Ball lost in lights, failure to execute late haunt Giants in loss to Rockies

Ball lost in lights, failure to execute late haunt Giants in loss to Rockies

DENVER — There were a lot of plays that decided Friday’s game, including a Johnny Cueto pitch that sailed over the the right field wall for a grand slam and a liner to right that got away from Hunter Pence and turned into an inside-the-park homer. But the play that seemed to stick with manager Bruce Bochy the most was one the Giants didn’t make at the plate. 

With two on and no outs in the eighth, Bochy sent Gorkys Hernandez up to bunt. Hernandez couldn’t get one down and instead flied out. Two batters later, the Rockies were out of the inning with their one-run lead intact, and they held on for a 6-5 win at Coors Field, a place where execution isn’t often talked about, but still matters the same. 

The Giants lost a one-run game for the sixth time this season. Bochy knows what the issue is.

“If you look at them there’s something where you didn’t execute,” he said. “It probably caught up with us, not getting the bunt down.”

The rhythm of an inning changes when there are runners on second and third instead of first and second, but it’s not hard to imagine the Giants getting that tying run home. Denard Span came up next and flied out to deep center, but there was no runner on third to jog home. 

“We’re having a tough time scoring runs,” Bochy said. “We’ve got to execute and do the little things.”

In a park that plays small, the Giants paid for several mistakes. The one that put them behind came on defense. Cueto had already given up a grand slam in the fourth and put another runner on when Charlie Blackmon hit a two-out liner to right. Pence chased it but lost it in the lights, falling awkwardly as the ball shot to the outfield wall. Pence got up and limped after the ball as Blackmon raced home for an inside-the-park homer. 

“It was in the lights the whole time,” Pence said. “There are a lot of balls in the lights and you’ve got to fight your way through it, and I wasn’t able to do that.”

To add injury to insult, Pence twisted his left knee as he went down. He paced around in right and then showed a slight limp when the inning was over. When he got back to the dugout, Pence was checked by trainer Dave Groeschner. He appeared to be fine the rest of the game. 

“It feels alright,” he said. “For now, I’m pretty sure it’s fine.”

After speaking to reporters, Pence went off to the training room for a second check-up. He was confident that the knee wouldn’t be an issue, and the Giants could certainly use the good news. In the last week, they’ve lost Jarrett Parker and Madison Bumgarner for extended periods. Bochy missed two games this week after a minor heart procedure. 

“You keep doing what you’re doing,” Cueto said. “We’re playing very hard and trying to win every game. Eventually we’re going to find a way to win games.”

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”