Jeff Samardzija, Tony Watson can't make Giants' rallies hold up

Jeff Samardzija, Tony Watson can't make Giants' rallies hold up

PITTSBURGH — Jeff Samardzija was not brought here to be the ace or leader of a staff. He wasn’t even the biggest pitching addition of his own offseason, as the Giants signed Johnny Cueto a couple weeks after inking Samardzija. 

But this is Samardzija’s staff right now. Cueto is hurt and Madison Bumgarner is a month away from his own return, leaving Samardzija to lead a group that includes three young pitchers and a non-roster invitee. So it was notable when Samardzija put the onus on the pitching staff after being asked about this strange road trip.

“We pitched in Atlanta,” he said of the three-game sweep that preceded six losses. “That’s the best way to describe it.”

They have not in the state of Pennsylvania, and that includes Samardzija. Saturday was his best outing of the season, but that’s a low bar, and it still was nowhere near his standards. Samardzija was a strike away from a quality start and six innings but Francisco Cervelli took him deep to give the Pirates a two-run lead. When the Giants rallied to tie it, Tony Watson gave up the go-ahead run. The Giants lost 6-5. They are now 3-6 on the road trip. Samardzija said there’s only one way to turn it around. As always with this organization, it starts with pitching. 

“As a veteran guy you’ve got to get in there and talk to these guys and let them know what’s important,” he said. “Definitely at this point as a starting staff we’ve got to get in there and throw more innings.”

Samardzija wasn’t able to finish the sixth, and he was a spectator when a weird rally put the Pirates on top for good. Watson had been unbeatable before returning to his longtime home, but he gave up a three-run blast Friday. On his first pitch Saturday, Josh Bell stroked a double. After a groundout, Cervelli was intentionally walked to put the pressure on pinch-hitter David Freese. He hit a chopper to third and Evan Longoria scooped it as his momentum took him to the plate. Bell had broken for home, but he spun and whirled around Longoria, who paused for a second and missed his chance to throw Freese out at first or tag Bell. That loaded the bases, and Watson hit Mercer to bring in the winning run.

Halfway into his third answer a few minutes later, Bruce Bochy pivoted and credited his players for showing more energy and playing a cleaner game. It certainly beat the ball they played in Philadelphia or on Friday, but this was still a night with too many negatives. 

Alen Hanson, who hit his fourth homer early on, pulled up while scoring the tying run and was pulled with a tight left hamstring. He’ll be reevaluated Sunday, but the Giants are in a bind. They already have just four players on their bench and Kelby Tomlinson, who will start Sunday, has served as their only backup middle infielder. 

The roster is so imbalanced because of the staff’s desire to carry eight relievers, and Bochy doesn’t anticipate that changing anytime soon. But it will have to. This is unsustainable for the position players — several of whom could use a day off. The easiest way to cut a reliever would be to get length from the starting staff. 

For a moment, it looked like Samardzija would finally do it. But on a night when he got better as the game went on, he could not finish what he started. 

“That’s the most frustrating thing,” he said. “When you feel you have your good stuff you want to take advantage of that.”

Tim Flannery finds inspiration after tragedies, releases new album


Tim Flannery finds inspiration after tragedies, releases new album

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Flannery has released 14 albums, pulling inspiration from all kinds of sources. Sometimes he would write about the music scene in a certain city, or a character he met during his decades on the road playing and coaching baseball.

But the album Flannery will release Saturday has special meaning. Flannery wrote it after dealing with two different kinds of emotions. 

“This album really started probably out of tragedy,” he said this week.

Last January, Rob Picciolo, a longtime big league coach, and Kevin Towers, the former general manager of the Padres, passed away in the span of a few weeks. Flannery, the former Giants third base coach and current NBC Sports Bay Area analyst, found himself attending the funeral of a close friend on back-to-back weekends. He wrote a song about it called “The Light.”

Later in the year, Flannery’s son, Danny, called him and told him he would be going to rehab in Oregon. That experience was turned into “Ghost Town,” the second track on the album, also called “The Light.”

“That whole episode of dealing with it and even when he got out, some of the things he was thinking and saying about not wanting to go back to his ghost town again, that’s easy for me to relate to,” Flannery said. “I’m sure everybody has their ghost town. The next thing I know I’m writing another song out of it, and something else and something else, and a year and a half later, you’re playing these songs at shows.”

Flannery said he didn’t expect to make another album after his previous one, but he never stops playing, and he found new stories to tell. He said his son was happy that the story was being told through music. 

“He said, ‘I think we can help other people deal with things.’ He’s all-in,” Flannery said. “He’s a changed man and asked me to tell the story.”

Tim Flannery & The Lunatic Fringe will debut the album on Saturday at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City. All proceeds will go to the non-profit Love Harder Project for anti-bullying and anti-violence programs across the country.

“This record is for me like a burning light in a world that has gone dark at times,” Flannery said. “It’s gone dark for different people, for different reasons, but this record is a record of hope, a record of love and light.”

Cameron Maybin, on Giants this spring, to visit Oracle Park with Yankees

Cameron Maybin, on Giants this spring, to visit Oracle Park with Yankees

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will face two Yankees lefties this weekend at Oracle Park, and for most of this spring, their plan would have called for Cameron Maybin to start those games. If Maybin is in the lineup this weekend, it'll be for the visitors. 

Maybin, a non-roster invitee in Giants camp this spring, was traded to the desperate Yankees on Thursday morning and added to their big league roster. The Yankees sent cash considerations to the Indians, who stashed Maybin at Triple-A after he was let go by the Giants. 

The Yankees turned to Maybin because of unbelievable injury issues in their outfield. Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks are on the DL, and Clint Frazier -- who hit six homers in fill-in duty -- joined them after spraining his left ankle earlier this season. Frazier became the 15th Yankee to hit the injured list (by comparison, the Giants have just one, the rehabbing Johnny Cueto).

The Giants at one point thought Maybin could form a platoon with Steven Duggar or provide depth in their corner outfield spots. But he had a poor spring on and off the field, and ultimately the front office started the year by taking a look at Michael Reed in that spot. It is now Kevin Pillar who provides the right-handed balance and plays center field.

[RELATED: What we learned from Giants' 4-4 road trip]

The Giants, it's fair to say, are happy with how this all turned out. 

Maybin played 14 games in Triple-A for the Indians, hitting .216 with three doubles and 13 walks.