Giants show slight improvement, but find another painful way to lose

Giants show slight improvement, but find another painful way to lose

NEW YORK — There aren’t many Giants who don’t have their fingerprints all over this 11-22 start. Josh Osich and Hunter Strickland, however, have mostly been immune. 

Osich spent the first month of the season in the minors, and he had pitched well since returning last Tuesday. Strickland allowed just one run in his first 13 appearances. Together, they gave up the winning run Monday. Osich opened the ninth with a late-innings sin, a walk of the lead-off batter. Four batters later, Strickland gave up a walk-off single to Neil Walker. 

The Giants had spoiled one Mets rally after another, going all the way back to the first inning. They could not survive the ninth. A 4-3 loss was their fourth in a row and clinched a losing road trip. 

“We dodged some bullets earlier,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Guys did a good job of getting out of jams, but it caught up to us.”

The Giants gave up the lead twice before giving up the game. That left them without much to take out of their first night in New York, but Bochy did point out some positives. Hunter Pence and Buster Posey, the two key middle-of-the-order bats, hit homers. Matt Moore survived a rocky first to give Bochy a five-and-dive. 

That’s where the Giants are in the second week of May. The goalposts have shifted. 

“I thought we played better,” Posey said. “We were able to score some runs off a really good pitcher. Matty Moore showed signs of improvement. Shoot … it’s tough. You’re doing everything you can to try to get a win and you come up short.”

Posey’s monster blast off Jacob deGrom made it 3-2 in the sixth, and gave Bochy the rare opportunity to turn a lead over to the familiar names in his bullpen. He turned first to George Kontos, who was tasked with holding a runner on with light-hitting Curtis Granderson at the plate. Granderson entered with a .133 average, but he smoked a double the opposite way, tying the game. Steven Okert pitched a sharp seventh. Derek Law left the bases loaded in the eighth with a double play. 

The Giants could never retake the lead, however, and it cost them. Osich walked Michael Conforto leading off the ninth, and with two outs, Wilmer Flores reached on a single off Strickland’s leg. Walker pulled a ball into the corner for the win.

“The leadoff walks, they’re dangerous,” Bochy said. 

The Giants are now 9 1/2 games out of first in the NL West, and with both Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans on this leg of the trip, the time will soon come where those standings aren’t even looked at. The players had hoped a win Monday could turn things back in the right direction. Instead, it was just another painful loss. 

Could Madison Bumgarner's bad road stats hurt him in MLB free agency?

Could Madison Bumgarner's bad road stats hurt him in MLB free agency?

Madison Bumgarner is entering free agency at a curious time in his career. The longtime Giants ace has built a legendary reputation, but plenty of question marks also surround the 30-year-old.

Bumgarner proved he's still a workhorse after missing time the previous two seasons with freak injuries. His 34 starts were tied for the MLB lead, and his 207 2/3 innings pitched ranked second in the NL.

But while looking at Bumgarner's stats from this past season, one thing stands out that could hurt him in free agency and actually help the Giants if they want to bring back the left-hander.

MadBum's home-road splits were staggering in 2019. He was a completely different pitcher in front of the home crowd at Oracle Park, compared to pitching away from San Francisco.

Here are Bumgarner's home stats this past season, compared to when he pitched on the road.

Home: 19 GS, 6-2, 2.93 ERA, 122 2/3 IP, 40 ER, 15 HR, 120 SO, 21 BB, 0.93 WHIP, 5.71 SO/W
Away: 15 GS, 3-7, 5.29 ERA, 85 IP, 50 ER, 15 HR, 83 SO, 22 BB, 1.41 WHIP, 3.77 SO/W

Oracle Park is known as a pitcher's dream. In fact, the Giants' home park was the least favorable for offenses this season by Park Factors, per ESPN. The 11-year veteran used that his advantage, but that luxury didn't follow him on the road.

Bumgarner allowed the same amount of homers in four fewer road games as he did at home. He also walked one more batter and allowed five more hits -- 98 on the road, compared to 93 at home. For someone with a lot of mileage on his arm and his fastball declining in velocity, that's certainly alarming.

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As a pitcher who's never tested the open market and has spent his entire career in a pitcher's paradise, these numbers will be looked at closely by front offices around the league this offseason.

Bumgarner figures to join Gerrit Cole, among others, as the most coveted starting pitchers in free agency. So, while his road numbers could help the Giants in keeping him in San Francisco, they also could prevent the veteran from signing the hefty contract he likely desires.

Alex Dickerson's bright future with Giants clouded by injury concerns


Alex Dickerson's bright future with Giants clouded by injury concerns

SAN FRANCISCO -- Once he hires a manager and general manager, Farhan Zaidi will turn to the heavy lifting. The main goal this offseason is to make the Giants lineup more competitive, particularly at home. It would be a lot easier to do that if the Giants knew exactly what they could count on from a midseason acquisition. 

Alex Dickerson changed the course of the season when he joined the Giants at Chase Field in late June against the Diamondbacks, bringing left-handed thunder to the lineup and life to the dugout as a struggling team briefly put it all together with a memorable July run. But Dickerson's season ended up going a familiar route.

He was available to Zaidi only because he had been unable to stay available for the Padres, and an oblique injury wrecked Dickerson's second half. 

That didn't leave a bad taste in his mouth, though. As Dickerson stood in front of his locker the final week of the season, he pointed out that he didn't play an inning in the big leagues the previous two seasons. 

"I just wanted to get out and compete again, and I knew there were going to be ups and downs," he said. 

The highs were game-changers for the Giants. Dickerson drove in six runs in his Giants debut and didn't slow down until he was forced to the Injured List the first week of August. In 30 games over that stretch, he hit .386 with six homers, 10 doubles, 23 RBI and a 1.222 OPS. The Giants went 20-10 when he was in the lineup. 

That's certainly not sustainable, but nothing about what Dickerson was doing looked particularly flukey, either. He has always flashed power and he showed good plate discipline and a short swing that first month. 

The oblique injury put a halt to all that, and when Dickerson returned, it was touch-and-go the rest of the way. He never felt quite comfortable, hitting .164 with three extra-base hits over his final 67 at-bats, which were scattered because he was able to start only 14 times the final six weeks. 

Looking back, Dickerson feels he returned earlier than he should have, but he has no regrets because the Giants were trying to stay in the race. He said his swing got out of whack and he was never able to find it again because he didn't go through a normal rehab process. 

There were positives, though. Dickerson's surgically-repaired back and elbow were not an issue, and he plans to be aggressive in attacking the oblique pain this offseason. Dickerson said he will do additional research and talk to as many experts as he can in an attempt to increase his core mobility and make sure the oblique pain does not return. For the first time in a long time, he's not rehabbing going into the offseason. That's a comforting feeling. 

"It'll just be a normal offseason and building up and getting in shape to hopefully play a full season next year," he said. 

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Given Dickerson's history -- he has never played more than 84 games -- the Giants can't count on a full year. But they're hopeful that Dickerson, who is arbitration-eligible and a lock to return, can be part of the solution. They can manage his health as long as that bat is still helping win games. 

"With the impact potential he showed, he's going to play as much as his body will allow," Zaidi said.