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.”

MLB rumors: Manny Machado trade from Orioles to Dodgers is happening


MLB rumors: Manny Machado trade from Orioles to Dodgers is happening

After reportedly hitting a snag earlier in the day, it seems imminent that Manny Machado will be traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to multiple national reports. 

The Orioles are reportedly receving five prospects from the Dodgers in exchange for Machado. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz is the headline name to know. 

Diaz, 21, is hitting .314 with six home runs at Double-A this season. He also has 10 doubles, four triples, and 41 walks to 39 strikeouts. 

Machado has spent his entire seven-year career with the Orioles after Baltimore took him No. 3 overall in the 2010 MLB Draft. With the Orioles, Machado is a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner. 

He become a free agent after the 2018 season at just 26 years old. 

The Dodgers currently lead the NL West with a 53-43 record. The Giants are four games behind at 50-48. 

Down on the Farm: Giants' second-round pick living up to his historic height

MLB Pipeline

Down on the Farm: Giants' second-round pick living up to his historic height

For good reasons, Joey Bart has earned all the headlines with his big bat and eye-popping stats. The Giants' top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft now has seven home runs and 18 RBI in 11 games for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. 

Bart, however, isn't the first player that makes you stop in your tracks when looking at San Francisco's draft picks this year. The Giants' second pick in this year's draft and biggest player (by height) has been quite impressive himself. 

Bart's battery mate Sean Hjelle is living up to his 6-foot-11 frame. The second-round pick has posted three straight scoreless outings for Salem-Keizer. 

In fact, Hjelle has only allowed one earned run to start his professional career. That came in his first start, the only time Bart has not caught him.

Over Hejelle's scoreless streak, he has allowed just two hits in five innings with four strikeouts and zero walks. Through six innings with Salem-Keizer, Hjelle is 0-0 with a 1.45 ERA and has five strikeouts to no walks. 

“We love the way he’s handled himself. He doesn’t move like he’s a 6-foot-11 pitcher,” Giants scouting director John Barr said after drafting Hjelle. “You expect him to be gawky but he moves his feet. When he walks past you or you shake his hand, you realize how tall he is. When he’s on the mound he controls his body. He really controls his body well, which shows his athleticism. He’s a good athlete.”

The Giants selected Hjelle No. 45 overall out of the University of Kentucky. In three seasons as a Wildcat, Hjelle went 22-10 with a 3.68 ERA and 222 strikeouts in 228.2 innings pitched. He was also named the 2017 SEC Pitcher of the Year.

If Hjelle reaches the major leagues, he would tie Jon Rauch as the tallest player in MLB history.