Tuesday's victory gives Giants a reminder of how they used to win

Tuesday's victory gives Giants a reminder of how they used to win

SAN FRANCISCO — Giants executives have been meeting every day in recent weeks, and the conversations go far beyond the trade deadline. The front office is trying to figure out if the Giants can still be competitive in this age of home runs and strikeouts. 

The Giants have been left behind in the power department, but Tuesday’s win was a reminder that there’s still another path. It’s harder, but it can be just as rewarding, and it’s simply the way this roster is built. Tuesday was a throwback: A deep outing from the starter, a shutdown night from the bullpen, strong defense, and an opportunistic offense. It added up to a 2-1 win over the Indians in 10 innings. 

Eduardo Nuñez walked it off with a single to right that scored Kelby Tomlinson in the bottom of the 10th, but this one was won much earlier, when Ty Blach continued a positive trend and got through the seventh. Blach became the third Giants starter in four days to record 21 outs, and the previous one — Matt Moore — showed just how tenuous life can be when you’re not built on homers. 

The Giants fell 5-3 in the opener of this series because Moore and Jae-gyun Hwang made crucial errors. They can’t afford to play like that, and a night later, they flipped the switch the other way. Brandon Crawford was spectacular at short and Joe Panik joined him in turning a couple of double plays for Blach. Denard Span chased down a liner in center and Hunter Pence sprawled to grab a bloop. 

In a lost season, perhaps the Giants can take some solace in Tuesday’s win, just their 36th of the year and one that kept them from falling 30 games out in the NL West. They have many of the pieces to win on pitching-and-defense. They just have to, you know, actually do it. 

“It makes life a lot easier,” Bochy said after Blach joined Moore and Bumgarner in getting through seven. “It’s going to be critical for them to get us deep into games and give us a quality starts to help get this thing turned around. It allows you to keep the bullpen fresh and make the moves you want to make.”

Blach gave up just one run in his time, and he said afterward that he has fixed some rotational issues in his delivery. His outing allowed Bochy to shorten his bullpen, and Hunter Strickland pitched a scoreless eighth to lower his ERA to 1.85. Sam Dyson, a revelation since coming over from Texas, pitched two hitless innings to lower his National League ERA to 2.93. 

The Giants cannot see first place or even a playoff spot from where they stand. But they don’t have to squint hard to see the makings of an intriguing bullpen in 2018. Bochy can picture many a night where a starter gets deep and turns a lead over to a bullpen that could be much improved if Dyson is for real and Mark Melancon comes back healthy. It starts with the starters, though. 

“That’s who we are,” Bochy said. “If you look at the success going back to 2010 and even 2009, it’s been the starting pitching.”

Those teams never won by bashing opponents over the head. They scored creatively and took advantage of mistakes. The Giants did both Tuesday. The first run came when Brandon Guyer dropped a fly ball in right, allowing Nuñez to reach second with one out in the sixth. The winning run came after Conor Gillaspie — on his 30th birthday — smoked a pinch-hit double off Edwin Encarnacion’s glove at first. Tomlinson pinch-ran and Denard Span pushed him over and reached on his own with a perfect bunt. 

Nuñez had never before recorded a walk-off hit. He thought he lost his chance when Span stole second. 

“I thought they were going to walk me,” he said. "As soon as Span got to second base, I was like, fuuuuu …"

The Indians did not put him on. Instead, Nuñez sent everyone home.

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Eight years ago in this very space, I postulated that Brian Sabean had done a lucrative deal with Satan.Co to win the Giants’ first World Series in 56 years. He never denied it, so I took that as silent affirmation.

Now, it seems Beelzebub has brought the bill, to be paid in full on receipt of same.

The San Francisco Giants, who needed as few things as possible to go wrong to start this season, just got two full-on groin shots in the space of less than a week, the second of which was delivered when Madison Bumgfarner fractured his hand trying to repel a line drive from Kansas City second baseman Whit Merrifield during Friday’s Cactus League game.

The injury did not look serious at first because, well, because Bumgarner pretends to be made of adamantium, but an X-ray revealed the fracture and though no time for recovery was listed, Bumgarner may return to health before the Giants do.

And yes, I know spring training is no time for fans to lose hope for a cheery season, but you take the fact as they present themselves, and the Giants are already 40 percent down from their projected starting rotation. Jeff Samardzija is already on the disabled list with a hinky pectoral muscle, and as the Giants know all too well, things like this tend to come in sixes, if not eights.

The 2010 Giants hit on every midseason trade and parlayed that good fortune and the assets already on board to a storied October run. A year later, Buster Posey got Scott Cousin-ed, and his broken ankle snapped the team’s hope of repeating.

The Giants then won in 2012 and ’14 without too much incident, but starting midway through 2016, continuing into last year when Bumgarner flipped his dirt bike, and now down to today, it’s been nothing but seeds and stems for Giantvania.

The rumor mill has been quick to offer up possible replacements for the Bumgarner vacancy (though not for his expected results), but at a time in the game’s development when the best and most progressive-thinking teams are talking about four-man rotations and Staff on every fifth day, a strategic development that requires strength in numbers, the Giants have neither that strength nor those numbers.

Their best internal choices are veteran Derek Holland, who might already have been penciled in as Samardzija’s replacement, and phenom-in-training Tyler Beede. But that essentially uses up the in-house bank of usable goods, so Sabean can either buy something very off-the-rack or hope he and Bruce Bochy can fake it long enough for Samardzija (three to four weeks) and then Bumgarner (six to eight, according to ESPN's Buster Olney).

This seems awfully daunting, especially for a team that has buzzard’s luck and a rotting bat rack for a season and a half. But with six days before the regular season starts in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers...oh, the hell with it. If you’re a Giant fan, start drinking, and continue until further notice. The evil lord of the netherworld will tell you when it’s time to stop.

Bumgarner fractures bone in pitching hand in final tune-up before season

Bumgarner fractures bone in pitching hand in final tune-up before season

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after the Giants lost one of the game's most durable pitchers, they took a much bigger blow. 

Madison Bumgarner fractured the fifth metacarpal in his pitching hand when he was hit by a line drive Friday in what was to be his final appearance before facing Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Opening Day. The Giants did not have an immediate timetable for how long their ace will be out, but he is expected to miss a significant portion of the season for a second straight year. The rotation is already without Jeff Samardzija for the first month of the season because of a strained pectoral.

Bumgarner told reporters he will have surgery on Saturday to insert pins into his hand. He expects the pins to be removed in four-to-six weeks, and that he'll be able to pitch before the All-Star break. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that, in all, Bumgarner will be out for six-to-eight weeks.

Bumgarner looked poised for a huge season, and he threw well all camp. He was injured when hit by a liner off the bat of Kansas City's Whit Merrifield. Ironically, Bumgarner and Merrifield grew up close to each other in North Carolina, and Merrifield has told a story about getting beamed by an intimidating 11-year-old Bumgarner in little league.

The Giants had little rotation depth coming into the season, and the group is now in shambles. Derek Holland, a non-roster invitee, may be the No. 2 starter. The Giants will also have to lean heavily on young pitchers Chris Stratton and Ty Blach. Johnny Cueto is the de facto ace, but he's coming off a down year and at times has struggled this spring. 

There are not many appealing options left in free agency and the Giants likely would have to go into the tax to sign one. Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez are the top in-house options.