Giants stay hot, sweep Padres in fourth straight offensive outburst

Giants stay hot, sweep Padres in fourth straight offensive outburst

SAN DIEGO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy does not remember what he did on July 4, 1974. All he knows is that he wasn't in a dugout, and he can't say the same for any Independence Day since. 

Bochy was drafted by the Astros the next year, and for more than four decades -- through the minors, his playing career, his time as a minor league manager, and 25 years leading the Padres and Giants -- July 4 has meant a baseball game. Perhaps Bochy's memory is fuzzy, but as he leaned back in his chair late Wednesday, savoring San Francisco's fourth straight win, he couldn't remember a single July 4 since 1974 in which he did not have a game to play in or manage. 

Bochy will play golf tomorrow. He will grill at his Poway home and host his family, which has grown in recent years to include grandchildren he adores.

It will be relaxing, fun and well-earned, and yet, a part of Bochy would really like to spend July 4 watching these Giants play another baseball game. 

After three months of futility, the lineup has turned it around, hammering an inexperienced Padres pitching staff in a three-game sweep that ended with a 7-5 win Wednesday. The Giants have scored 40 runs in the last four games. This same team had three hits one night last week and nobody blinked, and yet there they were Wednesday, once again pouring it on. 

"It's such a different feeling, a great feeling," Bochy said. "I feel good for these guys, because they're having sucess. We've had some tough games and now we're on a pretty good roll. You actually hate to see a day off, to be honest."

The Giants will try to keep the team-wide hot streak going Friday against the Cardinals. They will try to continue to make this interesting. On Wednesday, they snuck within 5 1/2 games of the second Wild Card spot.

It's here that we must pump the brakes, and point out that the Giants remain eight games under .500 and have been outscored by 70 runs through 86 games. They're still looking up at every team in the NL other the Marlins and Mets. 

But this is a group that hasn't had much fun this season, and for once the Giants are taking it to other teams. They are on the opposite end of the kind of game they have lost so often this season and the previous two, and nothing symbolized that more than the sixth inning. 

The Giants trailed by a run when Kevin Pillar came up with one out and took strike one. He tried to call time before the second pitch, but home plate umpire Jeff Nelson didn't grant it.

Pillar froze like a statue. Luis Perdomo, confused by what was happening at the plate as he started his windup, lobbed a throw in that was so slow it didn't register on the radar gun. It hit Pillar on the front foot and he was sent to first. 

"I respected the fact that the pitcher didn't throw one in there max effort," Pillar said. "I was standing there defenseless. He lobbed it kind of at me and I just stood my ground and it hit me. It was kind of a strange play. I've never been a part of that. It worked out."

Pillar would score the tying run on Donovan Solano's double. Solano scored the go-ahead run when Wil Myers lost Pablo Sandoval's two-out fly ball to center in the lights. The Giants scored twice more and didn't look back. 

That's the kind of inning that only goes your way when everything else is. Right now, the Giants are rolling, and the clubhouse doesn't care about just how steep the climb is.

[RELATED: Why Beede was optioned to minors after impressive start] 

Alex Dickerson, who followed an early Evan Longoria homer with one of his own, said he never felt like he was entering a last-place clubhouse when the Giants acquired him from the Padres and plugged him in the lineup. 

"As soon as I walked in, you wouldn't know we're having a tough season," he said. "We've got guys who have won huge games and they come in with that confidence every day. There's a lot of experience here. It's just fun to be a part of."

Giants veterans would be greatly impacted by MLB's proposal to players

Giants veterans would be greatly impacted by MLB's proposal to players

This is a short week for most workers in the United States, but for the two sides trying to get baseball back on the field, these could be their longest days of the year. 

Major League Baseball and the Players Association are trying to come to an agreement on a deal that could put players back on the field in July, but Tuesday's developments weren't positive. According to multiple reports, the proposal that MLB made Tuesday included a significant cut for the highest-paid players. The two sides already had agreed to a deal that prorates salaries, although MLB maintains that the financial situation has changed since it has become clear fans won't be allowed into games, significantly limiting revenue. 

The proposal was met with immediate backlash, with just about every national reporter tweeting that the union was disappointed and discouraged. It's easy to see why. Such a deal would have a huge impact on some of the game's biggest stars, including members of the Giants organization. 

Having missed out on Bryce Harper, the Giants don't have anyone in those highest price ranges. But they do have six players on contracts that were supposed to pay them at least $10 million this year -- including Buster Posey and Johnny Cueto above $20 million -- and 14 who would have made more than $1 million.

Most of their veterans would be taking a big cut. Jeff Samardzija, for instance, was supposed to make just under $20 million in the final year of his five-year contract. Per that proposal, he would instead play this season for just about $5 million. Cueto, who signed a few days after Samardzija, was due $21 million this year; the proposal cuts that to a little more than $5 million.  

MLB's proposal would benefit players making closer to the minimum of $563,500, just about making them whole on a prorated basis, and it does a sneaky job of potentially pitting different factions of the union against one another. But for a team like the Giants, just about everyone would be harshly impacted. There are players like Mike Yastrzemski, Mauricio Dubon and Logan Webb still breaking in, but the majority of the set roster has already gotten into arbitration years or signed lucrative free agent contracts. 

[RELATED: Giants would make faster evaluations if MLB has short season]

What's the next step? Well, it doesn't sound like MLB is ready to back down at all:

Everyone knew this would be a nasty negotiation, and Tuesday's developments provided a reminder of just how much ground there still is to cover before players can start booking those flights to Spring Training 2.0. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Why Giants will have to make even faster evaluations if MLB returns

Why Giants will have to make even faster evaluations if MLB returns

One thing fans learned right away in Farhan Zaidi's first season in charge is that the new-look front office is remarkably fast when it comes to altering the roster. The Giants could move even faster in 2020, though. 

If the season returns in July as hoped, the Giants expect to play 82 games, meaning the long six-month grind is now a bit of a sprint to the finish line. That will have a big impact on roster moves, and during his last appearance on KNBR, manager Gabe Kapler said the staff is already discussing how to handle this, knowing they don't have nearly as much time to evaluate players. 

"We don't necessarily have 82 games to evaluate that and then have another 82 to put the best defense out there," he said. "We actually have to make decisions sooner, we have to evaluate better in this modified camp that we have coming up. So the 82-game schedule absolutely makes us think about the roster construction differently and also about game strategy differently, for sure."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Kapler mentioned that one discussion going on right now is about center field and right, and which players will be the best options. Even though it might have seemed like Gerardo Parra got a quick hook last year, he did actually play 30 games before being designated for assignment. Yangervis Solarte, another veteran, lasted until May 7.

The Giants seemed set to take a long look at Billy Hamilton this year and potentially break with Darin Ruf in the mix, but if they're looking to stay in the NL West race over half a season, perhaps they'll lean more towards sticking Mike Yastrzemski or Mauricio Dubon in center every day, guaranteeing more consistency for the lineup. 

Dubon is also part of the flip side of this. The front office hoped to give some younger players a few hundred at-bats to sink or swim, but that's not really possible with 82 games. If Dubon struggles early on to stick in his new utility role, that experiment might be halted until 2021. Jaylin Davis might have started the season in Triple-A, but the Giants now won't have that option, and they could run Davis out there every day in right field. But they certainly wouldn't have as many at-bats to play with if Davis gets off to a slow start. 

[RELATED: Giants affiliate lists stadium on Airbnb]

The rotation will be impacted, too. Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly have been viewed as potential 2020 versions of Drew Pomeranz, but Pomeranz struggled quite a bit before he was moved to the bullpen, where he became a good trade chip. That first relief appearance, though, didn't come until the Giants had played 101 games. There won't be nearly as much time to evaluate the pitchers who came in on one-year contracts. 

There are going to be a lot of wrinkles to an 82-game season, and this is an added one. The Giants made quick evaluations last season compared to what fans have gotten used to, but they're still going to need to pick up the pace if the game returns.