The Giants lost yet again, but at least Bumgarner took a positive step

The Giants lost yet again, but at least Bumgarner took a positive step

DENVER — The Giants have lost 14 of their past 18 games, and there was nothing new to be gleaned from what happened at Coors Field on Saturday. It was a familiar feeling, so let’s take a short trip to Scottsdale and start with some good news. 

Madison Bumgarner threw about 40 pitches in a simulated game at the club’s facility there, and he came out of it feeling fine. Bruce Bochy did not have many details, but he said Bumgarner would likely repeat the drill in a couple of days, and then probably throw a third simulated game before being cleared for a rehab assignment. 

The Giants have been pretty tight-lipped about Bumgarner’s rehab schedule, and the pitcher himself has only given two extensive interviews since crashing a dirt bike here on April 20. But it does seem that Bumgarner has been slightly ahead of schedule at every checkpoint — he was supposed to throw 30 pitches Saturday — and he does have the look of a man who will try to return in July, not early August as planned. 

Whenever Bumgarner returns, he will be boarding a sinking ship. The Giants fell 5-1 on a windy, muggy day at Coors Field, making the kind of mistakes that have become so normal in this season that could end with 100 losses. Two-strike pitches across the plate. Bloops that drop in the outfield. Defensive miscommunication. Poor at-bats with runners on base. This one had it all. 

The biggest moment came in the sixth, when Bud Black forced Bochy’s hand. He intentionally walked Gorkys Hernandez with two outs and a runner on second, and Bochy had a quick conversation with Matt Cain. 

“I knew I was getting close (to the end),” said Cain. “He asked me and I told him the truth.”

Bochy sent Brandon Belt up to hit for Cain, who was charged with two runs in five innings in his best road start in two months. Belt struck out, extending his slump to 18 hitless at-bats. 

“I’m sure the pitch he would like to have back is the check-swing on 2-0. It was (going to be) 3-0 and maybe he gets a walk,” Bochy said. “He ended up striking out. That is a big swing.”

The Giants have now dropped eight straight to the Rockies, the leaders of the National League West. It is Colorado’s longest ever winning streak against an NL West opponent. Ty Blach — a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner already in this series — will try and prevent the sweep, but no matter what, the Giants will not come out of here with good vibes. 

They’re 18 games under .500. At this point, the only question is how many of the current Giants will be shipped out before Bumgarner returns. 

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.”