In loss to Phillies, Giants continue to pile up the strikeouts

In loss to Phillies, Giants continue to pile up the strikeouts

PHILADELPHIA — Bruce Bochy spent all offseason and spring saying the Giants would hit more homers this season, and he was right. The new-look lineup has come with a nasty side effect, though. 

The Giants’ strikeout rate was up nearly five percent from a year ago entering Tuesday’s game. Aaron Nola did nothing to change that tune. Nola struck out a career-high 12 in seven innings and the bullpen rung up five more. The Giants have three games already with at least 17 strikeouts. They never whiffed more than 15 times last season. 

“That’s a little bit of a surprise, as many strikeouts as we’ve had,” Bochy said. “These last two starters have been tough. They both had great stuff and command.”

On Monday, Zach Eflin set his career-high in strikeouts. Nola was on a different level, and a scout in attendance said it was the best stuff he had seen all year, with three “plus-plus” pitches going. The 24-year-old got 26 swinging strikes, the second-most in the majors this season.

“He’s been throwing the ball well and he really did tonight,” Bochy said. 

Derek Holland has not thrown all that well this season, and he gave up two early homers on curveballs. The second one was tucked low and away and it almost looked like Jorge Alfaro knew the pitch was coming. Holland went back and looked at film and felt he was tipping his breaking ball, something he has done in the past by inadvertently slowing down his delivery. He made an adjustment and didn’t allow another run, but the Giants made too many mistakes on this night to truly come back. 

Austin Jackson bobbled a ball to the wall in the third, allowing Cesar Hernandez to reach third. Alen Hanson couldn’t keep Odubel Herrera’s bouncer up the middle on the infield. On another night, Holland might have escaped that inning. On this night, it was an easy run for the Phillies. 

Then there was the mistake that really seemed to get to Bochy. Gregor Blanco singled with two outs in the fifth but was picked off with Andrew McCutchen at the plate. Blanco had nearly been picked off earlier in the at-bat, but replay showed he was just barely back in ahead of the tag. In a two-run game, the misplays added up. The pickoff was the MLB-leading sixth of the year for Giants runners.

“That’s something we will address,” Bochy said. “That’s too many pickoffs.”

It does not sound like the strikeouts have reached that level yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. Every hitter in the lineup struck out at least once, and Jackson whiffed three times. 

“A lot of strikeouts tonight,” Bochy said. “That’s unlike us, although we’ve had our moments.”

There have been a lot more of those moments this season than in the past. 

Giants' Pablo Sandoval is playing like an All-Star in short amount of time


Giants' Pablo Sandoval is playing like an All-Star in short amount of time

PHOENIX -- Pablo Sandoval didn’t walk around the clubhouse on Sunday morning. He bounced.

Sandoval went from one group of teammates to the next, his voice booming through the room as he cracked jokes. At one point he joined a group of relievers watching a long drive contest on a clubhouse TV. “Swing harder, bro!” he yelled at the golfer on the screen.

Then he found a group of reporters. One asked why he blew a kiss to the camera after his homer on Saturday night. Sandoval said it was his son’s birthday, and he knew he was watching. Sandoval went and grabbed his phone and came back with a video of his family watching his pinch-hit blast. 

“I always have a good game on his birthday,” he said.

It was pointed out that Sandoval also hit a homer on Mother’s Day.

“I always have a good game on Mother’s Day,” he quickly replied. 

Right now, Sandoval seems to have a good game every day. 

He came off the bench for another pinch-hit homer, this one a 10th-inning blast that gave the Giants a thrilling 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks. With two pinch-hit homers in less than 24 hours, Sandoval doubled his previous career total. 

“You expect good things to happen, that’s how good he has been,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “And it happened again today.”

Sandoval has been a breath of fresh air, a constant source of life and production. And at this point, it’s worth asking if he has been more. Has he been an All-Star? 

The Giants, even in a season like this, must have one, and so far Sandoval has been as good a choice as any. He has easily been the team’s best hitter, posting a 1.001 OPS for a lineup that has just one other player (Brandon Belt, .848) above .800. Sandoval and Belt are tied for the team lead in homers with seven, and Sandoval entered the day leading the Giants with 1.1 Wins Above Replacement. 

The most likely choice at this point is closer Will Smith, who picked up his 12th save in as many opportunities. But Sandoval is making a run for it, largely on the strength of his pinch-hit work, which may be an issue for some, but really shouldn’t hurt a player who does so much damage in the National League. 

He is 9-for-24 as a pinch-hitter with two homers, six runs scored and four RBI. Sandoval leads the Majors in pinch-hits, and Sunday’s was yet another with two strikes. He got a fastball on the outer half from Yoshihisa Hirano and spun it out to left. 

“I was getting ready for one moment,” Sandoval said. “You have to be ready for everything. Bochy gave me an opportunity in the 10th and I got a great swing and a good pitch to hit. 

“I calmed myself down, used my hands a little bit more. Don’t jump at the ball. That’s what I’ve been doing this season. Try to get a good pitch to hit — it can be low, it can be high. If I put the barrel on the ball with a good swing, there’s going to be damage.”

[RELATED: Johnny Cueto impresses Bochy]

Sandoval got his chance because of another substitute. Brandon Crawford came off the bench and robbed Adam Jones of a walk-off single in the ninth, diving to stop a hard shot with a runner on third. 

“That was the key to the game,” Sandoval said. “It wasn’t my bat. It was that play. That’s why that guy wins a Gold Glove every time he has an opportunity. He made that play to save the game.”

Giants vs. Diamondbacks lineups: Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford sitting


Giants vs. Diamondbacks lineups: Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford sitting

The Giants' bats were muy caliente against the Arizona Diamondbacks in their 8-5 victory on Saturday.

On the mound, Madison Bumgarner continued his Chase Field dominance. He allowed four runs and five hits with six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings in the NL West matchup and now boasts a 6-1 record with a 2.58 ERA in his last 12 starts at a location batters thrive in. 

On Sunday, it's Drew Pomeranz who receives starting honors on the bump for the Orange and Black. This is his first start since coming off the injured list after suffering a left lat strain at the beginning of May. His last outing didn't create the best of circumstances -- the lefty allowed seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings against the Reds, ballooning his ERA to 5.93.

The Giants will face D-backs left-hander Robbie Ray, who had a dazzling performance in his last outing against the San Diego Padres on Monday. He allowed just two runs over five frames and reached the 800th-career strikeout mark.

Brandon Belt is out of the lineup for the Giants with Donovan Solano starting at shortstop. Brandon Belt is also out of the lineup with Tyler Austin covering first base.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming on the MyTeams app.

Here are the lineups for both teams in the finale of a three-game series.

San Francisco Giants (19-25)

Joe Panik, 2B
Donovan Solano, SS
Tyler Austin, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Kevin Pillar, RF
Stephen Vogt, C
Mac Williamson, LF
Steven Duggar, CF

Drew Pomeranz, (1-4, 5.93 ERA)

Arizona Diamondbacks (25-21)

Adam Jones, RF
Ketel Marte, CF
Eduardo Escobar, 3B
David Peralta, LF
Christian Walker, 1B
Wilmer Flores, 2B
Nick Ahmed, SS
John Ryan Murphy, C

Robbie Ray, P (3-1, 3.14 ERA)