Frustrated Giants become first team in five weeks to lose series to Phillies

Frustrated Giants become first team in five weeks to lose series to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA — The Giants are not the type of group to come out and publicly say what you might be seeing. There are cracks in the armor if you pay attention, a glare caught on camera, an angry shake of the head in the dugout, perhaps a player who doesn’t rush into battle as punches fly. 

But in interviews, the players stick to the non-controversial. After Sunday’s loss to the Phillies, two players prefaced answers by saying, “It’s a cliché, but …” Manager Bruce Bochy will mostly do the same, but his frustration showed for a brief moment after his team became the first in five weeks to lose a series to the Phillies. 

Fifteen minutes after the final out of a 9-7 loss, it was pointed out to Bochy that most of his players have not dealt with a season this bad. Is there anything he conveys in times like this?

“What do you want me to convey?” he said, his voice quickly rising. “They’re men out there. They’re men. They know where they’re at. We’ve had meetings.”

Where they’re at is right near the bottom. After Sunday’s 9-7 loss — and a series loss — the Giants sit at 23-35, good for 29th out of 30 teams. That 30th team is the Phillies, who had not won a series since the last week of April. They took both weekend games, shutting down an inconsistent lineup on Saturday and beating up an inconsistent bullpen on Sunday. 

The trouble actually started in the early innings, with Matt Moore, who gave up five runs, lasted just four, and lifted his road ERA to an unsightly 7.94. The Giants battled back, with Brandon Crawford driving in four runs with two hits — including a homer. The lead didn’t last long. Josh Osich walked the leadoff batter in the seventh on four pitches and a double soon tied it up. Maikel Franco took Derek Law deep to open the eighth and Freddy Galvis added an insurance run with another homer off Law. 

“We just made some terrible pitches … ahead in the count, we’ve got to pitch smarter than this,” Bochy said. “You can’t do those things in this ballpark and we paid for it. We just didn’t execute pitches today. We got what you’re going to get when you don’t make pitches, especially when the count is in your favor.”

The late failures cost the Giants a series win, but to be honest, even that was a low bar. This is a team that’s so far in the hole that sweeps are needed on weekends like this one. As Phillies fans rained occasional boos down on the home team for three days, the Giants couldn’t even secure a second win. They now go to Milwaukee to face the first-place Brewers, followed by a home series against the first-place Twins. 

Both of those teams — young, springy, brimming with upside — are surprises. They are ahead of schedule in their bid to contend, and the Giants appear ahead of a different schedule. This was always going to be a roster that needed a reload or rebuild at some point, but 2018 was viewed by many internally as the earliest possible year for a breakdown. 

Instead, here they are, leading only the Phillies in the standings.

Four years ago, Brian Sabean got on a conference call with reporters who were sitting in the press box in Philadelphia. He said he would not sell Hunter Pence, Javier Lopez and Tim Lincecum. How could the front office watch this series and think the same path should be followed? Time will tell if the Giants decide to blow things up, or even embrace a partial sell-off. For now, they remain forever in search of something positive to hold onto. Crawford said the players come in every day focusing on that night's game. The results just aren't there. 

“We’re used to winning. This organization has for years won a lot of games,” he said. “You kind of get used to it as a player. It is surprising when you lose, and like I said, it’s frustrating. You’ve just got to come out and expect you’re going to win, and go out there with a positive attitude.”

Three questions for Giants as Winter Meetings kick off in Vegas


Three questions for Giants as Winter Meetings kick off in Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- The MLB Winter Meetings have never been held in a spot with more distractions than the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, but for the Giants executives settling into their suite Sunday afternoon, the next week is all about how much work there is to do. 

Farhan Zaidi got a late start to the offseason, but that hasn't been an issue. Aside from a few big trades and signings, the market is intact, and the Giants remain poised to execute whatever plan Zaidi presented to Larry Baer in a long meeting that made him the man for the head of baseball operations job.

The details of that plan are one of three big questions to be answered this week:

What's the roster going to look like?

Until Zaidi makes a couple of moves, we won't have a true idea of what he's thinking the 2019 team can look like. For now, we have some information, though.

The Giants are looking for starting pitching, and they obviously have major issues in the lineup. The fan base would feel a lot better if there were some sort of outfield addition this week, although team officials continue to downplay the possibility of a run at Bryce Harper. This team does not in any way appear to be at the start of the rebuild. 

Many of Zaidi's moves will be made on the edges. Letting Hunter Strickland and Gorkys Hernandez go shows that he believes there are equal (and cheaper) alternatives on the market. The Giants haven't yet found those alternatives, or players to fill in a 40-man roster that has only 34 players, but this is the week when that should heat up. 

[RELATED: Zaidi makes Winter Meetings unpredictable]

What does a new front office actually think of the holdovers?

Zaidi has not publicly said much about the 2018 roster, only noting that it's a group he likes but one not good enough that any options should be off the table. This week, he'll meet with the media at least three times, and countless other whispers will emerge from the endless churn of information-gathering at the Mandalay Bay. 

Do the Giants actually want to trade Madison Bumgarner? We'll have much better intel in a few days. Will Brandon Belt or Evan Longoria be put on the block? What's the real plan for Buster Posey, who is coming off hip surgery? Does Zaidi like Derek Holland and Nick Hundley as much as they like the Giants?

By the end of this week, we'll know much more about the new president's thoughts on a team he repeatedly beat over the last four years. 

What's the future of the front office and staff?

Manager Bruce Bochy is not expected to address his future this week, but he is entering the last year of his contract and he has a new boss, so he'll be asked if this is his last year with the Giants. Don't expect an answer just yet. 

We do have some answers about the new staff, though. According to The Athletic, Zaidi has hired Zack Minasian as pro scouting director and Michael Holmes as amateur scouting director. Both come highly regarded, and it's possible that other newcomers will be in the suite this week, or that Zaidi will speak with potential candidates as the whole industry is gathered in one place. 

MLB rumors: Giants to sign catcher Cameron Rupp to minor-league contract


MLB rumors: Giants to sign catcher Cameron Rupp to minor-league contract

The Giants' depth chart behind catcher Buster Posey reportedly is taking shape. 

San Francisco agreed to a minor-league contract with Cameron Rupp, according to Fancred's Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training, Heyman reported. 

Rupp, 30, last played in the big leagues in 2017. He hit .217 in 331 plate appearances with the Philadelphia Phillies, and posted a .299 on-base percentage and .417 slugging percentage. He spent the entirety of last season in Triple-A, slashing .223/.320/.425. 

The veteran conceivably could break camp with the Giants, depending upon Posey’s health. The 31-year-old is recovering from season-ending hip surgery, but is still expected to be ready by the start of spring training. 

Rupp could compete for the backup job, but he'll have an uphill battle ahead of him to unseat Aramis Garcia after the 25-year-old's standout September. Barring a Giants reunion with free-agent catcher Nick Hundley, Rupp figures to be third in line behind Posey and Garcia. 

With the MLB Winter Meetings just around the corner, the status quo could change in a hurry.