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Rodón critical of Giants' energy: 'Something needs to change'

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Carlos Rodon

PHOENIX -- With two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning Monday at Chase Field, Carlos Rodón threw a nasty two-strike slider that got Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Jordan Luplow to check his swing. Rodón started walking back to the dugout, pointing to indicate his belief that Luplow had struck out. First base umpire Gabe Morales disagreed. 

Rodón looked at Morales and muttered that Luplow had made a full swing, and then he did what he often does when he gets mad: He reached back for 98 mph. That pitch didn't end the inning, but the next one did, and Rodón animatedly talked to himself the whole way back to the dugout. 

The sequence was reminiscent of the fire that used to pour out of the other lefty who started Monday, Arizona's Madison Bumgarner. It was the type of passion that has largely been missing the last couple of months for a Giants team that has dropped 11 of 14 after Monday's 8-3 loss and is now just two games above .500.

It is dangerous to play the body language game, especially when you're talking about the oldest roster in the league, one full of guys who are used to riding the highs and lows of a 162-game season. But it's no longer just outsiders who feel like the Giants look lethargic. 

Manager Gabe Kapler has talked in recent days about the lack of energy, and he was open Monday in discussing David Villar, a player Kapler hoped could bring a "ripple effect" of energy to the roster in his debut. Villar had two hits, but there wasn't much life Monday outside of those at-bats, and it was noticed from the man on the mound. 

 

"I think something needs to change," Rodón said. "I think we're playing really bad baseball. You could say as much as you want, you know, but until we physically do something and make a change, I don't think we're going to see any results."

The Giants have not held any team meetings or done anything drastic, although Kapler did praise Brandon Belt for taking charge during the usual hitters' meeting on Monday and talking about the need to focus more during each individual at-bat. But that needs to translate to the other side, too. 

The Giants have been one of the worst defensive teams in baseball all season long and one play Monday represented a new low point. In a tied game, Daulton Varsho scored all the way from first on a sacrifice bunt after infielders lost track of him and Wilmer Flores' throw to third sailed away. The Diamondbacks never trailed again.

The Giants went 17-2 against Arizona last season, a big reason why they won the NL West, but right now there's no team that isn't a challenge. After a 2-6 homestand against three teams under .500, they started their road trip with another dud.

Kapler has mostly stayed optimistic, but there's only so much hope you can put out there when your team is playing like this. 

"I think things have a chance to turn very quickly," he said. "They only have that chance if we're very diligent about our work every day (and) we don't get too high or too low. This has been a really rough stretch and I think we've gotten our ass kicked quite a bit, but we're still in a position where we can play much better baseball and do so very quickly if we come to work every day and we're focused about our work and our energy levels are high."

The work ethic was there during batting practice on Monday afternoon, even on a 100-degree day in the desert. But once the game actually started, it was more of the same. Rodón said he sees a team that needs to "play with a little more fire."

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That's the natural state for Rodón, but not for many of these Giants. It is a group that's cool, calm and collected, but right now they're calmly playing baseball that's hard to watch. 

"It's definitely frustrating," Rodón said. "I think all of us would like to play better and see different results. Sometimes I tend to voice some frustration and sometimes we need it and sometimes we don't, but I think right now, something has to change."