Free-falling Giants blanked in Atlanta, drop seventh straight

Free-falling Giants blanked in Atlanta, drop seventh straight


ATLANTA -- R.A. Dickey knew he was close, even if the results didn't show it.

He was right.

Dickey threw seven scoreless innings in his strongest outing of the season, Matt Adams hit another homer and the Atlanta Braves sent the San Francisco Giants to their seventh straight loss, a 9-0 rout Monday night.

The 42-year-old Dickey (5-5) escaped a jam in the first but wound up surrendering just three hits. The knuckleballer retired 16 of the last 17 hitters he faced, including 13 in a row.

"You know it's good when they're swinging and missing," Dickey said. "That means it's in the zone for a while, then out of the zone quickly."

Even after his last outing, when he was tagged for a season-high eight runs by Washington, Dickey insisted his baffling pitch wasn't far off.

"It's hard to see sometimes," he said, smiling. "You have to trust me."

Of course, it helped to be going against the Giants, whose skid is the longest of a hugely disappointing season. San Francisco dropped to 26-46 and fell a staggering 20 games behind first-place Colorado in the NL West.

"Dickey got in a groove with that knuckleball," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We just couldn't get the barrel to the ball."

Adams homered in the fourth off Johnny Cueto (5-7), driving it deep into the right-field seats. The first baseman added an RBI single in the eighth, sparking a seven-run outburst that made it a rout.

He now has 10 homers and 27 RBIs since being acquired from St. Louis on May 20 after Freddie Freeman sustained a fractured wrist.

"We all miss Freddie, but that guy has been everything and more than everything we could've hoped for," Dickey said. "I hope we can find a spot for him when Freddie comes back."

San Francisco started strong. Denard Span led off a game delayed 44 minutes by rain with a double to left, and Eduardo Nunez reached on an infield single. But Brandon Crawford and Hunter Spence popped out to shortstop, sandwiched around Buster Posey's strikeout, to leave the runners stranded.

Cueto also went seven strong innings, surrendering five hits and two runs.

The Braves blew it open against San Francisco's depleted bullpen, scoring all seven runs in the eighth with two outs. Dansby Swanson had a two-run single and Danny Santana hit the first pinch-hit homer of his career, a towering three-run shot off Derek Law that landed in the second deck.

Law faced six hitters, giving up five hits and a walk. He was charged with four runs, boosting his ERA from 4.20 to 5.40.

The Giants will be a man down for six games after Major League Baseball upheld Hunter Strickland's suspension.

The right-handed reliever plunked Washington star Bryce Harper on May 29, igniting a brawl that led to a three-game suspension for Harper, who has already served his time.

Strickland will miss all four games in Atlanta, as well as the first two games of a weekend series in San Francisco against the Mets.

The Braves plan to go to a six-man rotation, at least temporarily, when 44-year-old Bartolo Colon returns from the disabled list Wednesday to start against the Giants.

The right-hander went down June 6 with what was described as a strained left oblique muscle. The move came a day after he gave up eight runs in 3 2/3 innings against Philadelphia, dropping his record to 2-7 with a 7.78 ERA.

Giants: OF Jarrett Parker (fractured right clavicle) began a rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A Sacramento.

Braves: Micah Johnson could soon be headed for a rehab assignment, and Sean Rodriguez is making big strides in his recovery.

The jack-of-all-trade players have yet to get on the field this season. Johnson sustained a broken left wrist making a diving catch in a spring training game, while Rodriguez sustained a torn left rotator cuff during an offseason car wreck that also injured his wife and two sons.

Johnson is much closer to returning, but Rodriguez is aiming to get back on the field before September.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore (2-7, 6.00) gets the start Tuesday coming off the shortest outing of the season. He gave up eight runs and 11 hits in just three innings at Colorado. San Francisco is 3-11 in Moore's starts, including a current stretch of five straight losses.

Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (6-4, 4.86) makes his sixth career start against the Giants. He is 2-2 with a 3.99 ERA in his previous appearances, the most recent win coming in 2013.

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.”