Giants

Giants again fail to complete ninth-inning comeback

Giants again fail to complete ninth-inning comeback

SAN FRANCISCO — One of these nights, the Giants will complete a comeback in the ninth. 

Maybe. 

In theory. 

I mean, it has to happen eventually, right?  

Thursday was not the night, not when Eduardo Nuñez hit by far the hardest ball of the comeback attempt and ended up with a game-ending double play. The Giants lost 3-1, falling to 0-6 this year when trailing in the ninth. Since the start of the 2015 season, they are 2-136 when they’re behind after eight. They have lost 120 straight. 

The latest halted rally came against Greg Holland, the new Rockies closer and a pitcher the Giants briefly looked at before signing Mark Melancon. Holland ran into trouble, but it wasn’t necessarily his fault. The Giants loaded the bases on two infield singles, a fielder’s choice grounder, and a walk. Nuñez, one of Bruce Bochy’s hottest players this month, scalded a ball right at second baseman DJ LeMahieu. 

“You feel good when that inning starts to unfold,” Bochy said. “We got some breaks there on a couple of groundballs. Really the only thing you can do is take a good swing and Nuney did that. He’s a tough guy to double up but he hit it that hard.”

The rally was one of few on a night when two aces didn’t get as deep as expected. Jon Gray departed in the fourth with a toe injury and Madison Bumgarner was gone by the seventh of a game where his command was off. Bumgarner paid dearly for one pitch, a fastball across the heart of the plate that Trevor Story crushed to left for a two-run shot that ultimately held up. 

“I certainly would like to have it back,” he said. “I don’t know, I just didn’t make a whole lot of great pitches tonight. I did OK to keep us in the ballgame, but obviously you would like to be a little better.”

The Giants couldn’t complete their latest comeback attempt, dropping to 4-7 on the season. They’re winless in Bumgarner’s three starts, though he has pitched well and contributed two homers at the plate. Bumgarner said he’s not letting that gnaw at him.

“All you can do is control what you can control,” he said. “You go out there and do your job.”

--- Brandon Crawford arrived at the park around 5:15 p.m. and pinch-hit in the eighth. Crawford’s wife, Jalynne, posted on Instagram that her sister, Jennifer, passed away suddenly. The Crawfords drove to Los Angeles on Wednesday night and Brandon took a flight back Thursday afternoon. 

“He said he was ready for anything, ready to pinch-hit,” Bochy said. “It’s been a tough 24 hours for Brandon. You feel for him with what he’s had to deal with. It was a long night last night. Here he is, trying to help us win a ballgame. It says a lot about Brandon. He didn’t have to be here. For him to show up tonight, I really was surprised.”

Save a good thought for the Crawfords tonight. Our condolences go out to Brandon, Jalynne and their family. 

Can new depth pieces help the Giants improve on 2018?

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USATSI

Can new depth pieces help the Giants improve on 2018?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before you start reading this, knock on wood a couple dozen times. 

The Giants have stayed healthy this spring, and that's the first step towards being better than they were the last two years. 

But that could change at any moment. After all, Madison Bumgarner got hurt in his final start last spring. Whether it's next week or next month, the Giants will need to start dipping into their depth, and while this has been a remarkably quiet offseason, they have done a decent job of upgrading the back ends of the active and 40-man rosters. 

The 2018 Giants were bad, but the 2018 Sacramento River Cats were also bad, which gave the big league club little hope of finding adequate replacements when injuries popped up, or regulars became ineffective. 

That's one area where this year's team should be better, and if you're looking for a way Farhan Zaidi can automatically pick up a few wins in Year 1, look no further than last year's roster. This is some of what he has had to replace:

Gorkys Hernandez: Despite the homers, he had a .656 OPS in 451 plate appearances
Hunter Pence: He is beloved, but posted a .226/.258/.332 line in 248 plate appearances
Gregor Blanco: Also a #ForeverGiant, but he hit .217/.262/.317 in 203 plate appearances 
Austin Jackson: Had a .604 OPS in 59 games before he was salary-dumped
Kelby Tomlinson: Great dude, fan favorite ... slugged .264 in 152 plate appearances
Chase d'Arnaud: Great dude, great with fans ... had a .618 OPS in 100 plate appearances

The pitching staff was better, but the Giants still had a lot of appearances Zaidi believes can be more effectively replaced. Notably, Hunter Strickland, who was non-tendered, had a 3.97 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 49 appearances and Pierce Johnson had a 5.56 ERA in 37 appearances. This year's bullpen is deeper and the rotation is deep enough that Andrew Suarez won't be in it to start the year. 

Of all the players listed above, Hernandez (0.5) was the only one with a positive WAR. The rest combined for negative four Wins Above Replacement.  

Will Yangervis Solarte make better use of those spare infield at-bats? Will Travis Bergen or Trevor Gott be better than the relievers who were let go? Will Mac Williamson, Gerardo Parra and Cameron Maybin greatly outperform Hernandez, Pence and Blanco? 

We'll see, but the standard set in 2018 was not at all a high one, and improvement from the complementary pieces on this year's roster would help the Giants inch a bit closer to meaningful September baseball. 

How will Giants narrow down their bullpen options before Opening Day?

How will Giants narrow down their bullpen options before Opening Day?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first free agent signing of the Farhan Zaidi Era was a reliever. One of two Rule 5  draft picks was a reliever. Two of the three players added to the 40-man roster before that draft were relievers. The Giants stockpiled non-roster options and even had Nick Vincent, who has plenty of big league success, walk into the clubhouse once camp had already started. 

You can never have too many relief arms, and on the last day off before they return home, the Giants are still evaluating plenty of them. They have 12 pitchers still in camp who could claim they are vying for bullpen jobs, and it's likely to be just an eight-man group on Opening Day. 

Zaidi and the staff have nine days to figure it all out, and less time in some cases where veterans might have opt-outs looming. Here's a look at how the bullpen race is shaping up as camp nears an end ... 

Will Smith, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, Reyes Moronta

We're grouping them together here because they're locks to be at Petco Park a week from now -- unless one of the gets traded. 

Mark Melancon

Bruce Bochy declined to name his closer early in camp, briefly talking up Melancon, who says this is the healthiest he has felt since coming to the Giants. And yet ... he has allowed runs in five of six spring appearances, has given up 13 hits in 5 2/3 innings, and has watched three homers leave the yard. Melancon's stuff just isn't there and hasn't been for two years, and this would probably be a pretty easy decision if you took the contract situation out of it. 

The Giants still owe Melancon $28 million, though, and that would be a hell of a contract to swallow, so he's probably a relatively safe bet to make the roster. At the same time, it should be noted that Zaidi had nothing to do with that contract and won't take any blame if he cuts Melancon loose, either now or during the season. 

Chris Stratton and Ty Blach

Similar in that both have had some success starting for the Giants but now find themselves in the long reliever mix. Stratton is out of options, Blach is not. That usually is what ends up making the decision this time of year. Stratton also could be a trade candidate as teams look to fill rotation holes in the next week. 

Andrew Suarez

Veterans have spent all offseason and spring talking about how unfair the system is to older players. It is more unfair to guys like Suarez, who had a strong rookie year but may begin the season in Sacramento because he's making the MLB minimum and has options remaining. Suarez could be the long man or a third lefty reliever at some point, but that seems unlikely in April. 

Travis Bergen

Zaidi said he will carry three lefties in the bullpen, and the Rule 5 pick responded with a huge spring. He has struck out 10 in 8 2/3 scoreless innings and it's hard to see how the Giants let him get away at this point. "He has the weapons to get big leaguers out," Zaidi said earlier this month. It looks like Bergen, who has a deceptive fastball and good breaking ball, will get that shot after the Blue Jays let him get away. 

Steven Okert

He had a nice September and came to Scottsdale in good shape, but he has allowed five earned runs in seven spring appearances and it's hard to see how he beats out Bergen at this point. Okert is out of options. 

Trevor Gott

Acquired from the Nationals at the start of camp, the right-hander has pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings this spring and struck out 10. He's out of options. 

Nick Vincent

The last man to walk in the room has had an okay spring, but he does have a track record of success in the big leagues. This is exactly the type of reliever you would love to have in Triple-A, knowing that he'll be needed for 30 appearances over the course of the year, but Vincent can opt out of his deal by the end of the week, according to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic. In past years that would be a concern, but given the way the free agent market went -- especially for guys like Vincent -- perhaps that's a risk he won't want to take?

Prediction

The Giants are deep enough in the bullpen that on Tuesday morning they could option Ray Black and Tyler Beede to the minors. Black has an option remaining, so guys like Gott and Stratton were ahead of him in line, at least to start the year. He'll be back at some point. Beede looked like Archie Bradley throughout the spring, but the Giants want to stretch him out to start. There are executives in the organization who believe he could be in the rotation in the second half, but Beede also is a nice bullpen option if the Giants need help at any point. 

[RELATED: Levi Michael and Mike Gerber are spring training cuts to keep an eye on]

This time of year, it's all about keeping your inventory, so if the season started today, the guess here is that the first four guys listed above would be joined by Melancon, Bergen, Stratton and Gott. But Zaidi has hinted strongly throughout the spring that he could trade a reliever. Stay tuned.