SAN FRANCISCO - With a six-week stretch of dominance, Dereck Rodriguez has thrown his name right near the top of the Rookie of the Year race. He's also keeping some special company in the National League.
Rodriguez threw seven shutout innings before Will Smith blew it in the ninth inning of a 3-1 loss to the Astros, lowering his ERA to 2.34. There are only three NL starters who have thrown at least 70 innings and have an ERA below 2.35.
The list is Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Dereck Rodriguez. The first two are duking it out for the Cy Young Award and will likely get MVP votes.
"We keep talking about what a great job he's done," manager Bruce Bochy said of his rookie right-hander, "And he just keeps getting better."
Rodriguez broke in with Andrew Suarez, and while the right-hander continues to roll, Suarez has hit a rough patch. After Suarez gave up eight runs in Phoenix over the weekend, Bochy pumped the brakes on any panic, saying a skid is normal for a young starter. That's true, of course. But Rodriguez has yet to find real trouble. He has given up four runs in four second-half starts and hasn't allowed more than two runs since June 19. What has allowed him to keep rolling?
"He just has such great focus," Bochy said. "He has four pitches with command. He's got savvy. He knows what he's going and what he wants to do. He's got a good feel for pitching along with good stuff. He works the edges well and goes up and down. I just like how smart he is on the mound."
Rodriguez showed that Monday. His fastball was down a couple ticks and he realized it early, so he spread the wealth. Rodriguez threw 21 four-seamers, 21 two-seamers, 18 changeups, 17 curveballs and 17 cutters.
"I was trying to move the ball around more," he said.
The Astros had no answer for him. So far, nobody really has.
--- Bochy made a change in the eighth, going with Reyes Moronta while Tony Watson and Sam Dyson warmed up. He said he's going to use everyone in the eighth at this point. Ray Black was an option, too. Dyson later warmed up when Will Smith ran into trouble.
--- My original focus tonight was going to be the defense up the middle. There was a sequence in the fifth that showed how the Giants are as good as anyone in that respect right now. Brandon Crawford made a slick scoop to rob Martin Maldonado of a hit. Jake Marisnick then hit a long fly ball to center that would have been trouble for most recent Giants center fielders. Steven Duggar chased it down easily.
The play had a catch probability of just 37 percent, making it the fourth-toughest catch of the year for Giants outfielders. Duggar has been here 21 games and he has two of the top four and four of the top 10, according to catch probability.
--- Roberto Osuna, who just served a 75-game suspension for domestic abuse, was the winning pitcher in his Astros debut. Osuna heard a few scattered boos as he took the mound, but this was nowhere near the level of noise heard when Josh Hader was here on the last homestand.
Osuna's transgression was obviously much, much worse, but it didn't become anywhere near as public as Hader's tweets. It's an odd phenomenon. Hader went viral and got crushed. Osuna seems to have slipped a bit under the radar. Perhaps that will change as he gets around the league a bit more.
--- If you missed it earlier, the Power Rankings have updates on a bunch of former Giants, including Andrew Susac, Phil Bickford, Adalberto Mejia, George Kontos and Matt Moore.