Giants continue bizarre trend of falling flat after offense-filled wins

Giants continue bizarre trend of falling flat after offense-filled wins

SAN FRANCISCO — Ty Blach was sitting at his locker when the clubhouse opened Tuesday, his eyes focused on a spot a few feet in front of him. When reporters asked him about a tough-luck night, Blach said it’s just one of those things.

“You’ve got to flush it,” he said. 

Unfortunately for the Giants, they’ve made a habit of flushing the wrong results. An 8-1 loss to the Royals on Tuesday continued a remarkable and baffling stretch. The Giants have scored 46 runs in their past five wins. In the five games that followed those wins, they have scored a total — TOTAL — of six runs. 

Sure, they faced one of the American League’s hottest starters — Jason Vargas — but this run of ineptitude includes all comers. They have lost to Ervin Santana and Tanner Roark in those five games, but also to Ben Lively and Tyler Anderson. 

The Giants scored 13 runs on Sunday and came back 48 hours later with a familiar performance. Blach was on the wrong end of this one, getting charged with seven earned on a night he was BABIPed to death. The Royals placed a few balls well, took advantage of some sloppy San Francisco defense, and came up with hard-hit balls when needed. 

“That’s hard to believe he gave up those runs,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Blach’s line. “They placed the ball just out of reach three to four times. It’s a shame because Ty threw the ball well.”

Blach said he would try to shake it off. He does not believe there’s a book out on him. It was just a weird night. 

“This game can humble you in a hurry,” he said. 

--- An opinion on those “cheap” hits. The Giants have given up a lot of flares in recent weeks, but watching day in and day out, it sure seems like a fair amount of that can be placed on the players in the field. Two of the singles in the two-run third should have been outs, and that’s on infielders. Hunter Pence couldn’t quite come up with a three-run triple. 

The new advanced defense metrics are great, but sometimes you don’t need them. Watching this team every night it’s pretty clear, the defense is a step slower than it was a year ago, and that’s responsible for a lot of these balls that are dropping in. 

--- Let’s take a minute to talk about inherited runners. Cory Gearrin entered with the bases loaded and got a fly ball to deep right that could have been an out. It went for a triple. There was some bad luck involved there, but the result is part of an uglier trend. The Giants bullpen has allowed 37 percent of inherited runner to score, third-worst in the majors. It’s particularly glaring because of how much of an emphasis that has been in recent years. The bullpen led the majors each of the last two seasons, allowing just 22 percent of inherited runner to score last season and 21 percent in 2015. 

Gearrin has allowed 12 of 19 inherited runner to score, putting him in a tie for second. Heath Hembree, who could have been part of this bullpen, has cashed in a major league-leading 13 of 23 inherited runners.

--- The math is the math. The Giants are now 14 1/2 games behind the Dodgers and Rockies and 14 games behind the Diamondbacks. When the draft is over, the front office will have to confront what comes next.

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.”