SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a long post-game session with reporters, Jeff Samardzija said everyone needs to do more. He included the starting pitchers in his accounting.
“We can win games 2-1,” he pointed out.
It was nice of Samardzija not to throw teammates under the bus, but the Giants don’t need to win games 2-1. Winning 4-3 is not asking a lot, but the Giants once again failed to hit that mark. They lost 3-2 to the Twins, failing to hit the low three-run mark for the 14th time in 29 home games. At AT&T Park, they are averaging 3.07 runs per game this season.
Manager Bruce Bochy has clearly seen enough. He rubbed his hand through his hair as he sat down on the podium 10 minutes after the final out, and there was an edge to his voice at times. He seemed annoyed, more than anything.
“We’ve talked about the need to score four runs,” he said. “We have a hard time doing that here at home. I wish I could put my finger on it. It’s not going to happen until our guys who normally do what they’re good at come around and drive in these runs. You still believe that they will, but right now it’s a challenge for us, and it’s unfortunate because we’ve had a lot of quality starts. We just can’t score enough runs for these guys.”
Samardzija got two runs of support and took his eighth loss because of two Twins homers. He was pitching with no margin for error because the Giants failed to cash in on an early opportunity against Jose Berrios. A double and two walks loaded the bases in the third, but Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence struck out. Both players struck out three times on the day, Crawford’s average dropping to .247 and Pence’s to .228.
“It’s obvious they’re not seeing the ball right now, either one,” Bochy said. “That makes it tough, when you’re in the heart of the order and you have a couple of guys struggling, that makes it tough to score runs. Those are the guys you lean on. The third inning, that’s the difference in the game.”
“We couldn’t cash in and take advantage of those things. That’s probably going to come back to haunt you, which it did today.”
Saturday’s story was familiar, and not just because the Giants lost and looked flat while doing so. Once again, they couldn’t get more than a player or two going. That’s been the story all year. On Saturday it was Brandon Belt who led the charge, with a homer in the first and a single and walk later on. Belt, hitting third, needed help from the guys behind him. It wasn’t there, and it hasn’t been.
Crawford’s OPS is down nearly 100 points from last year. Pence is down to .579, after years of regularly posting an OPS over .800. Joe Panik is down 127 points from two years ago. Belt has 11 homers, but his OPS of .796 is 19 points below his career average. Denard Span (.712) is also well below his previous numbers.
“There’s a dramatic difference right now for some of these guys,” Bochy said. “That’s part of our issue and that’s why we are where we are.”
While the other regulars have at times looked poised to bust out, Pence’s slump has lasted just about the entire season. He was struggling before he went on the DL with a hamstring strain, and he is 3 for 22 in seven games since returning. Bochy said “it’s evident he’s not seeing the ball well.”
“I’m not hitting the ball well and not having good pitch selection, so you could say that,” Pence said. “At this moment I don’t feel that good, but it could change at any moment.”
The Giants have no shot if it doesn’t, for Pence and others. They believe they’re healthy enough and putting in the proper work. It’s just not leading to anything new.
“You’ve got to keep plugging away,” Pence said. “If I knew the answer, I’d be doing it.”
--- If you need a different tase in your mouth, I chatted with old friend Chris Heston today. You can listen to the podcast here.