SAN FRANCISCO — For a second, it looked as though Logan Webb’s shutout bid would come to an end.
With a pair of runners on and two outs in the seventh inning on Tuesday night at Oracle Park, Michael A. Taylor flipped a single to right field, prompting Royals third-base coach Vance Wilson to wave MJ Melendez home from second. But rookie outfielder Luis González quickly charged the ball and fired a 97.4 mph throw to catcher Austin Wynns, who made a nice pick and reached over to tag Melendez to end the inning.
A fired-up Webb screamed “Let’s go!” after watching the play unfold, pointing to González as he walked off the field after completing seven scoreless innings on a career-high 112 pitches. It proved to be a pivotal moment for the Giants, who went on to beat the Royals, 4-2, to extend their winning streak to five games and clinch a series victory.
“When I gave up the hit it was more like, ‘[expletive], I did it again, I gave up a run,’” Webb said. “And then he made the play and Austin made a great pick and got the out. It was just super exciting. That was fun. That was awesome. It was a cool moment.”
Webb departed with a 3-0 lead after allowing only five hits while walking three and striking out nine, but the Royals managed to pull within one on Bobby Witt Jr.’s sacrifice fly and Salvador Pérez’s RBI single off Tyler Rogers in the eighth.
Still, the Giants got a run back on Tommy La Stella’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth to turn a two-run lead over to closer Camilo Doval, who worked a scoreless ninth to convert his ninth save of the year.
The Giants improved to 30-9 in Webb’s 39 outings since the start of the 2021 campaign, the second-best team winning percentage in the Majors (.763), behind only the Blue Jays’ .781 (they are 25-7 in games started by Alek Manoah). San Francisco has been nearly unbeatable when Webb takes the mound at home, going 18-1 since the start of the last season, with the lone loss coming on Thursday against the Rockies.
“It’s really what we expect,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “That’s where he put the bar, and now we expect him to meet it.”
Since the Royals tend to feast on fastballs, Webb decreased his sinker usage and relied mostly on his slider and changeup, using his offspeed pitches to generate 17 of his 20 swinging strikes on Tuesday.
“Everything is going on the horizontal axis,” Royals third baseman Nicky Lopez said. “His slider’s this way, changeup that way. Nothing’s really up or down. He’s proven he’s a tough pitcher.”
Webb, who lowered his ERA to 3.43 over 13 starts this season, didn’t have much room for error for most of the night, as he found himself locked in a pitchers’ duel with Royals left-hander Kris Bubic, who gave up only a fifth-inning single to Brandon Crawford before the Giants finally broke the scoreless tie with a three-run rally in the sixth.
González, who ranks third among qualified rookies with a .306 batting average, led off the sixth with a double to left field and scored on Wilmer Flores’ single to put San Francisco on the board. Darin Ruf and La Stella followed with an RBI single and a sacrifice fly, respectively, to extend the Giants’ lead to 3-0.
The Royals threatened by putting runners on the corners with two outs in the sixth, but Webb struck out Witt for the third time on a slider to extricate himself from the jam. He returned to the mound in the seventh with his pitch count at 94, though he was tested again after walking Melendez and giving up a single to Carlos Santana that put two runners on with one out.
Kapler came out for a mound visit with Webb, who was at 104 pitches, but he decided to leave his young ace in the game.
“I just wanted to make sure that he felt 100 percent,” Kapler said. “Obviously, we had some help if we needed it, so I kind of wanted to see if he was all present and able to have a good conversation, which he was. He was very calm and under control. He also said that his body felt great.”
Added Webb: “He asked me if I could get two outs, and I said, ‘Yeah.’ I still gave up a hit, but luckily my teammates had my back.”
Webb proceeded to strike out Kyle Isbel looking for his ninth punchout before being bailed out by González, who uncorked the Giants’ second-fastest outfield assist (97.4 mph) since Statcast began tracking to help Webb end his brilliant effort on a high note.
“I have a lot of confidence in my throws,” González said. “Me and [first base coach] Antoan [Richardson] have been working really hard on my outfield footwork and taking good reads. I was able to see that ball and I got a good jump on it. I charged in hard and I was able to kind of get a four-seam grip on it. I just let it eat.”