Instant Replay: Belt goes deep twice, but bullpen comes undone again

Instant Replay: Belt goes deep twice, but bullpen comes undone again


SAN DIEGO — Somehow, the Giants are making last year’s second half look like a warm-up act. 

After Brandon Belt hit a go-ahead grand slam, the pitching staff once again failed to hold on. The eighth blown lead in five games resulted in a 7-6 loss to the young Padres. The Giants dropped to 1-4 on their season-opening road trip, one that was not supposed to be particularly difficult. 

Matt Cain barely held Ty Blach off for the final rotation spot during the spring. His season got off to a brutal start when Manny Margot, the Padres’ young leadoff hitter, blasted a solo shot to left. Margot hit another homer — the second of his career — in the third, and the Padres added another run in the frame. 

For most of the first five innings, this game was as lifeless as last season’s second half. It nearly got out of hand in the bottom of the fifth when two singles and a walk were followed by an error by Eduardo Nunez. Cory Gearrin got Cain out of the jam, and within a few minutes, Belt got him off the hook for a loss. 

Pinch-hitter Conor Gillaspie led off the top of the sixth with a single and Joe Panik doubled. After a walk of Aaron Hill, Belt jumped on a poor offering from Luis Perdomo, who had dominated early with a mid 90s sinker. A breaking ball hung at the knees and Belt blasted it to right-center. 

The Giants had their bullpen set up, but George Kontos couldn’t hold the lead. A leadoff walk and single up the middle put two on for Yangervis Solarte, who lined a first-pitch cutter into the right-center gap to put San Diego back on top. 

They added an insurance run when Austin Hedges put down a perfect safety squeeze bunt, but Belt wiped that one off the board with a solo shot in the top of the eighth. The multi-homer game was the fourth of his career. 

Starting pitching report: Cain was charged with six hits and four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. He walked three, struck out three, gave up two homers and threw a wild pitch. Most concerning: Pretty much a complete lack of swings-and-misses from the better hitters in the Padres’ lineup. 

Bullpen report: Kontos had been Bruce Bochy’s best reliever late in the spring and he was sharp at Chase Field. On Friday, he gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning. 

At the plate: Belt is now tied with Yasiel Puig for the league lead in homers (3). 

In the field: Cain had some defensive issues behind him, but he owes Jarrett Parker a drink. The young outfielder made a running catch in the right field corner to save two runs in the second. 

Attendance: This was not an AT&T Park  South situation, which is rare here. Maybe Saturday? 

Up next: Madison Bumgarner will try to get back on top of the MLB home run leaderboard. He’ll take on Jhoulys Chacin, who once gave up a homer to Madison Bumgarner. 

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.”