Wrigley's phones keep Giants from challenging one of three homers in loss

Wrigley's phones keep Giants from challenging one of three homers in loss

CHICAGO — The Cubs have a brand new clubhouse that visitors often compare to a spaceship, and this season their front office moved into a sparkling building alongside Wrigley Field that has a Starbucks on the ground floor and arcade games sprinkled among the offices.

There are still plenty of old-school quirks at this 103-year-old park, however, and two of them teamed up to get to Jeff Samardzija and the Giants in the first inning Thursday. 

Kris Bryant lofted a ball to left and Mac Williamson settled under the basket hanging over the track. Williamson thought he had a bead on the ball, but a Cubs fan caught it as he reached over the basket, installed in this yard specifically to keep fans from unleashing their inner Jeffrey Maier. Williamson immediately pointed up, trying to signal to Giants coaches that they should take a second look at the homer. Bruce Bochy never had a chance.

“In this game you get a safety valve and one is replay,” Bochy said. “The phone wasn’t working and by the time Shawon (Dunston) ran down they were throwing the pitch to (Anthony) Rizzo.”

Bochy kept looking at the replay phone but it didn’t ring. Once the first pitch to Rizzo was thrown, the Giants were out of time to challenge. 

“I definitely would have challenged it,” Bochy said. “I didn't see any reason to at first. That’s something we definitely would have done differently … It’s ironic that as soon as it happened it stopped ringing.”

Bochy met with home plate umpire Laz Diaz after the inning and informed him that if the replay phone continued to give the Giants issues, he might have to stop the game and get it fixed. The Giants continued to check the phones every inning to make sure they worked, although there were no challenges from their side. 

It’s an interesting wrinkle to the loss, especially given the history of shenanigans here. But there are two postscripts. 

The first is that the ball was a home run. Unless you’re built like Kevin Durant, it’s just about impossible to pull a ball over the basket, which Williamson noted as he stood underneath the overhang. Still shots were deceiving because the fan tugged his glove down after making the catch, but the Giants checked with the league during the game and they were told that the home run call would have stood.

"If it would have gone in, it would have been like the (Javier) Baez homer in the playoffs where it just nicked it," Williamson said. 

The second postscript is that this goofy isolated play isn’t the reason the Giants lost. Jeff Samardzija gave up two more homers, Denard Span halted a rally with a mistake at first base, and the Giants managed just one run against the Cubs’ No. 5 starter and lefty reliever Mike Montgomery. They lost 5-1. 

“You’d like to think we could score in this ballpark, three to four runs,” Bochy said. “We couldn’t do it. We shot ourselves in the foot there with runners on first and third.”

With the corners packed and one down in the fifth, Span was picked off first by Eddie Butler. The Giants would never again threaten. 

“You never know what’s going to happen in an inning like that, but now he’s got two outs,” Bochy said. 

The Giants looked poised to tie the game or take the lead in that inning. Instead, the Cubs added another run on Ben Zobrist’s homer in the sixth. Two more scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch in the eighth. Samardzija took the loss despite striking out eight in three innings. He gave up three solo shots, two that landed in the basket. 

“Yeah, man, that’s a tough way to take it,” he said. “You give up one to Zobrist that he hit well and then two in the Easter basket. It’s unfortunate.”

The Cubs might have caught a break or two, but the Giants had no room to argue or complain. There’s something else about those baskets: They’re out there for both teams, and only one of the lineups was hitting it far enough to bring them into play.

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.”