DENVER — As Jae-Gyun Hwang flies back to South Korea, at some point he might ponder an important question: What if the Giants had given me a marketable nickname?
Hwang had hoped to get some serious time in September for the Giants. The team chose instead to remove Hwang from the roster and take a second look at Pablo Sandoval, and after some mildly encouraging early returns, the gamble has backfired.
Sandoval was 0-for-4 on Monday at Coors Field and he’s hitless in his last 33 at-bats. That’s the longest streak by a Giant since Johnnie LeMaster made 37 consecutive outs in 1984. Sandoval is batting .196 in 97 at-bats since returning to his first home, with an OPS that’s about 100 points below the mark that inspired the Red Sox to cut bait and swallow $50 million.
Asked about Sandoval after a 4-3 loss, Bruce Bochy said sharply, “We’ve got a few guys cold.”
“It’s not like any young players are tearing it up, either,” Bochy said. “I’m just being honest. He’s had some success here (at Coors) and against their pitcher (Chad Bettis). We’re trying to finish strong and give Pablo a good look with (Ryder) Jones and (Mac) Williamson.”
Before Monday’s game, Bochy said Sandoval is drifting too much in his swing as he prepares to take hacks. It doesn’t help that his aggressiveness on pitches out of the zone is what it was in his first go-around.
The Giants appear to have been wrong about Sandoval, but Bochy is right about one thing: He has plenty of cold hitters, a list that includes Jones, another option at third. Jones didn’t play Monday but the guys who did didn’t do much. Joe Panik and Denard Span had six hits at the top of the order. The other Giants were 1-for-25 at the best hitter’s park in the game.
That made for a tight game, and the Giants generally blow those. Three different players made mistakes in the ninth. Williamson was too far back with a lefty, Charlie Blackmon, at the plate to lead off. He said he didn’t want to let a ball get behind him in the thin air, and the wind was swirling. When Blackmon hit a pop-up to shallow left-center, Williamson’s diving attempt ended with the ball hitting off his glove. Blackmon reached second, and Steven Okert intentionally walked Nolan Arenado and then unintentionally walked Gerardo Parra to put Cory Gearrin in a tough spot.
Gearrin struck out Pat Valaika, but Joe West did him no favors by Joe West-ing it up and opening the next at-bat by ruling a clear strike was a ball. Gearrin sprayed three more to Carlos Gonzalez, walking in the winning run.
“Regardless (of the first pitch) I have to come in there and throw strikes and make better pitches,” Gearrin said. “It’s just unacceptable for me to come in and not throw strikes and make that a competitive at-bat.”
The Giants didn’t have many competitive at-bats once it got past the top two in their order. Afterward, Bochy sat in the dugout for a few minutes and stared out at the field. When he met with reporters, he acknowledged that Sandoval will need another day off to try and clear his head and fix his swing.
“We just gave him a day off,” Bochy said. “We just gave him a day off not too long ago.”