Giants again fail to complete ninth-inning comeback

Giants again fail to complete ninth-inning comeback

SAN FRANCISCO — One of these nights, the Giants will complete a comeback in the ninth. 


In theory. 

I mean, it has to happen eventually, right?  

Thursday was not the night, not when Eduardo Nuñez hit by far the hardest ball of the comeback attempt and ended up with a game-ending double play. The Giants lost 3-1, falling to 0-6 this year when trailing in the ninth. Since the start of the 2015 season, they are 2-136 when they’re behind after eight. They have lost 120 straight. 

The latest halted rally came against Greg Holland, the new Rockies closer and a pitcher the Giants briefly looked at before signing Mark Melancon. Holland ran into trouble, but it wasn’t necessarily his fault. The Giants loaded the bases on two infield singles, a fielder’s choice grounder, and a walk. Nuñez, one of Bruce Bochy’s hottest players this month, scalded a ball right at second baseman DJ LeMahieu. 

“You feel good when that inning starts to unfold,” Bochy said. “We got some breaks there on a couple of groundballs. Really the only thing you can do is take a good swing and Nuney did that. He’s a tough guy to double up but he hit it that hard.”

The rally was one of few on a night when two aces didn’t get as deep as expected. Jon Gray departed in the fourth with a toe injury and Madison Bumgarner was gone by the seventh of a game where his command was off. Bumgarner paid dearly for one pitch, a fastball across the heart of the plate that Trevor Story crushed to left for a two-run shot that ultimately held up. 

“I certainly would like to have it back,” he said. “I don’t know, I just didn’t make a whole lot of great pitches tonight. I did OK to keep us in the ballgame, but obviously you would like to be a little better.”

The Giants couldn’t complete their latest comeback attempt, dropping to 4-7 on the season. They’re winless in Bumgarner’s three starts, though he has pitched well and contributed two homers at the plate. Bumgarner said he’s not letting that gnaw at him.

“All you can do is control what you can control,” he said. “You go out there and do your job.”

--- Brandon Crawford arrived at the park around 5:15 p.m. and pinch-hit in the eighth. Crawford’s wife, Jalynne, posted on Instagram that her sister, Jennifer, passed away suddenly. The Crawfords drove to Los Angeles on Wednesday night and Brandon took a flight back Thursday afternoon. 

“He said he was ready for anything, ready to pinch-hit,” Bochy said. “It’s been a tough 24 hours for Brandon. You feel for him with what he’s had to deal with. It was a long night last night. Here he is, trying to help us win a ballgame. It says a lot about Brandon. He didn’t have to be here. For him to show up tonight, I really was surprised.”

Save a good thought for the Crawfords tonight. Our condolences go out to Brandon, Jalynne and their family. 

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.”