CHICAGO — The Giants won the first two games away from home, but they’ll fly back to San Francisco with another losing trip.
The Cubs hit three solo shots off Jeff Samardzija and that was all they needed. A 5-1 loss at Wrigley Field was the fourth in five games for the Giants, who still have not finished with a winning mark on a road trip this season.
Here are five things you need to know from Wrigley Field, where the press box windows were closed on a sunny day because nobody here celebrates #GritWeek …
—- A walk of rookie Ian Happ was Samardzija’s first since April 28. He faced 154 batters between walks. Samardzija was trying to become the first Giant to go five straight starts without a walk since the great Bill Laskey did it in 1984.
—- Samardzija smacked a one-out double in the fifth for his first extra-base hit of the year, and a wild pitch nudged him to third. A huge blunder helped get the Cubs out of the inning. After walking, Denard Span was picked off of first. Joe Panik grounded out.
—- With eight strikeouts, Samardzija got to 79 for the season, passing Zack Greinke (78) for the NL lead. He’s nowhere near the MLB lead; Chris Sale (101) is on a different planet.
—- Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have a good-natured competition with just about everything on the field, and last year there was occasional ribbing in their stolen base race. Posey stole six bases in seven attempts; Crawford edged him, going seven-for-seven. They’re neck and neck (at one) this season after a surprise double-steal in the fourth. Posey took third and Crawford took second, but neither scored.
—- This spring, Dave Righetti talked about his desire to have relievers who could pitch two or three innings to help close a game out. The Giants haven’t found that guy. Steven Okert has gone deep at times, but also has dealt with inconsistency. The Cubs used the move after Eddie Butler departed, with lefty Mike Montgomery throwing three shutout innings to get the lead to the ninth. Must be nice.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants swapped out a Rule 5 pick who wasn't going to make the team for one who now very well might.
Drew Ferguson, an outfielder picked up from the Houston Astros in the Rule 5 Draft, was designated for assignment Thursday to clear a roster spot for Connor Joe, a utility man who was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds. Joe is under the same restrictions, and given that the Giants picked him up one week from Opening Day, there seems a good chance that Farhan Zaidi will try to tuck the former Dodgers prospect onto the roster.
Joe, 26, has moved all over throughout his minor league career, primarily playing first base, third and the outfield. As a right-handed bat with a .363 career OBP in the minors, he fits a lot of what the Giants are looking for on their bench. That also could lead to some interesting decisions next week.
The Giants already were trying to decide how to squeeze Yangervis Solarte, Alen Hanson and Pablo Sandoval on the roster, with the latter two looking like tough calls. They also could try to put Joe in the outfield mix, perhaps at the expense of a player like Mac Williamson or Cameron Maybin.
Joe had a .935 OPS with 17 homers in Double-A and Triple-A for the Dodgers organization last season. He was the sixth player selected in the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings, and hit .275 this spring for the Reds.
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The Giants had hoped Ferguson would fill these holes, but he had a poor spring and was not in position to make the club. The Giants would have had to offer him back to the Astros next week, with very little hope of keeping him in their system.
To acquire Joe, the Giants traded minor league right-hander Jordan Johnson and cash considerations to the Reds. Johnson had a 4.37 ERA in 86 minor league appearances for the Giants.
Before I start this post ...
I know ... "spring training stats don't matter." But Brandon Belt is hitting the you-know-what out of the ball right now in the Cactus League, and going 9-for-9 isn't something that should be ignored -- even during games that don't count.
Now that we got that out of the way ...
Baseball Reference is one of the few sites that has spring training stats, so shout out to them. And this is what Belt is working with as we head into Opening Day.
A .485/.553/.818 line with three home runs and six RBI in 13 games.
Not bad ... not bad at all.
And he seems to be having fun despite a small mishap cutting half of his eyebrow off prior to Photo Day, but who hasn't done that?