Bob Melvin

Winn keeps strong week going for Giants' red-hot rotation

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Two months ago, Keaton Winn was working his way back from a second elbow scare in less than a year. A month ago, Winn’s immediate future was uncertain for another reason. After the Giants signed Blake Snell, it seemed Winn would be the odd man out once Snell and Alex Cobb fully got up to speed. 

Things can change quickly in this game, however, and as April comes to a close, it's hard to picture where the Giants would be without Winn, who lowered his ERA to 3.18 with six strong innings Sunday and led the Giants to a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates that clinched a winning homestand. 

Winn never has been a top 100 prospect, or even the best pitching prospect in the organization, but right now he's keeping up with the rest of a red-hot rotation and putting up crucial innings for a team that continues to wait for a revamped lineup to break out. Over his last 28 innings -- a stretch that started after a hard-luck four-run first against the San Diego Padres on April 6 -- Winn has a 1.61 ERA. His start Sunday was his third straight of exactly six innings, and it came on a day when he didn't have his best stuff. 

"I'd say I'm happy with it, I'm happy right where I'm at," he said of his strong April. "I understand I'm going to have some hiccups delivery-wise and stuff like that, and there will be days where I don't have my best stuff, kind of like today, but it's just trusting that everything I've gone through will help me in the long run."

In the long run, Winn might put the Giants in tremendous shape with their rotation, which has Logan Webb and Kyle Harrison around for years to come and might have a new co-ace in Jordan Hicks. Even as Farhan Zaidi spent big to upgrade the group this offseason, there were coaches within the organization who felt Winn should be part of the solution. At 6-foot-4, 238 pounds, he has the kind of frame that pitching coaches are drawn to, and his fastball-splitter combination reminded the Giants of Kevin Gausman at times last season. 

Winn reworked his slider in the offseason, taking an important tip from Pirates starter and offseason workout partner Mitch Keller. That has allowed him to go side-to-side instead of just north-south, and on Sunday he threw his sinker more often to take advantage of certain matchups. 

Sunday was far from Winn's best day recently, but he found encouragement in that. Without his best stuff, he still allowed just three hits and struck out five. 

"It definitely feels good to come out of that like that," he said, smiling. 

On another day, manager Bob Melvin might have leaned more heavily on Winn. The bullpen has been worked hard this weekend, but with Winn grinding more than dominating, Melvin turned to rookie Erik Miller for the seventh. Miller and right-hander Ryan Walker got the 3-1 lead to Camilo Doval, who wanted to go a third straight day. Doval also wasn't at his best, but he retired Joey Bart to end the game and strand the tying run on second. 

The win gave the Giants a second straight series victory and clinched a 6-4 homestand. The success came nearly entirely on the backs of a starting staff that has allowed just four earned runs over the past seven games, two of which were pitched by Winn. 

On the other side of the ball, the Giants continue to struggle. The lineup still has not clicked, and on Sunday, Winn and the relievers got just a pair of solo homers from Thairo Estrada and Mike Yastrzemski and a sacrifice fly from LaMonte Wade Jr. 

Asked about the big picture, Melvin said things like, "We know there's a lot more in there for us" and "We're holding our heads above water right now." The Giants have not jelled yet, and they'll hit the road with a 14-15 record. 

But Melvin is hopeful that a win streak -- the Giants still do not have one of more than two games -- is coming soon. With the way their rotation is pitching, it wouldn't take much offensively to get on a roll. 

"We've been spotty," Melvin said. "You look at the stats across the board, whether it's pitching numbers, whether it's offensive numbers, it hasn't been great. But to sit here right at .500 or a game below and we know there's a lot more in there, it's not a horrible place to be. Nobody is really running [away] in our division too much. Our travel has been a little tough, we've got another East Coast trip and another one after that.

"At some point in time we'll hit our stride."

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