Giants

Can Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson repeat last summer's hot streak?

Can Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson repeat last summer's hot streak?

The first half of the scene was familiar. Alex Dickerson got hold of one, driving it over the arcade in right field. He started his journey around the bases, and that's where it got strange. 

The Giants' left fielder circled the bases in a quiet ballpark, sending an air high-five to third base coach Mark Hallberg. He grabbed his bat from the home plate umpire and retreated to the dugout, where there were just a few solitary claps.

The "Dick!" chant, one of the defining parts of last season for the Giants, apparently is not fit for intrasquad games, and it likely will have to be reimagined. The Giants won't be able to gather en masse around one player this season, but they anticipate finding new celebrations. They're hopeful Dickerson gives them plenty more reasons to chant, too. 

Dickerson looked capable on Tuesday, hitting a soaring homer off Shaun Anderson that was the highlight of an intrasquad game. It was the kind of swing he took often last summer when he briefly turned the fortunes of the whole big league club. Dickerson batted .386 over his first 30 games with the Giants, with six homers, 10 doubles and 23 RBI. The team went 20-10, briefly sneaking into the back of the wild card pack. 

A year later, a run like that would make Dickerson an MVP candidate in a 60-game season. It would allow the Giants to actually make good on their many Summer Camp proclamations that they intend to contend. But is a repeat possible?

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"You're always striving for that," Dickerson said during a Zoom call with reporters. "You don't try to put that kind of pressure on yourself because the reason why I hit as well as I did was that I hadn't played in two years and I was just playing baseball and having fun competing. I'm trying to get back to that mindset as fast as possible. I want to get back to that point where I just feel like I'm having fun playing a game and just trying to compete again."

Whether he likes it or not, there will be more pressure this time around. Dickerson is no longer the flyer taken by Farhan Zaidi. He's now set for a heart-of-the-lineup role and will be a crucial bat against right-handed pitchers. The good news is that Dickerson also is no longer getting crushed by back pain. He said his back feels great and has throughout this unique ramp-up. 

The key, of course, is keeping it that way. Dickerson's summer charge was halted by an oblique strain and he didn't homer in 26 appearances over the final two months. To stay out of the trainer's room, Dickerson has had to adjust his routine as the Giants cut down on the amount of time players can spend at the ballpark and where they can go. 

A year ago, Dickerson would show at noon for a 7 p.m. game and do about 2 1/2 hours of maintenance work on his body. He said he has had to cut that to about an hour per day because of new restrictions, but thus far it hasn't been an issue. Dickerson said he'll likely just do more work at home and at hotels before games. 

[RELATED: Johnny Cueto named Opening Day starter]

"The staff has been great at adjusting to that," he said. "We're all going through this. It's not going to be perfect this year and you've got to find a way to get by."

Dickerson's aim is to stay healthy over 60 games in which the Giants hope to be a dark horse. He showed last year what a game-changer he can be when right. It was a stretch that ended right as the Giants visited Gabe Kapler's Phillies at the end of July. 

Asked Tuesday about what he remembers from that series, Kapler started chuckling. He admitted that any time he's asked about Dickerson he can't help but smile simply because the outfielder has such a dry sense of humor. But Kapler wasn't laughing last summer as he tried to figure out how to prepare for a surging Giants team. 

"We were game-planning for him as especially dangerous against right-handed pitching," Kapler said. "We had to have left-handed pitching ready for him. We were a little bit aware and continue to be aware of his health history. Our number one concern is making sure that we keep him healthy.

"We think if Alex Dickerson is healthy, he is a very, very dangerous weapon against right-handed pitching."

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 6-2 loss vs. Dodgers

giantstakeawaysusa.jpg
USATSI

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 6-2 loss vs. Dodgers

BOX SCORE

Kevin Gausman had the best start of the year by a Giant, and one of the most dominant we've seen from any starter early on this season. But it wasn't enough for the Giants, who dropped a heartbreaker in the late innings and lost a series at Dodger Stadium.

Gausman was sitting in the upper 90s all afternoon but was pulled after just 80 pitches. He watched as Tyler Rogers gave up a three-run homer to A.J. Pollock and the Los Angeles Dodgers got another blast later from Mookie Betts, walking away with a 6-2 win. 

The Giants fell to 2-5 on this road trip with three games coming up against the Astros. Here are three things to know from one that truly hurt ... 

Made of Quality

The bar to clear for a quality start -- six innings, three earned runs -- is not a high one, but the Giants had not had one through 16 games, which is pretty remarkable. Gausman sailed past that mark in his fourth appearance as a Giant, but took a brutal no-decision. The right-hander left with a 2-0 lead and a runner on first in the seventh. A few minutes later, the Giants trailed. 

What was so notable about Gausman is how he did it. He was throwing gas, hitting 99 mph three times -- including 99.3 on his final pitch -- and averaging 97 with his four-seamer. That was his best average fastball since 2016. The final pitch was his hardest since June 9, 2018.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Maybe Pump the Brakes a Little?

Rogers had a huge spring and was just as sharp in the second camp, but manager Gabe Kapler might be playing that card a bit too often. To be fair, Kapler doesn't have a lot of great bullpen options, but Rogers' appearance Sunday was his fifth against the Dodgers in 17 days, and even pitching two innings in Saturday's win.

At some point, that submarine delivery isn't as much of a surprise, and Pollock swung the score with a three-run shot on a hanging curveball. One pitch earlier, Pollock had walked a few steps toward first, thinking he had walked on an inside pitch. 

[RELATED: MadBum struggles again while Gausman shines for Giants]

Not Slowing Down

Mike Yastrzemski provided the offense, driving a two-run single into center off former Vanderbilt teammate Walker Buehler. Yastrzemski is eighth in the NL with 12 RBI, and one of the players he trails is a teammate, Donovan Solano (14).

Solano extended his hitting streak with a two-out single in the eighth inning. This was not a barrel for Donnie Barrels. He hit a slow roller to third with a launch angle of negative 46 degrees, exit velocity of 55 mph and hit probability of 17 percent, but it died on the grass and Solano easily beat Justin Turner's throw to first. 

The 14-game hitting streak is the longest by a Giant since Angel Pagan went 19 games in 2016. 

Those were the only two hits of the day for the Giants. 

Madison Bumgarner struggles again as Kevin Gausman shines for Giants

Madison Bumgarner struggles again as Kevin Gausman shines for Giants

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Madison Bumgarner to a five-year, $85 million contract in December. Less than a week before Bumgarner agreed to continue his career in the desert, the Giants signed Kevin Gausman to a one-year, $9 million contract.

The two pitchers had much different results Sunday, with the one making $76 million less having a lot better day.

Bumgarner continued a troubling trend when he toed the rubber at PetCo Park. The longtime Giants ace got absolutely shelled by the San Diego Padres, allowing six earned runs and recording just six outs. With his fastball never coming close to 90 mph, Bumgarner allowed four home runs in two innings.

Through four starts in his D-backs career, there is something seriously off with Bumgarner.

Bumgarner topped out at 87.7 mph with his four-seam fastball against the Padres. Last season with the Giants, his average fastball speed was 91.4 mph. That big of a dip might be more than just mechanics for the veteran left-hander.

Whether it be health or pure wear-and-tear from years as the Giants' workhorse, the D-backs have to hope Bumgarner figures this out soon. At the same time, the Giants have to be happy with Gausman's game against the Dodgers.

Gausman, 29, allowed just one earned run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings. He became the first Giants pitcher to throw a quality start this season, and had six strikeouts on the day. While Bumgarner was getting crushed, Gausman was firing 99-mph pitches like: 

[RELATED: Zaidi flexes creative muscle in two Giants trades in a week]

Twice on the day, Gausman's fastball was registered at over 99 mph. He averaged 97 on his fastball, and his slowest one was 94.9 mph, according to Baseball Savant.

The Gausman contract continues to look like a steal for the Giants, while Bumgarner was on the wrong side of personal history in yet another rough outing early in his D-backs career.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]