Silver lining with Posey, Nuñez news after Giants' walk-off loss to Rockies

Silver lining with Posey, Nuñez news after Giants' walk-off loss to Rockies

DENVER — There was a moment Thursday night that seemed too cruel, even for an odd year, even for a clubhouse full of rings. 

Trailing by seven runs, the Giants watched Eduardo Nuñez, their spark plug, limp off with hamstring tightness. Five minutes later, Buster Posey hit a two-run homer and felt a stabbing pain in his ankle. Posey followed Nuñez into the trainer’s room as Bruce Bochy scrambled to put a reasonable lineup back on the field for the bottom of the inning. 

In the dugout, heads hung. Players looked around in a daze. The number crunchers say there’s a 99 percent chance this season ends after 162 games, and the Giants understand that. But they were having a hard time coming to grips with a frightening flurry of events. 

And then, they flipped a switch. 

It’s here that we’ll stop and point out that the Giants lost, 10-9. It was their 12th loss in 16 games, but in the clubhouse, players understood that this night could have been so much worse. 

Posey has inflammation in his surgically-repaired left ankle but he was feeling much better after the game and expects to miss just a couple of days. Nuñez could be back in this series. He said he was mostly being cautious with a hamstring that flares up now and again. The lineup was not torn to pieces, and players took solace in the fact that they proved to themselves that they’ll continue to fight, no matter what the standings show. 

“We didn’t give up,” leadoff hitter Denard Span said. “We lost and we’re losing a lot, but we’re still fighting. We’re still battling.”

Moral victories don’t count, but at the moment, the Giants will take any positive they can get. Span was happy that the Giants at least “made them earn that win” after falling behind by eight runs. 

“Right now, we’re trying to find anything to build off,” Span said. 

Perhaps they can sleep a little better knowing that they’re still whole, and that there were signs of life Thursday. Austin Slater had four hits and looks locked in as the left fielder for the near future. Brandon Crawford hit a three-run homer, the first of the year for the Giants. Ty Blach had a pinch-hit RBI single. The contributions came from up and down the lineup, but the hole was just too deep. That falls on the shoulders of Matt Moore, who gave up eight runs in three innings. 

Posey was behind the plate for those long frames, and perhaps on a humid 86 degree night, that took something out of him. He said he felt pain as soon as he connected on his ninth homer. 

“I had pain go through my ankle and the more I ran on it the worse it hurt,” he said. 

When a reporter pointed out that the ankle was the one he famously hurt in 2011, Posey nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “I was a little confused (about why it was hurting).” The training staff believes scar tissue “pinched” on Posey’s swing and caused the pain. 

“All in all, I’m happy about it because it was pretty painful,” he said. 

With Posey and Nuñez hurting, the Giants will be short this weekend. They expect to at some point lose Hunter Strickland to his suspension, and because of that, Bruce Bochy used Strickland for a third straight day. 

The Giants had tied the game when Gorkys Hernandez lofted a fly ball to center off Greg Holland, who took his first blown save. Strickland got the bottom of the ninth and put two on for Raimel Tapia, who bounced the winning single to right. The Rockies charged the field and the Giants walked slowly back to the clubhouse, where they mostly got good news. That was enough to take some of the sting out of the loss. 

“I’m good with what happened tonight,” Bochy said. “This was a gutty effort.”

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.”