HOUSTON — On Saturday, acting on an idea from hitting coach Alonzo Powell, a former Astro, the Giants placed a call to the Warriors. By Monday, Warriors equipment manager Eric Housen had delivered 60 sets of warm-ups to Minute Maid Park so the Giants could represent the Bay Area on their flight to Chicago.
It was an idea that had players excited as they tried on the gear for the first time. It was also an idea that seemed like a better one before the team actually took the field against the Astros.
The Giants got smoked in a two-game series here, losing 4-1 on Wednesday and getting outscored 15-3 in 18 innings. For good measure, the hometown Rockets upset the Warriors a few minutes after Tuesday night’s blowout loss to Gerrit Cole. Justin Verlander was just as tough, allowing one run in six innings, which actually raised his ERA a bit, to 1.08.
“It’s such a good staff over here,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You’ve got your hands full. We saw two really good ones. You know you’ve got your hands full to try to get some runs. I thought last night we had some chances, but not so much today.”
The Giants grabbed an early lead when Gorkys Hernandez lined a triple and scored on Buster Posey’s sacrifice fly. But you have to play perfect baseball to come in here and beat the Astros, and they made two huge mistakes.
First, Andrew McCutchen overran a pop-up to right field. Carlos Correa scored all the way from first on the two-out error.
“I missed it. No excuses,” McCutchen said. “The ball got hit in the air and I missed it. Plain and simple.”
The bigger mistake came an inning later, after Samardzija had issued one of his five walks. He tried to throw a 1-2 slider to George Springer and ended up leaving a flat 89 mph meatball in the exact heart of the strike zone. Springer crushed it for a two-run shot. Ballgame.
“It was just a pitch that stayed middle,” Samardzija said. “If you get it going more to the outer half of the plate you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting an out.”
A year ago, Samardzija might have dotted that outer half. But his command has taken a huge step back. He has 25 strikeouts to 23 walks after issuing just 32 free passes all of last season.
“When you don’t have your best stuff, you don’t ever want to be missing in the middle of the plate,” Samardzija said of the lack of command.
The shame of all this is that the Giants could have stolen a huge win on Wednesday. Hernandez had a solid day — nine-pitch leadoff out, triple, single — and looks poised to be the everyday center fielder when the Giants remember they employ Mac Williamson. The bullpen had a solid day. Bochy had Will Smith, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland lined up to try and shorten the game and possibly get extended. Smith and Dyson did get in, and had an easy time of it.
But all too often, the starters have come up short. Before Bochy could turn to the trusted arms in the ‘pen, Samardzija had done too much damage. He was out by the fifth, and the Astros cruised home from there.