Giants lose once again as big bats continue to struggle

Giants lose once again as big bats continue to struggle

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a long post-game session with reporters, Jeff Samardzija said everyone needs to do more. He included the starting pitchers in his accounting. 

“We can win games 2-1,” he pointed out.

It was nice of Samardzija not to throw teammates under the bus, but the Giants don’t need to win games 2-1. Winning 4-3 is not asking a lot, but the Giants once again failed to hit that mark. They lost 3-2 to the Twins, failing to hit the low three-run mark for the 14th time in 29 home games. At AT&T Park, they are averaging 3.07 runs per game this season. 

Manager Bruce Bochy has clearly seen enough. He rubbed his hand through his hair as he sat down on the podium 10 minutes after the final out, and there was an edge to his voice at times. He seemed annoyed, more than anything. 

“We’ve talked about the need to score four runs,” he said. “We have a hard time doing that here at home. I wish I could put my finger on it. It’s not going to happen until our guys who normally do what they’re good at come around and drive in these runs. You still believe that they will, but right now it’s a challenge for us, and it’s unfortunate because we’ve had a lot of quality starts. We just can’t score enough runs for these guys.”

Samardzija got two runs of support and took his eighth loss because of two Twins homers. He was pitching with no margin for error because the Giants failed to cash in on an early opportunity against Jose Berrios. A double and two walks loaded the bases in the third, but Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence struck out. Both players struck out three times on the day, Crawford’s average dropping to .247 and Pence’s to .228. 

“It’s obvious they’re not seeing the ball right now, either one,” Bochy said. “That makes it tough, when you’re in the heart of the order and you have a couple of guys struggling, that makes it tough to score runs. Those are the guys you lean on. The third inning, that’s the difference in the game.” 

“We couldn’t cash in and take advantage of those things. That’s probably going to come back to haunt you, which it did today.”

Saturday’s story was familiar, and not just because the Giants lost and looked flat while doing so. Once again, they couldn’t get more than a player or two going. That’s been the story all year. On Saturday it was Brandon Belt who led the charge, with a homer in the first and a single and walk later on. Belt, hitting third, needed help from the guys behind him. It wasn’t there, and it hasn’t been. 

Crawford’s OPS is down nearly 100 points from last year. Pence is down to .579, after years of regularly posting an OPS over .800. Joe Panik is down 127 points from two years ago. Belt has 11 homers, but his OPS of .796 is 19 points below his career average. Denard Span (.712) is also well below his previous numbers. 

“There’s a dramatic difference right now for some of these guys,” Bochy said. “That’s part of our issue and that’s why we are where we are.”

While the other regulars have at times looked poised to bust out, Pence’s slump has lasted just about the entire season. He was struggling before he went on the DL with a hamstring strain, and he is 3 for 22 in seven games since returning. Bochy said “it’s evident he’s not seeing the ball well.”

“I’m not hitting the ball well and not having good pitch selection, so you could say that,” Pence said. “At this moment I don’t feel that good, but it could change at any moment.”

The Giants have no shot if it doesn’t, for Pence and others. They believe they’re healthy enough and putting in the proper work. It’s just not leading to anything new. 

“You’ve got to keep plugging away,” Pence said. “If I knew the answer, I’d be doing it.”

--- If you need a different tase in your mouth, I chatted with old friend Chris Heston today. You can listen to the podcast here. 

Giants rookie Andrew Suarez shows competitiveness when Bruce Bochy pulls him

Giants rookie Andrew Suarez shows competitiveness when Bruce Bochy pulls him

SAN DIEGO — The two rookie pitchers who have helped solidify Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s rotation go about their business in different ways. You can see the fire in Dereck Rodriguez’s eyes as he stands on the mound, and there seems to be a certain intensity with everything he does on the field. Andrew Suarez, on the other hand, often seems to be playing a stress-free game of catch. 

But on Monday, Suarez showed what you knew was there. You don’t get to this level without being ultra-competitive, and the rookie let his guard down for a split-second when Bochy came out with the hook after just 87 pitches en route to a 4-2 win over the Padres. Suarez briefly threw his hands up, and the disappointment was clear on his face as he walked off the field. A few moments later, he found his manager in the dugout. 

“I just apologized to him. I thought I showed him up,” Suarez said. “That’s the last thing I’m trying to do.”

Bochy didn’t mind one bit. 

“I don’t want them to (want to) come out,” he said. “He’s a competitor. We had our guys fresh, [the relievers] have been throwing the ball well.”

Ultimately, Tony Watson got out of the eighth and Will Smith closed out the win. Suarez got the victory, his seventh, and showed a little fire in the process. The Giants knew it was there. It just took a tough decision for it to be made public. 

“My pitch count was low for being that deep in the game,” Suarez said. “I thought I would finish it. I was surprised, but you have to go to the bullpen. We have a good bullpen.”

Suarez said he hoped to match Chris Stratton’s complete game from Friday night, but the Giants are handling Suarez and Rodriguez a bit differently down the stretch, trying to keep some innings off their arms even as they go all the way through the end of September. Bochy liked Mark Melancon against the Padres coming up, regardless of how many pitches Suarez had thrown. 

In the end, it was the best of both worlds for the Giants. They got out of the inning and got the win, and they learned a bit more about a rookie who has been one of the biggest bright spots of a down year. 

“He said it was ok,” Suarez said of his conversation with Bochy. “He liked that I was competitive.”

Giants rookies take advantage of chance vs. Padres with big night

Giants rookies take advantage of chance vs. Padres with big night

SAN DIEGO — The days of this being AT&T Park South are over. There were maybe 5,000 people actually at Petco Park on Monday night, and the usual large swatches of orange were missing. You can’t blame any fans who took this trip off their calendar sometime over the past six weeks. 

But the Giants have kept it circled, and not just because of all the taco spots within walking distance of the team hotel. Manager Bruce Bochy has tried to be respectful of games with contenders, trotting out lineups that included plenty of veterans. The first night against the last-place Padres allowed for some extra time for his rookies, and man, did they take advantage. 

Andrew Suarez would have been in the lineup regardless, and he continued a strong first season with a career-high 7 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win over the Padres. Left fielder Chris Shaw had his first career three-hit game, giving him five in two days. Aramis Garcia looked at home in his first start at first base and drove in a run with a hard single. Right fielder Austin Slater cut a runner down at second with one of the best throws of the year by a Giant. 

“They did a great job,” Bochy said. “It started with Suarez, what a great job he did. He really had a good fastball going, good movement on it. Shaw, a nice game by him, and a big hit by Garcia. It was good to see the kids playing well.”

The biggest leaps in recent days have come from Shaw, who looked lost at the plate for his first 25 big league plate appearances but has been locked in the last couple of days. Shaw said he made an adjustment, starting his swing earlier. He lifts his leg when the pitcher lifts his leg, a tweak he used earlier in his career. 

“It allows me a ton of time,” he said. 

On Monday, Shaw used those split-seconds to shoot the ball all over the field. He had a single and double to left and pulled a hard double down the right field line. The final hit came off a lefty reliever, and was enough to have his manager doing a little extra noodling late at night. Bochy said he will think about using Shaw against either lefty Joey Lucchesi on Tuesday or Robbie Erlin on Wednesday. 

If Shaw does get a start against a lefty, that’ll be another milestone to check off the list. Monday’s game also showed that he still has room to grow in other departments. After the double, Bochy put Gorkys Hernandez in for defensive purposes. He said Shaw has come a long way and done a good job out there, but it’s clear the staff would like to see more. 

In right field, Slater continued to show that he has the tools to handle either corner spot. His throw to rob Franmil Reyes of a double was one of the defensive highlights of the season for the Giants.

They have not, in recent years, had any types of arms in the outfield. Slater’s is clearly different. 

“That’s one of the more impressive plays and throws I’ve seen,” Bochy said. “It’s not like he took his time to gather himself to get a lot on it. It was all arm. He’s going away from second base and he wheels and fires a bullet right on the money.”