Giants shrink entire season into one cruel ending

Giants shrink entire season into one cruel ending

The Never-Say-Die San Francisco Giants found a loophole in their contract with the metaphysical world, the one that gave them insulation from the most searing fires of danger when they needed it most.
The art of self-immolation.
And not just self-immolation, but an arson pyrospectacular. They didn’t just lose Game 4 of this National League Division Series to the Chicago Cubs and the right to continue playing, oh no. The 6-5 final that ended their season and sent them to a bilious winter doesn’t begin to explain it, nor does the box score, nor the play-by-play, nor even the televised replay.
Frankly, you had to be there to fully appreciate this epochal lava slide. The Team That No Team Could Destroy finally found a team that could.
Oh, all credit and glory to the Cubs, who backed themselves into a corner by being schooled, demoralized and dominated by Matt Moore only to rise in the ninth inning. They averted two city-wide days of what Sir Alex Ferguson used to call “squeaky bum time,” and made history conform to their expectation rather than the other way around for one of the very few times in club history. From Kris Bryant to Javier Baez, from single to walk to double to single to fielder’s choice to game-winning single, these were the proudest 24 minutes and six seconds of their season.
But one team’s miracle is another team’s kiln, and the Giants spat up their 5-2 ninth-inning lead so violently that the pain will linger long past that first round of golf of that first pre-dawn duckblind session. The bullpen that had everything but an apropos nickname (The White-Knuckle Cavaliers? The Blown Save Brigadiers? The Tape The Windows Here Comes The Tornado Crusaders?) flambéed itself in almost balletic unison to snatch epic disaster from the jaws of superstitious omnipotence that people will tell their children for years.
That is,  when they want to scare their children into going to bed.
Derek Law – ground single to left by Bryant. Javier Lopez – six-pitch walk to ice-encrusted Anthony Rizzo. Sergio Romo – screaming double down the right field line by Ben Zobrist. Will Smith – ground single to center by Wilson Contreras, and bad bunt-turned-Brandon Crawford throwing error by Jason Heyward. Hunter Strickland – Baez single up the spine of the diamond. Three-run lead, gone. Happy stadium, gone. Trip to Wrigley to finish off the team that has been living in a common-law relationship with failure for a century, all of it gone.
There is no reason to commit it to memory. It will be burned involuntarily in your souls. Twenty-four pitches to six hitters in twenty-four minutes. The delightful fantasy of Johnny Cueto in Wrigley Field with advancement on the line turned to soot in the time it takes to watch a miserable (if that’s not a redundancy) sitcom.
“This just sucks,” first baseman Brandon Belt said afterward, finding the most positive analysis available. “Maybe this motivates us for the following season, I don’t know, but right now we realize how much this sucks. Maybe we can look back on this next year and remember how much it sucks and use it.”
In other words, for the Giants, it essentially sucks.
It is also their entire season shrunk to the size of a snow pea, only with the denseness of a collapsing sun. The bullpen Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti could not use their reputations to master left one last epochal failure as its sendoff piece. 
Maybe this was how it was meant to be, but if it was meant to be, the hammer for that particular nail could have been driven just as easily Monday night, when the Giants blew a 5-3 lead because of Bryant’s game-tying two-run homer of Romo and still won, 6-5, in 13 innings.
But no, there was one more masterpiece left, and it was this one. “You gotta get those last three outs,” Bochy said forlornly, “and that has been a problem for us. Last night, the same thing happened, but we held on.”
Fate-tempting is a dangerous business, though. The Giants had dodged all manner of baseball ordnance in winning their three World Series, playing 171 hours and 14 minutes of reputation-cementing baseball as The Team That Does Not Die, only to break the myth themselves in one last supernova of a half-hour.
Oh, and did we mention that Aroldis Chapman, the cannon-armed Cubs closer who was muscled into submission Monday night, struck out Gorkys Hernandez, Denard Span and Belt in the bottom of the night on 12 pitches? I mean, just to close out this evening, continue the Cubs’ flirtation with destiny and shatter the Giants’ big-game invincibility myth in megastyle? That took six minutes, in case you’re timing it for posterity.
To be fair, any Giant fan with a brain where brains should be would take the rest of the decade with thanks. They would cherish the first 52 games and 171 hours and 489 innings since 2010 and be happy as retirees with lottery money in Las Vegas.
But that last inning . . . those last thirty minutes . . . those last 10 batters . . . Tuesday night . . . that will linger just as long as a cold, hard reminder of baseball’s cruelest backhand.
Specifically, for every team but one every year, that it sucks.

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants moved closer to setting their opening day roster on Monday when they made a significant round of cuts to their spring training roster. 

A total of 15 players were reassigned or optioned, bringing the total to 31 players remaining in camp. Many of the players cut Monday entered the spring competing for jobs. 

In the outfield, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater were optioned to Triple-A and Chris Shaw was reassigned to minor league camp. Williamson had a huge spring and was the likeliest of the trio to push for an opening day spot, but he'll start his year in the minors. Steven Duggar was not among the cuts, and he remains an option to make the team, with the Giants also looking at Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker for backup spots. Hernandez and Parker are out of minor league options. 

Tyler Beede was optioned and Andrew Suarez was reassigned to minor league camp, leaving three players vying for the final two rotation spots. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton have been the favorites all along, although both struggled the last time out and Derek Holland has had a strong spring. 

Both backup catchers -- Trevor Brown and Hector Sanchez -- were reassigned, along with Orlando Calixte, who saw time in the big leagues last year. Joan Gregorio, Jose Valdez, Justin O'Conner and Kyle Jensen were also reassigned. Chase d'Arnaud, who appeared to be making a strong push, was on the list, too, leaving Josh Rutledge as the only competition for Kelby Tomlinson for the final infield spot. 

Finally, Derek Law and Roberto Gomez were optioned to Triple-A. Josh Osich remains and appears the frontrunner for a bullpen job. Julian Fernandez, the Rule 5 pick, also remains in camp. 

The Giants break camp on Friday.

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.