Giants

Nolan Arenado walks it off for cycle, hands Giants toughest loss in season full of them

Nolan Arenado walks it off for cycle, hands Giants toughest loss in season full of them

DENVER — In a somber visiting clubhouse at Coors Field, a veteran position player shook his head as he slowly peeled off his jersey. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “Do you think someone put a voodoo curse on us?”

That might be the best explanation at this point. Sure, the Giants are bad in a traditional way, and they’re outmatched talent-wise against most of the teams in the National League at this point, but losses like Sunday’s almost defy description.

Losers of 14 of their previous 18, the Giants appeared to have avoided their first ever four-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies when Hunter Pence hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the top of the ninth. Twenty-eight minutes later, they suffered the worst of their 45 losses to date. 

Nolan Arenado hit a three-run, walk-off homer off Mark Melancon to give the Rockies a 7-5 win. The blast, his 21st in just 80 career games against the Giants, clinched the cycle. Arenado became the 31st player in MLB history to hit a walk-off homer to complete the cycle, and afterward, he called it the best moment of his career. 

The mood was much different down the hallway.

Melancon has two save opportunities in the last 22 days and he has blown them both. In the first season of a four-year, $62 million deal, he has a 5.06 ERA and four blown saves in 14 chances. 

“My performance has been absolutely terrible,” Melancon said. “I need to be better. That’s it.”

Melancon, who spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a right pronator strain, said he is fine physically. Some others in the organization believe he is not 100 percent, though, and his usage backs that up. The Giants aren’t giving their closer save opportunities, but Bochy also is not using him in non-save situations. Melancon has pitched just four times in June. 

Asked about the situation, Bochy backed up his closer. 

“Mark could have come out better. I mean, look at those hits,” Bochy said. “A blooper in center field, another one we couldn’t quite get to in center field, an eight-hopper between first and second. Of course their guy (Arenado) came through but he should have fared a lot better than what happened. He made great pitches. I mean, sure, there’s the home run at the end, but the first hit the ball was on the dirt. He jammed (Charlie) Blackmon there and then made great pitches on (DJ) LeMahieu. They just put it in play.”

There’s an alternative path, of course. Most of the game’s dominant closers get through the ninth on strikeouts, but that has never been Melancon’s calling card. For years, his method has worked beautifully, but in a park like Coors Field, relying on the BABIP Gods is a recipe for disaster. All five Rockies who came to the plate in the ninth put the ball in play. While the hits were relatively soft until Arenado’s, Melancon tipped his cap, saying Colorado’s lineup “has all the tools.”

“I didn’t execute as good as I wanted to,” he said. “That’s why they were able to make contact.”

Three straight singles with one out put one run across, cutting into a two-run lead the Giants had built in the top of the inning. Pence’s blast got Ty Blach off the hook for a loss on a day when he pitched well and got burned by two solo shots in his final inning. Brandon Crawford, who had homered early in the game, added an insurance run with a double. It wasn’t enough. 

Melancon said he was trying to go in on Arenado, who already had a triple, single, and RBI double. The world’s preeminent Giant-killer came up with runners on the corners. 

“I was hoping to get a ground ball to short,” Melancon said. 

The first pitch wasn’t in far enough and Arenado knocked it into the first row of the seats. He raised his arms as the sold-out park shook and chanted “M-V-P.”

“It’s a dream come true,” Arenado said in an on-field interview. “My whole goal was to get the ball in the outfield. We had a chance to tie the game, but thank God the ball went out.”

Arenado thanked the fans as he was showered with ice water. “It’s fun to be in Denver right now,” he said. 

The Giants couldn’t get to the airport fast enough. 

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.