Arroyo fires up Giants, ends stunning two-year streak

Arroyo fires up Giants, ends stunning two-year streak

NEW YORK — Christian Arroyo was a 19-year-old playing for Class-A San Jose the last time the Giants overcame a deficit after eight innings and won. Half an hour after his game-breaking hit Wednesday, Arroyo, now 21, couldn’t hide the look of shock on his face when a reporter relayed that it had been 133 straight losses when trailing after eight. 

“I did not know that,” he said after a second. “No. That’s news to me.”

Sometimes it’s better not to know how bad it’s going, but there was no hiding it as the Giants came to the park Wednesday. They had lost five straight -- to a rebuilding Reds team and a Mets squad in turmoil -- and whispers of a rebuild started to seep into the clubhouse. 

The players tried to stay positive, finding laughter and smiles where they could. Several relievers shaved their beards into awkward mustaches. A few minutes after the lineup was posted Wednesday, a member of the training staff tore it off the wall and then went into a back room, reading the names off dramatically as players doubled over. 

Still, there’s only so much to be done before and after games. At some point the Giants needed to turn the tide between the lines, and they did so in an unlikely way. 

Trailing 3-2 with one out in the ninth, the Giants watched Joe Panik nearly yank one out. He settled for a walk, and Eduardo Nuñez reached when Wilmer Flores bobbled a potential double-play grounder. For once, the gift didn’t go to waste. Hunter Pence’s single tied it. Buster Posey, who earlier had homered in a third straight game, drew a walk to load them up for Arroyo. 

The rookie has seen some rough days since a red-hot start, but the coaching staff has watched Arroyo make adjustments on a daily basis. After seeing some hellacious pitches earlier in the game, Arroyo walked up against Jeurys Familia, who is one of the best closers in the game but was showing wildness. 

“Stay off the ground,” he told himself. “It was as simple as that.”

Arroyo got a 95 mph fastball and elevated it. As the ball soared into the gap in left-center, Posey, who had just minutes earlier fouled a ball off his foot, broke into his high gear. 

“It was 20-something jockeys in the dugout whipping the horse and yelling at Buster to get moving,” Panik said, smiling. 

Perhaps the Giants, after all this trouble, knew that even that run was important. When Posey crossed the plate, they had a 6-3 lead. Arroyo cruised into second, hopped off the bag and threw a vicious right-handed fist pump.

“It was a lot of frustration from the past week coming out,” he said. “For myself, getting away from my approach and scuffling a bit, and the team had lost five in a row. It’s a lot of frustration and a lot of pent-up aggression. It finally went our way.”

First, however, came another test. Holding a lead without Mark Melancon for the first time, Bochy turned to Derek Law. The Mets put two on and Flores nearly redeemed himself with a blast to the deepest part of the yard. Justin Ruggiano went up at the wall and just missed it. The ball was equally close to leaving the yard. 

“I thought it was going out,” Posey said. “And then he almost made a great play. And then I’m thinking maybe he knocked it over the wall.”

Flores settled for a two-run double. Law would retire the next batter, giving the Giants their first win since leaving Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. Bochy sunk into his seat in the visitor’s clubhouse at Citi Field and smiled as he talked about how difficult even this one was.

“I think they’re just having fun with me,” he said of the ninth.

Bochy said he hopes this game has a carryover effect. The standings are what they are, and even this win, as thrilling as it was, won’t make much of a dent. But it guaranteed a happy flight on the longest trip of the year, and there were positives Bochy pulled out. He credited his team for continuing to fight, and said he gave a game ball to Johnny Cueto — who didn’t play — for “chirping” for the final four innings as he tried to fire up the team.

Arroyo’s hit got the job done, and as players grabbed their Shake Shack and headed for the airport, they were grateful to have a different focus for the day. Two losing streaks were over, the one over the past week and the remarkable one that dated back to May 10, 2015, when another young third baseman, Matt Duffy, clinched a comeback. 

“It can definitely help us out,” Matt Cain said two years later. “Especially since we’re going back home, it’s something we needed to do. We needed to get a little momentum … We haven’t had that (moment). We’ve been looking for that, whether it’s a shutdown inning or big hit. We’ve needed that energy and we just haven’t had the opportunity to express it, so that was fun.”

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”