the offense wasn’t exactly clicking against the Diamondbacks’ Shelby Miller (2-10), it did post two runs in the first to play from in front. Posey drove in one run with a double, and then later added a sacrifice fly in a two-run seventh.