Giants takeaways: What we learned from .500 homestand at Oracle Park

Giants takeaways: What we learned from .500 homestand at Oracle Park

The Giants woke up Sunday looking for a sweep. By the end of the afternoon, they were just grateful that Evan Longoria poked a late single into left field. 

Avoiding a no-hitter isn't exactly the way you want to send yourself off on the road, but that was the reality of the final innings of a 10-game homestand.

With a 4-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies, the Giants finished an even 5-5. That's not quite what you want before a three-city trip, but a good series with the Rockies at least kept the team from heading to Washington D.C. already sort of buried. 

The Giants are four games out in the NL West, but just two behind the Dodgers, who had their own issues last week, and two and a half ahead of the reeling Rockies.

Before a long trip, here are five things we learned from that 5-5 stretch ...

The Bullpen Isn't Just Good, It's Deep

On Sunday, Derek Holland was followed by the last three guys in the 'pen, and they pushed the scoreless streak for Giants relievers to 20 innings. The group as a whole has a 1.77 ERA, and the three guys who won jobs in spring training are off to a hot start.

With a perfect frame Sunday, Travis Bergen has a 1.69 ERA and has allowed just two baserunners in seven appearances. The rookie left-hander will visit Toronto next week, giving the Blue Jays a look at a reliever they let get away in the Rule 5 Draft. 

Speaking of guys who got away, how did the Washington Nationals let Trevor Gott go for nothing but cash considerations? The 26-year-old sits 95-96 mph and has 11 strikeouts in 9 2/3 strong innings. Veteran Nick Vincent has always put up solid numbers, and he has a 2.61 ERA in seven appearances. 

A New Slugger

Kevin Pillar had a hit in eight of the 10 games on the homestand, although he strangely never had more than one hit in a game. Still, he's doing damage. Pillar already leads the Giants in RBI with 12 and he hit four homers last week. 

Pillar doesn't have a walk yet and doesn't hit for a high average, so the overall numbers may not be pretty at the end of the year. But this lineup desperately needed someone who could swing close games, and Pillar is going up there looking to drive in runs at every opportunity. He'll see his longtime teammates next week in Toronto. 

Posey's Progression

Buster Posey hit a couple balls on the screws early on the homestand and looked like he was breaking through. But the run he drove in Saturday remains his only RBI, and he'll take a .586 OPS into the second trip of the year. 

Posey still is not driving the ball and is lunging for more pitches than usual, striking out at nearly double his career rate. With a different roster, Bruce Bochy might be forced to start thinking about where to slot Posey in the lineup. But the rest of the core isn't really hitting, either, so the Giants will continue to wait and hope that Posey finds his form. 

The good news is that he has looked 100 percent healthy defensively. His throwing is as accurate as ever, and he hasn't had a passed ball or wild pitch yet. 

The Old Melancon?

It hasn't looked particularly dominant, but Mark Melancon has a 0.00 ERA through the middle of April, and that's a hell of an improvement from the previous two seasons. Melancon's line drive rate is down 13 percent and his groundball rate is up 12 percent, and that's a path to success when he can't quite pile up the strikeouts like he used to. 

A year after opponents hit .337 on Melancon's cutter, they're just 2-for-11 when putting the ball in play, and his velocity is up about .5 miles per hour. It's a very small sample, but these are positive signs. 

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More Pablo?

Pablo Sandoval has five hits as a pinch-hitter, four of which have been doubles, and there's no denying the spark he can bring to the team. Sandoval hasn't seen much time in the starting lineup with so many lefties lined up against the Giants, but that'll even out a bit now that the Giants are getting away from NL West play. It'll be interesting to see if he takes a few more starts from Longoria, who has struggled to get going. 

Or, with Gerardo Parra off to a slow start, will Brandon Belt get more time in left, allowing Sandoval to start at first? 

The Giants are averaging 2.76 runs per game. At some point, perhaps on this trip, they'll need to seriously start shaking things up. 

Why Vladimir Guerrero Jr. MLB debut makes Giants' Bruce Bochy feel old


Why Vladimir Guerrero Jr. MLB debut makes Giants' Bruce Bochy feel old

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy will spend parts of this season reminiscing as he walks into visiting ballparks for the last time, but all those memories are not the only reminders of how long the Giants' manager has been in the game. 

On Opening Day, the Giants watched the debut of San Diego's Fernando Tatis Jr. Bochy played with the 20-year-old's grandfather in the Astros' minor-league system, and managed against teams featuring his father. On Saturday, Bochy watched as Pirates rookie Cole Tucker sunk the Giants with a game-winning two-run homer. Later that night, Jackie Tucker visited Bochy in his office. The two have ties to the same community college in South Florida and Jackie played with Bochy's brother, Joe.

There's a chance this strange tour will continue Tuesday. The Blue Jays are close to bringing up Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is either the top prospect in the game or right behind Tatis Jr. Asked about the possibility in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Bochy smiled. 

"It shows you you're getting old," he cracked. "That's the biggest thing."

Guerrero Jr., 20, hit 20 homers with an OPS over 1.000 while tearing up three levels in the minors last season. An injury -- and service time concerns -- delayed the promotion discussion this spring, but he already has reached base eight times in 20 plate appearances in Triple-A, homering twice. He is ready, but there have been conflicting reports about when he might join the Blue Jays. 

A source said Sunday that Blue Jays players did not think the super-prospect would debut Tuesday. But, Bochy and some others in the Giants clubhouse seemed to think that was a strong possibility. 

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Bochy saw plenty of Vlad Sr. over the years. If he sees the son, it'll continue a theme that includes Bochy's own players, too. Bochy now manages Dereck Rodriguez, son of Pudge, and he managed his own son, Brett, for seven big-league appearances. 

"It's kind of cool to see these kids of ex-teammates and guys I managed against coming up and doing so well," Bochy said. "You see their talent."

What Buster Posey's first homer of 2019 in Giants' win shows Mike Krukow

What Buster Posey's first homer of 2019 in Giants' win shows Mike Krukow

Buster Posey's first home run of the 2019 season was a no-doubter. And it couldn't have come at a better time, plating each of the Giants' runs in a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. 

With the Giants down 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning Sunday against the Pirates, Posey hit a three-run shot to the farthest part of the ballpark. The catcher crushed a 92-mph fastball from Chris Archer 409 feet to dead-center field at PNC Park. 

"That tells me that his balance is finally in sync," Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow said Monday on KNBR. "With his hip throw, with his hand throw, all of that is in synch. And he can backspin a a ball over center field. That was huge." 

Just as important, Posey's smile was back with his first home run since June of 2018. 

"You could see the look of relief on his face," Krukow said. "It was wonderful."

Even manager Bruce Bochy knows this was a big swing for Posey, who has accomplished pretty much everything anyone can ever dream of in baseball. 

"I'm sure, even for Buster, that some weight is off his shoulders," Bochy said after the game.

The Giants held on for a wild win that snapped a four-game losing streak. They're 2-4 on their current road trip, and play two more games away from home starting Tuesday in Toronto.

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"Getting Buster back, getting his confidence back in his swing, and winning the way they did in a comeback victory -- to salvage a game -- that's a huge win for this team," Krukow said.