Giants continue April trend, fail to give Bumgarner any run support

Giants continue April trend, fail to give Bumgarner any run support

KANSAS CITY — There are many ugly stats that sum up a 6-10 start to the season for the Giants, but the one that explains how they’re winless in Madison Bumgarner’s four starts might be the most vomit-inducing.

The Giants have scored five runs with Bumgarner on the mound this season. He has driven in two of them. 

The group that had given Bumgarner three runs of support through three winless starts was blanked on Wednesday by Jason Vargas and two Royals relievers. The Giants lost 2-0 in Bumgarner’s return to Kauffman Stadium, continuing a disturbing April trend. 

“The story was not him,” interim manager Ron Wotus said. “He did his job. We just couldn’t score a run.”

If there’s increasing frustration, Bumgarner didn’t show it. He blamed himself for not covering first quickly enough on the first run of the night. He said he missed quite a bit with his command, and he insisted he won’t press if this lack of support continues.

“I feel like there’s no chance of that,” he said. “I’ve been around and I’ve seen enough to know how this works and what I’ve got to do.”

The run that held up as the game-winner came on a play that is usually made, and that was part of the problem for Bumgarner. With a runner on third and two down in the fifth, Mike Moustakas hit a hard liner at Brandon Belt. The first baseman couldn’t field it cleanly and Moustakas slid in safely to first with an RBI infield single. Bumgarner was a beat behind him with the tag. 

“I got my feet tangled there and it’s easy to take Belt for granted because he’s such a good defensive first baseman,” Bumgarner said. “I should’ve been there a little sooner.”

Against Vargas, that would be the only play that mattered. The lefty lowered his ERA to a sparkling 0.44, baffling the Giants with well-placed fastballs and a devastating changeup. For the third time in four games, the lineup failed to put a runner on in the first three innings. Vargas threw well, but it’s not exactly a murderer’s row that has set the Giants down in those three games: Tyler Chatwood, Jason Hammel and Vargas. 

Wotus said he’s not concerned about the slow starts, noting that it’s a fluke of a long season. When you couple it with the Giants’ inability to come back late, however, it’s a bad marriage. 

Wotus will turn the big chair back over to manager Bruce Bochy on Friday, and perhaps two days watching on the couch have led to some new thoughts about how to jumpstart an offense that all too often bogs down. 

At the very least, the Giants appear close to making a change in the outfield. Michael Morse and Mac Williamson played a rehab game Wednesday in San Jose and both will join Triple-A Sacramento on Friday. Fresh blood can’t come soon enough. After Wednesday’s game, Gorkys Hernandez, Chris Marrero and Aaron Hill (who has played out of position several times) have nine hits in 83 combined at-bats.

Morse could be ready as soon as next week, team officials said Wednesday. Two other options aren't immediately in play. Justin Ruggiano was placed on the Triple-A DL and Melvin Upton Jr. was injured during an extended spring training game. 

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.”