Giants

Buster Posey, Giants' vets spark wild win over Pirates

Buster Posey, Giants' vets spark wild win over Pirates

SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after his team stayed quiet at the trade deadline, vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean dropped a well-worn line on reporters.

“Not being flip, but the more you’ve been around the game, it’s not how good you are, it’s how well you play,” Sabean said. 

That’s what the Giants had to hold onto at the time, and that’s still the hope they have. With all their injuries, they can’t go man-to-man with the teams atop the division. They simply have to play better, which is what made the first game of this series so discouraging. Coming off two brutal losses, the Giants tanked Thursday night, pitching and hitting poorly and playing awful defense. 

It was the kind of performance that makes one want to wave the white flag, and perhaps some of that was going on. Manager Bruce Bochy was more than a half hour late to his pre-game media session because he was in a long meeting with team officials.

“We talked about the club and ways we can get better,” was all Bochy would offer once he finally settled into the dugout. 

The Giants certainly were a bit better a few hours later, beating the Pirates 13-10 in a game that was far closer than it should have been. This wasn’t all about how well they played, though. Sometimes it really is about how good you are.

This team was not built for depth, although there is more of it in some spots than we thought. It was built around stars, Face of the Franchise types, and in recent days Bochy has grouped them together in a desperate bid to get going. That meant Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford hit atop the lineup. Bochy was telling his veterans to lead the way, and on Friday they did. 

McCutchen got it going with a leadoff homer, his first in 19 at-bats this season against his former team. Posey followed with a rare infield single, and that was just the beginning. His first hit helped the Giants score two more in the first. In the second, Posey singled again. In the third, he singled in two more runs as part of a four-run frame. In the fourth, he singled yet again, capping a three-run inning. 

“He’s been swinging the bat a lot better,” Bochy said. “That’s the kind of hitter he is.”

Through four innings, Posey had raised his average seven points. That’s extremely difficult to do in August. He was pulled after grounding out in the sixth of what was then a blowout. 

McCutchen had a homer and four walks. Longoria reached base twice and drove in a run. Crawford had two walks and a double. 

A night after the four All-Stars at the top combined to go 1-for-14, they reached base 14 times, scored six runs and drove in five. 

"They had good at-bats and got in hitters' counts and took advantage of it," Bochy said. "They had some good pitches there and were letting it go. It's good to see them have some success. They've been due for a game like this where we break it open."

The Giants would need every bit of the production. Derek Holland was hit around and Pierce Johnson cashed in two of his runs while giving up a grand slam in the seventh. Even Tony Watson couldn’t stop the bleeding. He gave up two runs in the eighth and Josh Bell came a couple feet short of cutting the deficit to one. 

In a game he led 11-3 after six, Bochy used his closer in the ninth. Will Smith gave up a run, but finally ended a long night. 

"We had to keep tacking on," Bochy said. "These guys did a nice job of it."

Giants pitchers dig too deep a hole for hitters in loss to Nationals

Giants pitchers dig too deep a hole for hitters in loss to Nationals

WASHINGTON D.C. -- The Giants trailed by seven runs at the beginning of the ninth inning Wednesday night. About 15 minutes later, Sean Doolittle was on the mound and Reyes Moronta was hurrying to get hot in the visiting bullpen.

A spirited comeback fell short when Evan Longoria popped up with two on, capping a 9-6 loss. Those kinds of rallies leave you feeling better about your night. They also leave you with plenty of regrets. The main ones on Wednesday: Jeff Samardzija gave up two homers in the first and Travis Bergen allowed two more in the seventh.

"We just dug ourselves too big a hole," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Samardzija had not allowed a homer in his six previous starts, including three strong ones to start this season. That was a big deal for a pitcher who once led the league in homers allowed and gave up 30 bombs in another season. But on this night, the Nationals jumped on two bad two-seamers in the first. 

Juan Soto got one that leaked up and in and crushed a no-doubter to right, giving the Nationals an early 2-0 lead. Two batters later, Howie Kendrick did similar damage to a two-seamer that again was in the happy zone. Samardzija said he'll go back to the drawing board, noting he felt too quick with his delivery. 

"It was a battle out there," he said. "Especially early."

The Giants lost for the 11th time in their first 19 games, and while this one was unfamiliar in terms of power on both sides -- they hit two homers in the ninth -- the comeback was something they've become used to. The lineup makes a habit of coming through late, and on most nights the regret is that there wasn't enough production early. This time the hole was too deep because of the pitching, but Samardzija hoped that ninth inning would help out in the series finale. The Nationals ended up using three relievers in the inning, including their closer. 

[RELATED: Braves lose their closer; Could Giants be trade partner?]

"It's not surprising," Samardzija said. "It was great to see. You get into the bullpen and even in a loss you make them get a few guys up, a few more than they wanted to. Those things carry over."

Could Giants trade bullpen arm to Braves after Arodys Vizcaino injury?

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AP

Could Giants trade bullpen arm to Braves after Arodys Vizcaino injury?

The Giants don't have a bonafide closer. They do, however, have several quasi-closers who have filled that role in the past, or possibly could do so in the future.

Will Smith, Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and Reyes Moronta have combined to post a 1.82 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 39 2/3 innings, giving San Francisco what ranks as one of the best bullpens in all of baseball. The Giants' relievers rank first overall in WAR (plus-1.6), according to FanGraphs.

With the emergence of Trevor Gott (plus-0.3) and Travis Bergen (plus-0.2), the Giants suddenly have an abundance of good-but-not-great options from both sides of the mound in the later innings.

The Atlanta Braves, however, suddenly have one fewer option, and it's a big loss. The team announced Wednesday that closer Arodys Vizcaino had season-ending shoulder surgery.

Of the Giants and Braves, one team seems significantly more likely to make a run at the postseason than the other, and it's not the one that has scored the third-fewest runs in all of baseball.

San Francisco could certainly use an influx of youth and talent into all levels of the organization. Although a potential trade for one of the Giants' aforementioned quasi-closers wouldn't net a ton in return, the Braves entered the season with the third-best farm system in the majors, according to MLB.com.

[RELATED: Why Giants envision 'great comeback' from injury for Bart]

The Giants' bullpen has surpassed expectations and been a pleasant surprise, and yet, San Francisco has been below .500 since Opening Day. They're not going to contend this season, and if they're going to a year or two from now, a call to the Braves is the kind the Giants should be making.