McCutchen's Pittsburgh return can't provide spark for sinking Giants

McCutchen's Pittsburgh return can't provide spark for sinking Giants

PITTSBURGH — Andrew McCutchen did not know how he would feel when he finally stepped into the batter’s box at PNC Park. As it turned out, the Pirates fans didn’t even allow him to get that far. 

A 90-second standing ovation for McCutchen’s first at-bat back started as Gregor Blanco’s leadoff fly ball to center was landing in Starling Marte’s glove. McCutchen let it all in, calling the moment “intense.”

“It’s something to remember, for sure,” he said. “I did my best to soak it all in. (Catcher Francisco) Cervelli did a good job of just giving me that moment. I told the two of them (Cervelli and starting pitcher Jameson Taillon) I was ready to go, but he shook his head no. I was able to step back out and be in that moment. There was great emotion there.

“These fans came and that says a lot. I appreciate them, always have, always will.”

The fans gave McCutchen such a prolonged ovation that Cervelli moved between the plate and the mound to let it play out. The Giants would have been better off had he never gotten back into his crouch to restart the game. 

It was all downhill from McCutchen’s ovation, the first of a half-dozen on this night for the former face of the franchise. The failures were universal. The lineup struck out 14 more times and went 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position. Andrew Suarez gave up five earned in four innings, continuing a streak of futility for the rotation. Jose Valdez made his debut and gave up a long homer. Tony Watson returned to Pittsburgh, as well, and gave up a three-run shot after allowing one run in his first 15 appearances. 

Even McCutchen wasn’t spared. He received a standing ovation before every at-bat and watched a tribute video on the scoreboard before the bottom of the first, but he had just one hit in five at-bats and grounded out with the bases loaded. 

“It’s pretty apparent we haven’t been playing our best baseball the last five games,” he said. “We’ve just got to show up tomorrow and be ready to go. This night, just flush it down the toilet and be ready to go tomorrow.”

The Giants need to flush the last five. They’ve been outscored 43-10 while losing to the Phillies and Pirates. The starting staff, without the two co-aces, has been hit particularly hard. Suarez had pitched well, but gave up a pair of homers Friday, joining the chorus. Over the five losses, the starters have allowed 23 runs in 22 innings. 

“It’s starting pitching,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s how you get on a roll or have struggles. That’s usually what’s happening, your starters are going through a rut, and that’s what’s happening with us right now.”

Giants, Marlins play beanball near end of dramatic season series

Giants, Marlins play beanball near end of dramatic season series

SAN FRANCISCO — On Tuesday morning, in Los Angeles, Evan Longoria had his fractured fifth metacarpal repaired. In the afternoon, in San Francisco, Hunter Strickland had a similar procedure. 

The metacarpal madness did not lead to any excess caution for a team that has dealt with injuries throughout. It was the opposite, in fact. The Giants sprinted headfirst into a beanball war with a team with nothing to lose. That led to a scary moment for Buster Posey, but ultimately the Giants came away unscathed, and with a win. 

Players and coaches predictably shied away from the drama in the moments following a 6-3 win. But manager Bruce Bochy repeatedly praised rookie Dereck Rodriguez for the way he handled himself — he drilled opposing rookie Lewis Brinson — and said this was just part of the game.

“It’s baseball,” Bochy said. “We’re men. This is what happens in baseball.”

The Giants say they were upset over a Dan Straily pitch last week that sent Longoria to the disabled list, and Bochy twice mentioned that Kelby Tomlinson was hit in Monday night’s game. This doesn’t quite hold up under scrutiny. If the Giants wanted to get revenge on behalf of Longoria, they would have hit a Marlin on Monday night. Or they could have waited for Straily’s at-bat in the top of the second inning Tuesday. No, this was about more than a couple of pitches that hit Giants players.

There was never much doubt that the Giants would retaliate against Brinson, and Rodriguez didn’t waste any time. His first pitch to Brinson, with two on and one out in the second, was a 92 mph fastball that drilled his hip. 

“Runners on second and third and less than two outs, you don’t want him to get a sacrifice fly,” Rodriguez said. “I was trying to go in. It got him. It happens.”

Brinson knew it was coming following Monday night’s theatrics. After a 95 mph fastball from Strickland shot up toward his head, he lined the game-tying single into right. Brinson, 24, hopped up and down as he headed toward first and turned and yelled something at Strickland. A few minutes later, Strickland’s night was done, and he walked near third base on his way to the dugout, exchanging words with Brinson. 

Rodriguez’s pitch a day later led to warnings for both sides, but the Marlins are headed for the top of the draft, and they didn’t much seem to care about losing their starting pitcher. Dan Straily drilled Posey on the arm in the bottom of the second and was immediately ejected. Retaliation?

“I don’t know,” Posey said. “I don’t know. It seemed that way.”

Bochy came out raging, and he later said that Marlins manager Don Mattingly had indicated payback was coming.

“I don’t know what happened there when he came out,” Bochy said. “I guess he was upset about the warnings. I guess they thought they have to do something. I guess there was fuzzy math going on when our third baseman is on the DL for eight weeks and we had a guy get hit in the back last night.”

The only math that ultimately mattered was 90 feet. Whether they were upset about Longoria, or about Brinson’s trip around the bases Monday night, the Giants decided to get into it at a time when they can’t afford another injury. The pitch to Posey rode up and in, and was near his hands, where metacarpals are all too easy to break, but he jogged the 90 feet down to first and chatted with Justin Bour. 

That would be it for the drama, but the Giants and Marlins may not be done, no matter what’s said behind closed doors. The visiting starter for the final matchup of the season between these two will be Jose Urena, who hit an MLB-leading 14 batters last year and three Cubs on opening day this year. 


Tensions boil over as Giants snap losing streak to Marlins

Tensions boil over as Giants snap losing streak to Marlins


SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants are apparently feuding with the Miami Marlins. At least this time the drama came with a win. 

Buster Posey homered and was hit on a fiery night at AT&T Park, when the bullpen finally allowed the offensive work hold up. The Giants won 6-3, beating the Marlins for the second time in six tries this season. Here are the details … 

--- A night after Hunter Strickland and Lewis Brinson exchanged words, Dereck Rodriguez's first pitch to Brinson was a 92 mph fastball to the hip. Both benches were warned, but the Marlins still retaliated. Dan Straily hit Posey on the arm in the bottom of the inning and was immediately ejected. Posey was uninjured. 

--- Gorkys Hernandez, who hit zero homers last year, crushed his eighth. The two-run blast put the Giants on top 3-0. Posey had a solo shot in the first. 

--- Dereck Rodriguez had one rough inning, but otherwise pitched well. He was charged with three earned in five innings, all of the damage coming in the fourth. He struck out six and walked none. 

—- Alen Hanson had a rough weekend in Los Angeles, but he bounced back with a huge night: a single and two doubles, including one that would have been a triple if not for iffy baserunning ahead of him. He also made a spectacular play at short to end the eighth. 

--- Will Smith pitched the eighth and started the ninth, but Sam Dyson came on with one out and one on. He got a game-ending double play.