Jordan Hicks

Hicks' strong start resumes in first taste of Giants-Dodgers rivalry

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Over the course of 30-plus starts, every pitcher will have the occasional night that blows up the ERA. The Los Angeles Dodgers, as Logan Webb was rudely reminded on the first road trip, are as good a candidate as any to be on the opposing end. 

When Mookie Betts hit a leadoff homer Monday, it looked like Jordan Hicks would finally have a true off night in the ninth start of his transition from the bullpen. But Hicks settled in, scattering six other hits, getting a huge boost from Mike Yastrzemski, and striking out a pair when he ran into trouble in the fourth, as his pitch count started to rise. 

In his first taste of the rivalry, Hicks was charged with two earned runs over five innings. It was the eighth time in nine starts that he has allowed fewer than three earned, and he walked off the mound with a 2.44 ERA, the sixth-lowest in the National League. 

It was another solid night for Hicks, although he wasn't in a mood to savor it too much, especially after the Dodgers repeatedly got to the bullpen and won 6-4 in extra innings

"It wasn't a great start with the homer, but he battled that at-bat and saw pretty much everything and then made a good swing on a not-my-greatest slider," he said. "Overall, I just wish I could have gone a little deeper and got ahead more. I feel like I was 2-0 a lot and then battled back ... it was just a lot of deep counts. It's just (about) getting ahead early, not getting 2-0 and digging myself out of the hole. That could probably help with the pitch counts and then going deep into games."

As the Giants have seen repeatedly this season, the deep Dodgers lineup is hard to get through even a second time. Hicks' best stretch came in the fourth, when he struck out Teoscar Hernandez and Gavin Lux with a runner on first, but that took a toll. He threw 13 total pitches to the six and seven hitters, with both going 3-2.

After spinning a tight slider that Lux waved at, Hicks pumped his fist into his glove and screamed. He showed a bit of extra emotion all night with 35,000-plus in the stands and the league's most star-studded lineup on the other side. 

"Good energy out there today. Not that there hasn't been in my previous starts, but it's obviously the Dodgers and I know that I've got to come with my best stuff usually against them," he said. "Yastrzemski had a sick play that got me really excited and then there were just a couple of good plays on the defensive side today." 

Air Yaz

The Giants will get Yastrzemski some reps in center field, and he might be an option there while Jung Hoo Lee is out. But the preference is to start Luis Matos in center and keep Yastrzemski in right, where he is about as good as anyone has been in that corner of Oracle Park. He provided a reminder of that by robbing Betts and saving at least one run as the heart of the order came up.

"I was just in disbelief," Hicks said. "I saw the ball fading from him and thought there's not a great chance and he just kept going and did a full send. I'm very thankful for that kind of defense."

Big Day Ahead

The busiest people at Oracle Park on Monday might have been the Giants' medical and training staffers. Lee met with Dr. Ken Akizuki, the team's orthopedist, to settle on a rehab plan after he dislocated his shoulder. Blake Snell had a meeting an hour before first pitch to figure out what's next after a rehab start with the San Jose Giants. There was also discussion about Patrick Bailey, who was out of the lineup for a second straight day. 

Melvin said after the loss that he had not had time to get full updates, but they're coming Tuesday. Lee is expected to miss significant time, and if surgery is recommended, he could be done for the year. 

Snell had been leaning toward another rehab start with the Sacramento River Cats, but the Giants optioned Mason Black, so Snell could return to the rotation as early as Friday. The Giants could also skip the fifth spot once since they have days off on Thursday and Monday, but that's putting a bit more pressure on a rotation that has three pitchers who will be under innings limits in the second half. 

The Bailey question is one that will need a better answer on Tuesday. The Giants are understandably being careful because of the fear that his head cold might be a return of concussion symptoms, but if that's not the case, they certainly could use Bailey back in the lineup. Blake Sabol couldn't snag a couple of wild pitches Monday and Jakson Reetz had a pair of rough plate appearances after pinch-hitting. 

The Giants recalled right-hander Nick Avila to take Black's spot, adding another fresh arm to the bullpen. Black made two starts in Snell's rotation spot and allowed six runs on 12 hits in 8 2/3 innings. He walked five and struck out six.

Half of those runs, though, came on a homer by Bryce Harper when the Giants were stretching it with Black's pitch count because they had a gassed bullpen. Black showed enough in the first few innings of that start as well as Saturday's that he should remain the first call when the Giants need another starter.

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