Frustrated Giants become first team in five weeks to lose series to Phillies

Frustrated Giants become first team in five weeks to lose series to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA — The Giants are not the type of group to come out and publicly say what you might be seeing. There are cracks in the armor if you pay attention, a glare caught on camera, an angry shake of the head in the dugout, perhaps a player who doesn’t rush into battle as punches fly. 

But in interviews, the players stick to the non-controversial. After Sunday’s loss to the Phillies, two players prefaced answers by saying, “It’s a cliché, but …” Manager Bruce Bochy will mostly do the same, but his frustration showed for a brief moment after his team became the first in five weeks to lose a series to the Phillies. 

Fifteen minutes after the final out of a 9-7 loss, it was pointed out to Bochy that most of his players have not dealt with a season this bad. Is there anything he conveys in times like this?

“What do you want me to convey?” he said, his voice quickly rising. “They’re men out there. They’re men. They know where they’re at. We’ve had meetings.”

Where they’re at is right near the bottom. After Sunday’s 9-7 loss — and a series loss — the Giants sit at 23-35, good for 29th out of 30 teams. That 30th team is the Phillies, who had not won a series since the last week of April. They took both weekend games, shutting down an inconsistent lineup on Saturday and beating up an inconsistent bullpen on Sunday. 

The trouble actually started in the early innings, with Matt Moore, who gave up five runs, lasted just four, and lifted his road ERA to an unsightly 7.94. The Giants battled back, with Brandon Crawford driving in four runs with two hits — including a homer. The lead didn’t last long. Josh Osich walked the leadoff batter in the seventh on four pitches and a double soon tied it up. Maikel Franco took Derek Law deep to open the eighth and Freddy Galvis added an insurance run with another homer off Law. 

“We just made some terrible pitches … ahead in the count, we’ve got to pitch smarter than this,” Bochy said. “You can’t do those things in this ballpark and we paid for it. We just didn’t execute pitches today. We got what you’re going to get when you don’t make pitches, especially when the count is in your favor.”

The late failures cost the Giants a series win, but to be honest, even that was a low bar. This is a team that’s so far in the hole that sweeps are needed on weekends like this one. As Phillies fans rained occasional boos down on the home team for three days, the Giants couldn’t even secure a second win. They now go to Milwaukee to face the first-place Brewers, followed by a home series against the first-place Twins. 

Both of those teams — young, springy, brimming with upside — are surprises. They are ahead of schedule in their bid to contend, and the Giants appear ahead of a different schedule. This was always going to be a roster that needed a reload or rebuild at some point, but 2018 was viewed by many internally as the earliest possible year for a breakdown. 

Instead, here they are, leading only the Phillies in the standings.

Four years ago, Brian Sabean got on a conference call with reporters who were sitting in the press box in Philadelphia. He said he would not sell Hunter Pence, Javier Lopez and Tim Lincecum. How could the front office watch this series and think the same path should be followed? Time will tell if the Giants decide to blow things up, or even embrace a partial sell-off. For now, they remain forever in search of something positive to hold onto. Crawford said the players come in every day focusing on that night's game. The results just aren't there. 

“We’re used to winning. This organization has for years won a lot of games,” he said. “You kind of get used to it as a player. It is surprising when you lose, and like I said, it’s frustrating. You’ve just got to come out and expect you’re going to win, and go out there with a positive attitude.”

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.”