CHICAGO — When the rain seemingly wouldn’t stop all Sunday morning and throughout the afternoon, and after the Giants announced their plans to make Sunday a bullpen game, it was almost like all the other deities were mocking the baseball gods for making the matchup of two sub-.500 teams the nationally televised game of the week on ESPN.
But the clouds cleared. The game started on time. With only the occasional mist coming down, there were no delays.
And once it started, a beleaguered Giants bullpen turned back time and combined to limit the Cubs to two runs in a throwback to when the group was the best in the majors last season and routinely prevailed in games without a traditional starter.
With two RBIs each from Wilmer Flores and Thairo Estrada — including homers from both — the Giants prevailed this time, too, 4-2, to claim two of three games this series, bookending a marathon road trip with wins on each end.
When the Giants land back in San Francisco sometime in the early morning hours Monday, they will still be six games under .500 but possibly energized enough from back-to-back wins here that, maybe, they will stand a chance against the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves, who visit for three games and should arrive in San Francisco before the Giants do.
Right-hander John Brebbia tossed a scoreless first inning in his fifth opening appearance of the season and was followed by more scoreless outings by Tyler Rogers, Zack Littell and Camilo Doval. A double and an RBI single off Yunior Marte in the fifth and a solo shot by Seiya Suzuki off Scott Alexander in the eighth amounted all the Cubs’ damage off the menagerie of San Francisco relievers.
Doval had to record his third four-out save of the season — 22nd overall — entering with runners on first and second and two outs in the eighth after Alexander was bitten by an infield chopper and a walk.
The two-out walk issued by Alexander to Franmil Reyes was the only free pass allowed by the six Giants pitchers.
The Giants started the season by winning two of their first three and four of their first six bullpen games but had dropped six of their past seven games without a traditional starter entering Sunday night. They limited opponents to two runs or fewer in their first three — all in April — but had done it only twice since.
After leading the majors with a 2.99 ERA last season, they took a 4.24 mark into Sunday night’s game, fifth-worst in the majors.
With an RBI single in the fourth and a solo shot in the seventh, Estrada nearly accounted for all the runs the Giants would need, until Suzuki’s eighth-inning homer. Flores provided some necessary insurance with his 18th home run of the season — a two-run shot into the left-field bleachers — that made it 4-2 in the eighth.
Estrada’s home run was his 13th of the season, coming after he stole his 18th bag of the season in the second. In the fourth, he snuck a dribbler through the hole at second base. It left the bat at 71.4 mph and had an expected batting average of .130, but it was enough to push across J.D. Davis from second base, after he doubled to lead off the inning.
Flores’ homer was his 18th of the year. With 65 RBIs, he had already surpassed one previous career-high, and he tied another personal best with the homer in the eighth (which also drove in Lewis Brinson, who walked and stole second).
The Giants won the first game of this trip in Los Angeles but proceeded to drop the next five. They return home on a positive note, though, with wins in their final two games in Chicago.