Giants show they're emotionally done in 'don't look at me' loss


Giants show they're emotionally done in 'don't look at me' loss

Monday night’s game ended, and the broadcast booths at Dodger Stadium emptied at roughly the same time. Vin Scully looked at Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow and said, “Don’t look at me.”

And they didn’t. They couldn't. The Giants don’t get to make eye contact with anyone these days.

(By the way, this is entirely fiction, so calm the hell down).

Monday’s nightly tape loop from Hell, a 2-1 ninth-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, was Groundhog Day on crank, the only holiday the Giants know these days. It was made slightly weirder by Madison Bumgarner’s standard Yasiel Puig-related tantrum, a personal indulgence Bumgarner really has no business continuing, but it ended the way Giant fans knew it would.

With a paint can hurled into a campfire.

How the Giants do this night after night is a genuine amazement; they are the first team in eight years to blow 30 saves, and have blown 13 of them since the All-Star Break. And never mind the stability of their bullpen over the past seven years. That is not the point – this kind of concentrated failure would be extraordinary for any team, let alone one that lived off the bounty of its relievers for so long.

That makes Bruce Bochy’s reason for removing Bumgarner after the Puig at-bat all the more confounding. He said, “We talked,” which explains nothing and opens all manner of speculations – maybe Bochy said, “You gotta stop doing this stuff,” and maybe Bumgarner said, “You gotta stop pissing me off,” and then it becomes a dean of students thing.

And Bumgarner offered nothing more compelling, stonewalling and rope-a-doping his way through a series of reluctant inquiries about why he came out of the game, why he lost his braincap over Puig again, and why he ended up saying, “I think we’re getting carried away over the questions,” which is code for “You’re not getting anything out of me, flatfoot.”

[RECAP: Instant Replay: Dodgers get last laugh, Giants fall in ninth]

But that’s one guess, and has no more validity than any other explanation. The truth is, the Giants have no closer whatsoever, and Bochy seems oddly reluctant to shorten his pen to zero pitchers.

All this hilarity suggests that the Giants are emotionally done, a non-playoff team just waiting for someone to plunge a toasting fork into them to enhance the gravy. This was surely the most idiotic of the 30 blown saves, at the most telling time of the year, and the Giants did not get their reputations in this decade by turning stupid, or fearful, or bizarre.

But that’s what they are now, a rapidly deflating balloon whose pre-All Star Break achievements may as well have been in 1951 for all the good they are doing now. Indeed, for all but the most fervent of Giant fans, this is the team least qualified or deserving of a postseason place.

Can it get better? Yes, but only because neither the Mets nor Cardinals are particularly trustworthy either. But catching the Dodgers is a pipe dream, and finding a reliable arm in the bullpen is a pipe dream full of the kind of stuff you can’t even buy in Amsterdam without a Hazmat suit.

So they left Dodger Stadium, losers again, in a particularly ignominious fashion, and with a new battle cry for all occasions the rest of the calendar year.

“Don’t look at me.”

For the Giants, it is part warning, but more than that, it is a caution born of care. They are just worried about the well-being of your corneas.

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.”