Giants

Crawford homer the difference as Giants take series from Scherzer, Nats

Crawford homer the difference as Giants take series from Scherzer, Nats

WASHINGTON D.C. — The Nationals held their annual fundraising gala on Saturday night, so Sunday’s game was pushed back to a rare 4:05 p.m. start so their players would be in, uhh, better shape. Derek Holland and Brandon Crawford left them with a wicked hangover. 

Holland pitched five shutout innings opposite the league’s best starter, Max Scherzer, and Crawford took him deep in the fourth as part of a four-hit day. The Giants got a tidy 2-0 win and shot out of town before the rain came. They started this 10-game road trip with a strong series victory. Here are the details... 

--- Crawford joined Scooter Gennett and Martin Prado as the only players this season to have three hits in a game off Scherzer. Gennett is one of the players Crawford is chasing in the batting race. He finished Sunday’s game at .338, which puts him right there with Gennett and Freddie Freeman behind NL leader Matt Kemp (.351). Crawford needed a triple for the cycle when he came up in the eighth. He doubled down the left field line for his fourth hit. 

--- Holland had it all working in five shutout innings. He got five swinging strikes on his slider, three each on his fastball and curve, and two on his changeup. Holland allowed just three hits, walked two, and struck out four. 

--- Scherzer was his usual self, striking out nine in seven innings. He struck out six straight Giants at one point and did so on just 26 pitches. But he hung a two-strike cutter to Crawford and that was all it took. 

--- Hunter Strickland and Bryce Harper faced off to open the ninth. There was no drama. On Strickland's third pitch, Harper grounded out softly to Crawford. Strickland picked up his 13th save. 

Giants sign veteran outfielder Matt Joyce to minor-league contract

Giants sign veteran outfielder Matt Joyce to minor-league contract

SAN FRANCISCO -- The competition to win outfield jobs hasn't exactly been an inspiring one, so on Wednesday the Giants added another option to the mix. 

Veteran Matt Joyce signed a minor-league deal with the club on Wednesday and will join camp as a non-roster invitee. Joyce was let go Tuesday by the Cleveland Indians, who recently signed Carlos Gonzalez. 

Joyce, 34, hit .208 with the A's last season, with a .322 OBP and seven homers in 246 plate appearances. He was much better the year before, slugging 25 homers with a 118 OPS+. While Joyce brings some power, he does not solve the primary need, which is adding a right-handed bat to the mix. 

[RELATED: Where Giants position battles stand before Opening Day]

Farhan Zaidi has said his main priority is finding a right-hander to balance an outfield that currently has Steven Duggar and Gerardo Parra slated for significant roles. Mac Williamson is expected to start in left field and Cameron Maybin could be the fourth outfielder, although he has not had a good spring. 

Giants position battles: Examining key races before MLB Opening Day

Giants position battles: Examining key races before MLB Opening Day

SAN FRANCISCO -- Nearly six weeks ago, at the start of camp, I took a look at position battles and included this line when discussing the open outfield spots: "Bryce Harper certainly could take one of them ..."

Oh, how things could have been different. 

Instead, it was a stream of veterans on identical deals -- usually $1.75 million if they make the team -- with the idea that a trade could be made at any point. 

The Giants still have not swung that deal, and in a week they'll board a short flight to San Diego with 25 players. The Opening Day roster could look different by the end of that first series, but for now, let's take a look back at those spring battles and make some predictions ... 

Outfield

Barring a rehab setback, center field was Steven Duggar's job. It's been smooth sailing, and he'll start there on Opening Day and possibly lead off.

Mac Williamson and Gerardo Parra are currently in line to start in the other corners, with Cameron Maybin the favorite to be the fourth guy. The Giants were excited to get a long look at Drew Ferguson, but the Rule 5 pick has hit just .111 with no extra-base hits. It appears he'll be headed back to the Astros. 

Backup catcher

Signed the day before FanFest, René Rivera has emerged as the frontrunner to back up Buster Posey. There is still some gap power in the 35-year-old's bat and he quickly built a rapport with the pitching staff.

The Giants could go with a third catcher, Aramis Garcia, as Posey eases into the season, but with a 1:10 p.m. opener followed by two night games, that doesn't seem a necessity. 

Fifth starter

It turns out there was never much of a battle here. Jeff Samardzija is healthy and earned his spot. Dereck Rodriguez had the upper hand on Andrew Suarez from the start, and he'll be in the rotation.

Suarez seems destined to start in Triple-A, although there could be plenty of movement here. Rodriguez, Suarez and the resurgent Tyler Beede all have options and could be shuttled back and forth a bit as needed. 

Last spots in the bullpen

I went deep on this group yesterday and came up with this bullpen if the Giants go with eight relievers: Smith, Watson, Dyson, Moronta, Melancon, Bergen, Gott, Stratton. This is the one place, though, where Farhan Zaidi may get the most creative to store inventory.

Will someone be traded, or discover a sore muscle 48 hours before the opener? 

The infield

The original article did not touch on the infielders, because Pablo Sandoval and Alen Hanson seemed set. But then the Giants signed Yangervis Solarte, and he has passed both on the depth chart.

Would Zaidi really start his first season by releasing Sandoval, a fan favorite as well as one of Bruce Bochy's all-time favorites? Hanson brings value, too, but he is out of options and it's hard to see him getting through waivers.

[RELATED: Giants' new role players must step up for team to have successful 2019]

 The Giants could carry three backup infielders and use Solarte and Hanson as their fifth outfielder, but that would require going a man short in the bullpen.