Giants

Instant Replay: Bullpen implodes, Giants eliminated from NLDS

Instant Replay: Bullpen implodes, Giants eliminated from NLDS

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SAN FRANCISCO — Through good times and bad, a strong first half and a stunningly awful second half, the Giants tried to find a solution for the ninth inning. They never did, and on Tuesday night the ongoing issue ended their season. 

Five relievers combined to give up four runs in the top of the ninth as the Giants lost 6-5 to the Cubs, ending a record streak of 10 consecutive wins in elimination games. The end came quickly, but it was not surprising. The Giants blew 30 saves in the regular season, the most by a playoff team since saves became an official statistic in 1969. They could not hold the lead in the ninth inning of either of their home playoff games. 

The collapse wasted a brilliant effort from Matt Moore, who was making his third playoff start. 

The Giants have learned that there are two versions of Moore: The one be prone to wildness in short outings, and the one who can look as good as any lefty in the game when his power repertoire is on. Moore brought the good stuff early on Tuesday, allowing just one run — a David Ross homer — through four. 

The Giants manufactured a run off John Lackey in the first, with Denard Span doubling, taking third on Brandon Belt’s fly ball to deep left, and racing home on Buster Posey’s sacrifice fly. They put together an extended rally three innings later. The red-hot duo of Conor Gillaspie and Joe Panik put runners on first and third with a pair of singles. A walk of Gregor Blanco loaded the bases with one out, and it appeared Moore was instructed to watch a strikeout and set the stage for Span. He stared at two pitches and then stunned Lackey by pulling a fastball into right field. The RBI was the second of Moore’s career and his first in four years. When Lackey’s foot missed first on the back end of a double-play grounder, the Giants led 3-1. 

A three-base error by Brandon Crawford led to a run in the fifth, but the shortstop came right back and got within an inch of doubling that damage. With Hunter Pence on first, Crawford smashed a fly ball off the very top of the right field wall. He settled for a hard-luck double. Gillaspie’s third single of the night pushed Pence across, and Crawford scored on a sacrifice fly from Panik. 

Moore’s occasional command issues showed up in the sixth, and when the lefty opened the frame with seven straight balls, Derek Law hopped up the dugout steps and sprinted to the bullpen. Kris Bryant hit a flare to right that looked like it would bring the tying run to the plate, but Dexter Fowler — who had walked — read the play wrong and Pence scooped up the single and threw Fowler out at second. Moore turned to the outfield and screamed, “Attaboy, Hunter!” before getting two quick outs to end the threat. 

Moore’s 120th and final pitch was a fastball that froze Fowler for his 10th strikeout. He allowed just two hits in his eight innings, but the Cubs quickly got to work in the ninth. 

Law gave up a single and was promptly pulled. Javier Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo and he was also pulled. Sergio Romo gave up an RBI double to Ben Zobrist and he gave way to Will Smith. Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras bounced a single back up the middle, tying the game. 

After a fielder’s choice and error put the go-ahead run on second with one out, Smith handed it off to Hunter Strickland. He fired a 100 mph fastball at Javier Baez with two strikes and it was lined right back up the middle. Jason Heyward raced home for the go-ahead run.

A night after Gillaspie’s heroics, the Giants had no answer for Aroldis Chapman. The team that could never hold a lead in the ninth went down quietly.

Sources: Giants interested in Kevin Pillar trade with Blue Jays

Sources: Giants interested in Kevin Pillar trade with Blue Jays

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants still do not consider themselves anywhere near the Bryce Harper chase. Over four days in Las Vegas, they added two outfielders to their 40-man roster, both of whom are just prospects potentially fighting for bench roles.

There’s a middle ground between Harper and the recent additions, though, and the Giants have been active in that market while exploring trades. One name discussed by the front office, according to multiple sources, was Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar, who is interesting for a number of reasons.

Pillar, 29, is a defense-first center fielder who would seem to be an odd fit at first since the Giants already have a young version of that profile in Steven Duggar. But Pillar is a right-handed hitter who always has hit lefties better, and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi would like to find a platoon partner for left-handed-hitting Duggar, at least early in his career. 

Beyond that, the Giants are intrigued by the idea of occasionally playing two center fielders at the same time in their massive ballpark. Both prospects picked up this week — Mike Gerber and Drew Ferguson — can play center field, and Pillar is known as one of the top true center fielders in the game. In those discussions, the Giants imagined an alignment that occasionally could have Pillar in center and Duggar in right. 

[RELATED: Why Duggar wants to bring bunts back to life for Giants]

“Right field at our place is just as hard as playing center field,” one source said. 

It’s unclear if the Giants gained any traction in talks for outfielders this week. Zaidi believed he might have a couple of deals in place next week, although he could go in a number of directions as he looks to fill holes. 

Pillar has not been widely known to be available. Still, the Blue Jays are rebuilding in a tough division, with plenty of young talent on the way, and that’s the type of team the Giants have targeted at times. 

The Giants are not fully rebuilding on their own. They prefer to add minor pieces to the lineup and find platoon advantages, and Pillar — or someone similar — is the type of player who makes sense for a team that hopes to be somewhat competitive next season.

Why Madison Bumgarner trade now seems more likely at July deadline

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USATSI

Why Madison Bumgarner trade now seems more likely at July deadline

LAS VEGAS — When the Giants arrived here on Sunday, Madison Bumgarner was their Opening Day starter. After four days of circulated casino air, room service, $7 cups of coffee, a few rumors and one minor transaction, Madison Bumgarner is still their Opening Day starter.

That still could change, though. 

While the Giants are not close to any deals and have not gotten close, multiple sources familiar with their discussions said this week that the front office is still fully ready to trade the franchise’s ace if the right deal comes along. The Giants have come to grips with the reality of making such a move, but also believe at this point that if they are to trade Bumgarner, the best deal likely will come before the July 31 trade deadline. 

Discussions about Bumgarner have been overshadowed by contenders focusing elsewhere. The Yankees filled their hole by trading for James Paxton and signing another lefty, J.A. Happ. The Nationals signed Patrick Corbin. Other dominoes will fall, but the Giants have never been all that close to finding their own deal, and they are sensitive to a perceived shift in recent weeks.

[REPORT: Giants might hold Bumgarner until midseason]

Some recent stories written by national outlets have focused on Bumgarner's declining velocity, poor road numbers and concerning peripherals, but for the Giants, he still is valued highly. "He's still Madison Bumgarner," one Giants person said this week. He also, several team officials pointed out, remains an incredible bargain at $12 million, regardless of what some might believe about Bumgarner's current skill level. 

“I would never bet against him,” another source said when asked if Bumgarner’s value has dropped. 

During his required media availability on Wednesday, manager Bruce Bochy said he’s confident Bumgarner will bounce back from an up-and-down season, pointing out that he had a tremendous spring in 2018 and looked poised for a big year before a line drive caught his finger. 

“I can assure you he is working and he’s going to come in like he did last spring,” Bochy said. “He’s young. He’s strong. He’s smart. He has the ability to adjust. So I’m not going to be surprised if he has done something to tweak his delivery or whatever. Not that I think he needs to. This guy, he’s still really, really good.”

Bumgarner had a 3.26 ERA in 21 starts last season but his strikeout rate was down and his walk rate was a career-worst. There are other concerns for scouts who watched him last season, mainly a 4.97 ERA and 1.45 WHIP away from pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. 

But for the Giants, Bumgarner remains more than just the numbers. When asked about Bumgarner on Monday, team president and CEO Larry Baer pointed down to a ring on his hand, one Bumgarner helped the Giants win.

[MORE: Bumgarner almost played first base?]

Baer said the organization has dealt with “conflicting feelings” when discussing Bumgarner’s future. There is an emotional pull, certainly, but this is also Farhan Zaidi’s show now, and he has no ties to Bumgarner. Zaidi’s most interesting quote this week may have come when asked about the Diamondbacks taking a step back by trading Paul Goldschmidt. He challenged that assumption that they’re rebuilding, saying that deal was largely about the Diamondbacks "trying to fill multiple spots with a guy that maybe they had doubts about their ability to re-sign.”

The Giants and Bumgarner did not have extension talks last season, when the previous regime was in place. New leadership will make the decision, and multiple rival executives said this week that Zaidi will do what he thinks makes sense for the Giants on the field, no matter the resulting PR hit. 

“You hired the experts — Farhan and his team — to do what’s best for the organization,” Baer said. “At the end of the day, it’s the San Francisco Giants on the front of the uniform, and we’ve got to figure out a way to build this into where we want to go.

“If it’s with Bum, great. There are multiple scenarios here. It’s just too early to forecast it because we want to put the best team together. He may or may not be in that equation. Obviously you have your heart, and then you have what’s good for the team. There are a lot of scenarios to understand where it’s going to go. You may very well see him on Opening Day as the starting pitcher.”

For now, Bumgarner is still in that position. But the Giants do not in any way feel that they have approached the meaty part of their offseason, and they will remain open to any possibility with Bumgarner, even if this drags deep into the offseason. They believe there could be a contender — perhaps the Astros, or Braves, or Phillies — still looking for another big arm when the dust settles in January. This likely, though, will drag into the season and all the way to the trade deadline.

After weeks of whispers, the Giants still do not know where they’ll end up with Bumgarner. He’s still a Giant, but there’s a long way to go before he’s set to take the mound at Petco Park on March 28.