Giants

Instant Replay: Bullpen implodes, Giants eliminated from NLDS

Instant Replay: Bullpen implodes, Giants eliminated from NLDS

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Through good times and bad, a strong first half and a stunningly awful second half, the Giants tried to find a solution for the ninth inning. They never did, and on Tuesday night the ongoing issue ended their season. 

Five relievers combined to give up four runs in the top of the ninth as the Giants lost 6-5 to the Cubs, ending a record streak of 10 consecutive wins in elimination games. The end came quickly, but it was not surprising. The Giants blew 30 saves in the regular season, the most by a playoff team since saves became an official statistic in 1969. They could not hold the lead in the ninth inning of either of their home playoff games. 

The collapse wasted a brilliant effort from Matt Moore, who was making his third playoff start. 

The Giants have learned that there are two versions of Moore: The one be prone to wildness in short outings, and the one who can look as good as any lefty in the game when his power repertoire is on. Moore brought the good stuff early on Tuesday, allowing just one run — a David Ross homer — through four. 

The Giants manufactured a run off John Lackey in the first, with Denard Span doubling, taking third on Brandon Belt’s fly ball to deep left, and racing home on Buster Posey’s sacrifice fly. They put together an extended rally three innings later. The red-hot duo of Conor Gillaspie and Joe Panik put runners on first and third with a pair of singles. A walk of Gregor Blanco loaded the bases with one out, and it appeared Moore was instructed to watch a strikeout and set the stage for Span. He stared at two pitches and then stunned Lackey by pulling a fastball into right field. The RBI was the second of Moore’s career and his first in four years. When Lackey’s foot missed first on the back end of a double-play grounder, the Giants led 3-1. 

A three-base error by Brandon Crawford led to a run in the fifth, but the shortstop came right back and got within an inch of doubling that damage. With Hunter Pence on first, Crawford smashed a fly ball off the very top of the right field wall. He settled for a hard-luck double. Gillaspie’s third single of the night pushed Pence across, and Crawford scored on a sacrifice fly from Panik. 

Moore’s occasional command issues showed up in the sixth, and when the lefty opened the frame with seven straight balls, Derek Law hopped up the dugout steps and sprinted to the bullpen. Kris Bryant hit a flare to right that looked like it would bring the tying run to the plate, but Dexter Fowler — who had walked — read the play wrong and Pence scooped up the single and threw Fowler out at second. Moore turned to the outfield and screamed, “Attaboy, Hunter!” before getting two quick outs to end the threat. 

Moore’s 120th and final pitch was a fastball that froze Fowler for his 10th strikeout. He allowed just two hits in his eight innings, but the Cubs quickly got to work in the ninth. 

Law gave up a single and was promptly pulled. Javier Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo and he was also pulled. Sergio Romo gave up an RBI double to Ben Zobrist and he gave way to Will Smith. Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras bounced a single back up the middle, tying the game. 

After a fielder’s choice and error put the go-ahead run on second with one out, Smith handed it off to Hunter Strickland. He fired a 100 mph fastball at Javier Baez with two strikes and it was lined right back up the middle. Jason Heyward raced home for the go-ahead run.

A night after Gillaspie’s heroics, the Giants had no answer for Aroldis Chapman. The team that could never hold a lead in the ninth went down quietly.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

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Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

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Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.