Giants lose once again as big bats continue to struggle

Giants lose once again as big bats continue to struggle

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. 

Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to get MRI on right shoulder


Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to get MRI on right shoulder

The Giants almost made it through spring training with no serious injuries.

But as they get set to leave Arizona for the Bay Area, Jeff Samardzija is dealing with a shoulder issue.

On Wednesday, Samardzija pitched in a minor league game. He gave up two homers, hit a batter in the fourth inning and was pulled from the game.

A day later, the Giants announced that Samardzija will undergo an MRI on his right shoulder. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, results of the MRI will be known later Thursday evening.

Samardzija's numbers in official spring training games this year are ugly. In 11 innings, he's 17 hits, 13 earned runs and six home runs.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”