Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 4-1 loss to Cubs

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 4-1 loss to Cubs


CHICAGO — The rain stayed away Tuesday after an initial delay of just over an hour. Once the first pitch was thrown, the Giants you watched over the previous week pulled a similar disappearing act. 

The lineup had no answer for Jon Lester, who threw a 99-pitch complete game and led the Cubs to a 4-1 win in two hours and five minutes. On the other side, the Cubs bashed three homers off Johnny Cueto, who still hasn’t found that 2016 groove. 

Here are five things to know from Wrigley, where tarp management is no longer a problem … 

--- Cueto gave up three homers for the first time since joining the Giants. It started with Kyle Schwarber’s 470-foot blast onto Sheffield that the Cubs said was the first to reach the street since 2014. The pitches Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo crushed had one thing in common: All were left right over the heart of the plate. 

--- Cueto became just the fourth Giants pitcher in the last 15 years to strike out at least eight but also give up three homers. Jeff Samardzija did it earlier this season against the Diamondbacks.

--- Addison Russell started a double play on Brandon Crawford in the second inning that gave Crawford a taste of what it’s like to hit a ball up the middle against the Giants. A year ago, Russell led NL shortstops in the SABR Defensive Index, which is a chunk of Gold Glove voting. This year, he leads the NL with nine Defensive Runs Saved; Crawford is at four. Personally I think Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart is the second best defensive shortstop in the NL, but Russell is certainly the guy who is the biggest threat to Crawford winning a third straight Gold Glove. 

--- The Lester Yips thing gets talked about quite a bit … but it should probably be talked about more. It’s simply incredible that one of the best pitchers in the world refuses to throw to first. Lester didn’t even move off the mound when Buster Posey hit a slow roller in the second, forcing his catcher to make a much tougher play. In the seventh Posey hit a similar ball and this time Lester had no choice; he fielded the ball and threw underhanded to first.

--- Josh Osich did not shave his mustache, he simply grew the rest out until he had a beard. It’s the smarter way to go. This way Osich still has the stache in his back pocket if the team needs some luck. He pitched a scoreless eighth, striking Schwarber out with a nasty slider.


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.”