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. 

Giants digging hole with first-inning woes, and they might not have solution

Giants digging hole with first-inning woes, and they might not have solution

PITTSBURGH -- Madison Bumgarner was mad at himself for digging too big a hole Friday night, and he certainly did just that. But as the Giants move past the 20-game mark, it's clear that it's another part of the team mostly digging the holes. 

The Giants are the only team in the Majors without a run in the first inning and they have scored first just six times in 21 games. When Bumgarner gave up four in the bottom of the first Friday, that was all it took. The Giants had not, of course, done any damage in the top of the inning. They would lose 4-1 on their first night with the Pirates. 

The first-inning woes have been there since the first at-bats of the season. The Giants are 6-for-66 in the first inning, and all six of the hits have been singles. They have just two walks in 21 first innings and have struck out 21 times. 

"Not scoring early again, that's making every game an uphill climb for us," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Friday's script was familiar. After an 85-minute rain delay, Steven Duggar opened the night by striking out. He is 3-for-17 while leading off games, with seven strikeouts. Joe Panik, who is batting .193, also struck out and Buster Posey, batting .217, grounded out to second.  

Bochy said the staff is talking about changes that can be made, but they are limited by their personnel. Kevin Pillar also brings speed, but he's batting just .167. Gerardo Parra is at .224. Up and down the lineup, there is nobody hitting, or reaching base at a rate that screams "put me up near the top of the lineup!"

"There's not a lot that you can do at this point," Bochy said. "These are our guys and you can move them a spot or two. But wherever you hit in the order, those guys have to come through. You look at the back end of (Pittsburgh's) order and they did a pretty good job in the first inning."

Bumgarner retired the first two batters he faced before walking third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who entered batting just .130. Josh Bell singled and Francisco Cervelli hit a two-run double. The exit velocity barrage continued a bit longer, and singles by Pablo Reyes and JB Shuck made it 4-0 before the rain drops on the dugout seats had even had time to dry. Bumgarner threw 38 pitches in the inning. 

"They weren't all bad pitches but a lot of them were," he said. "You've got to give those guys credit. With two outs and nobody on, to score four, that's hard to do even in batting practice."

[RELATED: Marte, Gonzalez collide violently]

The first-inning blip was the only one for Bumgarner, who has always had a good time in this park. In his next five innings he allowed just two singles and struck out six. 

But the damage had been done. It was an uphill climb, and as they've done for most of a month now, the Giants didn't approach the summit.

Watch Pirates' Starling Marte, Erik Gonzalez collide violently vs. Giants

Watch Pirates' Starling Marte, Erik Gonzalez collide violently vs. Giants

There was a really scary moment in the top of the eighth inning between the Giants and Pirates on Friday night.

Giants infielder Yangeris Solarte popped a ball up between second base. Pirates center fielder Starling Marte and shortstop Erik Gonzalez converged on the ball and collided violently in center field.

Both players stayed down for several minutes. The Pirates' trainer raced out to check on both players and had to keep switching between Marte and Gonzalez since both were in considerable pain.

[RELATED: Duggar robs Musgrove of extra bases]

Gonzalez was able to walk off on his own power, but a cart was brought out to take Marte to the clubhouse.

The Pirates have yet to release an injury update on the players, but let's hope both players didn't suffer any type of serious injury.