Giants

In Bay Area, bad teams get dismissed in most passive-aggressive way of all

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AP

In Bay Area, bad teams get dismissed in most passive-aggressive way of all

There is no reason for us to waste your time by selling you on the last week of the baseball season. Being in the playoffs, or on their edge, makes the first 24 weeks well worth the slog, as you all remember from 2014 and as Giants fans remember from last year.

But for those towns in which doom has already been applied – say, like Oakland and San Francisco, just to name two we can drive to – the baseball season died awhile ago. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge and Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber and the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals – they are all a gray, indistinct blur that doesn’t touch us all that much.

As a result, all the notions in the middle of the decade that this is actually a baseball area turned out to be wrong again. What we are – what we have always been – is a great place for front-running.

Just like almost every other town in America.

There are few towns where this is untrue. St. Louis for the Cardinals, Green Bay for the Packers, Pittsburgh for the Steelers, Toronto for the Maple Leafs, Dallas for the Cowboys, Philadelphia for the Eagles, Los Angeles for the Lakers – they all maintain their audiences in good times and bad, both through hinders in seats and eyes on sets.

Here, though, bad teams get dismissed in the most passive-aggressive way of all. We stop attending, watching or talking about them and find other things to do with ourselves, which I would suggest is probably the healthier way to approach entertainment that doesn’t entertain. And because we are also incredibly provincial, we won’t pay attention to those people who are enjoying the week because in our collective world view, any party we’re not at is just people milling about.

But healthier isn’t always the same as viscerally better. Ignoring the Giants’ ferocious battle with Philadelphia for the first draft pick next year, and marveling at the invisibility of the A’s late-season winning just isn’t as much of a hoot when there are so many teams standing on their necks.

Anyway, there are six more days and then the playoffs begin, and they’ll be fascinating because pennant races always are. You'll all be missed.

 

Giants notes: Bruce Bochy praises fight despite loss to A's

Giants notes: Bruce Bochy praises fight despite loss to A's

OAKLAND — After off days, Bruce Bochy occasionally admits that he spent his free hours watching more baseball. He’s a fan of the game, whether he’s managing or not. On Saturday night, he was able to appreciate a game played well, even if it didn’t come with a win. 

Bochy mentioned repeatedly that he appreciated how hard the Giants fought despite the fact that they lost 4-3 in extra innings. They appeared to be done about an hour earlier when Alen Hanson struck out, but the third strike was wild and Hanson reached with two outs in the ninth. He scored the tying run on Hunter Pence’s double into the bullpen that came with some chair controversy. 

“That’s what speed does,” Bochy said. “Hanson was flying and scored easily.”

The Giants did a lot of good things. The bullpen was dominant after Madison Bumgarner lost his command. Brandon Belt hit a homer. Pence had his first three-hit game of the season. Brandon Crawford made two incredible catches on pop-ups. It didn’t lead to a win.

“That was a great ballgame,” Bochy said. “You hate to say that when you lose, but these guys fought hard.”

—- Belt was hitless in 18 at-bats when he took Trevor Cahill deep. He snapped a streak of 63 at-bats without a homer.

—- The Giants have started switching their shifts this season, with Crawford and the third baseman swapping positions in certain counts so that Crawford can patrol an entire side of the infield. It paid off in the sixth. Matt Olson hit a pop-up toward the bullpen and Crawford took off on a dead sprint.

He snagged the ball about 150 feet from where he started. According to Statcast, Crawford reached a sprint speed of 28.8 feet per second, his fastest sprint of the season on any play.

In the 11th, Crawford went a lot way into right-center for another eye-popping grab. That one saved Hanson, who had missed two earlier pop-ups. 

—- Steven Duggar struck out in nearly a third of his at-bats in the minors this season, and we’re starting to see some of that up here. Duggar struck out twice in the series opener and twice Saturday. He has at least one strikeout in every game he has played since a promotion, and double-digit strikeouts in five of his eight starts. 

—- Evan Longoria (fractured finger) was hitless in four at-bats in his second rehab game. He’s 2-for-7 in two games and could play nine innings Sunday in a bid to speed things up. 

—- It’s not quite Scoreboard Watching Season, but… you’re always watching the team atop your division. The Dodgers lost 4-2 to the Brewers, who got two shutout innings from Josh Hader. The controversial reliever’s first road appearance will come Thursday in San Francisco, by the way. 

 

Madison Bumgarner loses feel for strike zone in 'weird situation'

Madison Bumgarner loses feel for strike zone in 'weird situation'

OAKLAND — For the first time since April 16, 2015, Madison Bumgarner did not complete five innings. He did not get hurt. He did not really get rocked, either. He just lost the strike zone during a strange sequence that even he couldn’t really explain after having a couple hours to think about it. 

Bumgarner walked five of the final seven batters he faced, including four of five in the fifth inning, and Bruce Bochy had no choice but to come out and get his ace. The Giants would go on to lose 4-3 in the 11th inning, but they probably didn’t even expect to be around that long given how the fifth unfolded. 

Bumgarner had walked two batters with the bases loaded in all his starts prior to this one. He walked back-to-back A’s with the bases loaded in the fifth. Sam Dyson got him out of the jam, but enough damage had been done that the Giants weren’t able to put this one away in nine innings, despite allowing just two hits to that point. 

Asked if he felt as off as he looked, Bumgarner paused. 

“Yes and no, I guess,” he said. “The first four innings I was cruising, pretty much. In the fifth I just couldn’t find the zone. I was trying to throw strikes. I wasn’t trying to pitch to corners… It was a weird situation to just kind of lose your feel for a minute.”

Bumgarner is maniacal about his mechanics, and he said he already had ruled out any issue there. His velocity was fine, so there was little reason for bigger-picture concern. It was just an odd stretch.

“That’s unlike Bum,” Bochy said. “But it happens occasionally.”

A night like this had never happened to Bumgarner before. He walked a career-high six batters. Bumgarner wasn’t particularly sharp from the start, missing his spots repeatedly even on pitches that were called strikes. Several others leaked from corners to the heart of the plate, but he escaped disaster until the fifth. 

A walk of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman's bloop single to right put the A’s in business. Bumgarner loaded the bases by walking Chad Pinder. The bullpen didn’t stir, but a few moments later there was action. Bumgarner went 3-2 on Josh Phegley and just missed with a fastball inside. Dyson started to warm up. Bumgarner then went 3-2 on Marcus Semien and missed with a cutter outside that never scared the plate. Dyson took over from there. 

“I just lost the feel there there in the fifth,” Bumgarner said. “I just couldn’t throw strikes. That’s it.”

That meant he couldn’t stick around as long as he normally does. Bumgarner had completed five innings in a franchise-record 89 consecutive starts. That was the longest active streak in the big leagues. He reacted harshly a few weeks back when a reporter mentioned records. This time, he admitted this particular run meant something, if only because of what it represents. 

“The whole idea is going deep into games,” he said.

For once, Bumgarner wasn’t able to do so.