SAN FRANCISCO -- Late in the spring, Ryder Jones hit a mammoth homer at Camelback Ranch that had coaches talking for days. Perhaps that was rumbling around somewhere in Bruce Bochy's head when he was asked about his slumping rookie before Monday's game.
"He'll figure it out," Bochy said.
It didn't take long.
Jones, the 23-year-old infielder, provided one of the few highlights in a 5-3 loss to the Cubs when he smacked a Jake Arrieta offering into the arcade section in deep right field. He later traded some tickets for the keepsake, which was put in a plastic case with the date and pitcher's name on it.
“It’s definitely cool to get your first off a guy like him,” Jones said. “He’s been absolutely nasty the last couple of years.”
Jones entered in an 0-for-13 slump, but he got advice from a couple of people before Monday’s game. One was a likely source; hitting coach Hensley Meulens is helping Jones stay through the ball better and simplify his swing. One was an unlikely source; Pablo Sandoval, who is competing with Jones for future time at third, told the rookie to calm down and show off the approach that had him on a tear when Sandoval was trying to find his swing as Jones’ Triple-A teammate.
The shot brought some life back to AT&T Park, which did not sell out, even with thousands of Cubs fans in attendance, but ultimately it was too little, too late. Matt Moore gave up five runs and the Giants went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position in the first four innings. That one hit did not drive in a run.
“It comes down to guys getting hits with runners on base,” Bochy said. “Not putting up those early runs hurt us.”
The Cubs capitalized on their end, most notably on a play that oddly provided a highlight for both sides. Javier Baez hit a pitch to Triples Alley in the second and took off when it bounced off a padded wall and back towards the foul line. Last week, Carlos Moncrief spent some pre-game time in right field working on bounces off the bricks and archways. The staff never anticipated him needing to get used to such an odd bounce off the normal part of the wall. Baez raced all the way home, but the play was bang-bang when Moncrief unleashed an absurd throw from deep right.
“There wasn’t much he could do about it,” Bochy said. “He’s tracking the ball to the wall there. It took a nice hop for them but I think he showed the arm he has with that throw home. This guy has got a gun.”
Moncrief showed it off again on a fly ball to right with a runner on second. His bullet to third sent a ripple through the ballpark and surely will be on all future scouting reports.
“My whole life I’ve had a strong arm,” Moncrief said. “I try to make the most of it by throwing with accuracy.”
The arm is already the stuff of legend. Moncrief’s teammates weren’t surprised by the throw. He did, after all, clock 97 mph in a mop-up assignment for Triple-A Sacramento earlier this season. As he walked out of the park, Moncrief said he would call his wife and ask her how the plays looked on television. Perhaps he should call his high school football coach, too, and ask a pointed question. Moncrief did not play quarterback.
“I was the tight end for some reason,” he said.