Giants win another series, but can they afford to stand pat?


Giants win another series, but can they afford to stand pat?


SAN FRANCISCO Giants manager Bruce Bochy calledWednesdays lineup his bomb squad.

It was disarming, all right. The Giants were Posey-less,Panda-less and Tim Lincecum barely stood a chance in a 6-3 loss to the SanDiego Padres at AT&T Park.

Even if Lincecum had authored a third consecutive qualitystart, something he hasnt done all season, he still wouldve lost toJason Marquis and his sinker, which knocked through a weakened lineup likeduckpins.

The Giants still took another series its the thirdconsecutive time they lost in a bid to complete a three-game sweep and theymaintain their spot atop the N.L. West. So we are a full throaty scream short of a widespread panic.

But the Los Angeles Dodgers arrive on Friday, and theyvegot Hanley Ramirez along with more room on their corporate credit card to add Ryan Dempster-plus.Meanwhile, the Giants will wait in what appears to be desperate hope that PabloSandoval can avoid the disabled list. The bomb squad is losing pieces, and GM BrianSabean is setting up expectations that the Giants wont aggressively seek adding newones, either.

I asked Lincecum: Are the players expecting a counter tothe Dodgers acquisition of Lord Hanley?

Maybe a little bit, to see what we're going to do, Lincecum said. Thatwas our M.O. in 2010, making the moves that made the difference in our season.So we're probably wondering what we're going to do here.

But I feel like we have all the right pieces. Obviously if Pablo comesback healthy and fast, maybe we won't need to make a move. So we're hoping forthat. But whatever changes are made, that'll be up to them.

The Giants moves in 2010 were strategic (bullpen additions Javier Lopezand Ramon Ramirez) and dumpster dives (Pat Burrell and Cody Ross). Some of the namesavailable at this deadline are much gaudier, but would require the approval ofownership.

The Brewers Aramis Ramirez, for example, is backloaded in more waysthan one. The third basemans right-handed pull power would be a perfect fitfor AT&T Park, but hes owed 10 million next year and a whopping 16million in 2014, when he could be more fit for DH duty.

I asked a few other Giants whether they are waiting for reinforcementsand they all gave the right answers: Sure, well take whatever help we can get.But we like what we have, too.

If we get somebody, we get somebody, Angel Pagan told me. Right now.Were focused on winning games. Our chemistry is pretty solid. If its up tous, we have to protect our lead. Were playing great baseball right now.

Pagan saw plenty of Ramirez in the N.L. East. What kind of boost are theDodgers getting?

He can do anything at the plate, Pagan said. Hes a right-handed batwho adds versatility to any lineup. Hes a solid player.

The one and only Ryan Theriot said he didnt immediately seenews of the Ramirez trade because he was shopping for hunting clothes online.

But he called Ramirez a wonderful player whos done greatthings in this game. Hell help them out. Hanley definitely gives them a bigpush. Well see what happens in the end.

I think Pablos OK, though. Well get him back in there.Hes a bat in the lineup you have to have. Weve been a team thats offensivelysneaky and weve done some really good things this year. To have Pablo back inthere is definitely important.

In the end, nothing is more important to the Giants thantheir pitching staff. And theyll need to carry momentum through Lincecumsstarts in the second half. He stopped both his personal surge as well as theteams six-game home winning streak while allowing five runs in 4 13 inningsWednesday.

So its time for the requisite whats wrong with Timmyportion of the proceedings:

I just needed to be a little more aggressive, saidLincecum, who struck out five of the first nine batters but struggled withdiminished velocity the second time through the order. My fastball just gotaway from me and I wasnt hitting the spots I needed.

Lincecum didnt say that Pagan should have caught thebases-loaded, two-run double that barely fell in the fourth. But he did call ita little bloop that was kind of the difference in the game.

Pagan made an incredible catch the previous night. Thistime, he came a few inches short on his diving attempt. So it goes for Lincecumthis season.

The other pattern is his difficulty to maintain stuff afterbeing taxed early. He only threw 89 mph when he missed over the middle on a 3-1pitch that Jesus Guzman tagged for a two-run homer in the fifth.

You come out of this and its a loss and all, but itsnot a step backwards or anything, said Lincecum, whose 5.88 ERA is the worstamong all qualified N.L. starters. I just messed up on three pitches.

Whether its 92 or 89 I gotta trust it. I felt I could have done better in thatsituation, instead of leaving it up to a bases-loaded bloop.

Does he get upset that everyone wants to rehash his potentialissues after every bad start?

You guys are doing what youve got to do, he said. Imdoing the same thing. Im going to the chalkboard after every start.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided to look at the positives,even though Lincecums loss followed a familiar script.

Sure, its been a pattern this year, Bochy said. Early,that was one of the issues. He was working hard, working deep counts. Mix inwalks, hit a batter, thatll catch up with you. But I look more at how hestarted the game. It looked like he was going to be sharp. As the game went on,he was struggling to get the ball where he wanted.

Itll be up to Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong toexecute when the Dodgers arrive on Friday. The Giants arent likely to haveSandoval for the series, but itll be a major shock if Bochy doesnt playBuster Posey in all three games.

Asked if Posey would catch all three, he said, This series,hell be catching.

Theres plenty of wiggle room in that statement. Theresplenty of time for more movement in the N.L. West standings, too.

Risk and danger are part of the deal for bomb squads.

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.”