Misplay in center is costly for Giants, who again fall short of a comeback

Misplay in center is costly for Giants, who again fall short of a comeback

SAN FRANCISCO — The rain arrived in the late innings Tuesday night, swirling around the field and soaking a home team that was trying to come back and a visiting squad that was desperately trying to keep a hot start to the season going. 

For the Giants — especially center fielder Gorkys Hernandez — the rain and the accompanying wind arrived a few innings too late. Hernandez couldn’t haul in a Jake Lamb blast that kept carrying to the wall in the third inning. The three-run triple was the deciding play for the Diamondbacks, who gave up three in the eighth and ninth as the ballpark got smaller but held on for a 4-3 win. 

“I thought he had a bead on it, I did,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s so good out there. He was upset with himself. That’s a big play obviously. He’s a gifted center fielder and he just didn’t quite come up with it. That’s not an easy play. He just didn’t come up with it and that was the difference, probably.”

For Hernandez, starting in place of Denard Span, it was a night where the inches never went his way. He scalded a ball the other way in the first but right at Paul Goldschmidt. In the bottom of the second, he came a few feet from a grand slam. That ball settled into a glove. Hernandez couldn’t say the same after Lamb’s shot. 

“I was pretty close, I almost got it,” he said. “It happens. I was trying to do the best I could for (Jeff) Samardzija and the team. It happens. I jumped and tried to catch the ball, and it didn’t get in my glove. Sometimes that happens.”

The Diamondbacks added a little salt to the fresh wound in the bottom of the inning. Aaron Hill lined what looked to be an RBI double to left-center, but center fielder A.J. Pollock made a spectacular grab. It was that kind of night for the Giants, who hit several balls hard but left 13 on base. 

They finally inched closer in the eighth, getting a run back. In the ninth, Nick Hundley and Eduardo Nuñez drove in runs, and Nuñez swiped second with Brandon Crawford pinch-hitting. The Giants couldn’t finish the rally against Fernando Rodney. 

“We’ve done that three times where we battled back to get within one run and just couldn’t finish it,” Bochy said. 

--- Samardzija was much better in his second start, allowing just the three runs on the Lamb triple. He struck out seven in 6 2/3, stretching it out to 112 pitches. 

“It’s good to get there and feel good,” he said of the pitch count. “I still felt I could attack them there in the seventh and I was still using all my pitches.”

Bochy has pushed his starters early. For all the holes that are opening up, the Giants still have a strong starting staff, and they certainly intend to ride those guys hard. 

--- Nuñez had four hits, raising his average to .389. He stole his fifth base, so he’s already one-third of the way to last year’s Giants leader. Bochy said he will continue to hit sixth for now. It’s a spot Nuñez likes. 

“I just like him there,” Bochy said. “It breaks up the lefties and puts him in a position where he’s driving in runs or stealing bases. I could put him in the leadoff spot, but I just like him in that area. It doesn’t mean I won’t change it (at some point).”

--- Look, it was clear that Samardzija got a bit of revenge on the day Buster Posey went on the DL. The Giants did not feel Taijuan Walker was throwing at Posey, and they don’t generally throw at hitters themselves, but there are unwritten rules and all that. So, Paul Goldschmidt -- the Buster Posey of Arizona -- got one right on the backside. If you follow the unwritten rules, an early plunking somewhere around the waist is exactly how you do it. 

Samardzija did not answer a question about it and Bochy cut one off, which is fine. No point in getting on the commissioner’s radar. But good for Goldschmidt for understanding the situation and not escalating it, and good for the umpires for not freaking out with a series of warnings. This beef now seems squashed.


A few longtime Giants could hit milestones this season


A few longtime Giants could hit milestones this season



SAN FRANCISCO -- It has been 10 years since we first saw Buster Posey take the field at Oracle Park. That emotional moment in Bruce Bochy's office when Brandon Belt found out he made the team? That was eight years ago. Brandon Crawford is about to begin his eighth season as the everyday shortstop. 

The core has been around a long time, which means some of these guys are moving up the franchise charts and coming up on statistical milestones. Here are some to keep an eye on in 2019: 

Posey: As a full-time big leaguer, Posey has only had two seasons where he wasn't worth at least four Wins Above Replacement -- and he had season-ending surgery both times. With another four-WAR season, Posey will move well into the top 10 on the franchise list, all the way up to seventh. He's currently 12th with 41.3 career WAR, per Baseball-Reference. He has a long, long way to catch franchise leader Willie Mays (154.8)

Crawford: It's been four years since the shortstop hit 21 homers and the Giants haven't had anyone reach 20 since. But Crawford needs just 13 this season to become the 31st player in franchise history to hit 100 homers with the Giants. He has 14 each of the past two seasons. 

Posey vs. Crawford: These longtime friends like to take good-natured shots at each other when it comes to stats (usually when stolen bases are involved) so we should point out that Crawford (58) is just three intentional walks behind Posey (61). Crawford needs two free passes this year to pass Matt Williams and move into 10th place on the franchise list. 

The Brandons: They like to tease each other, too, so we should also point out that Belt enters the season with 199 career doubles and Crawford is at 198. Game on. 

Madison Bumgarner: With 110 career wins, Bumgarner has surpassed former teammates Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. He needs 11 this season to move from 16th to 12th on the franchise's win list. Bumgarner will need an extension to get any higher than that. 

There's a nice round number at play, too. A couple of injury-marred years have bumped Bumgarner up to a 3.03 ERA. If he gets past 200 innings as he hopes and has an ERA in the 2.70 range, he would hit free agency with a career ERA that starts with the number two. That would surely please his agent. 

Bumgarner is eighth on the franchise list with 1,591 strikeouts and he could move all the way to fourth, just ahead of Lincecum, if he spends the whole season in San Francisco. The left-hander needs 104 strikeouts to pass Cain (currently fifth) and 114 to pass Lincecum. 

Gerardo Parra: The next time Parra throws a runner out, he'll reach 100 assists for his career. He has 47 career assists in left, 38 in right and 14 in center. If this feels to you like a rare arm on the Giants, you'd be correct. Over the last five seasons, the Giants rank 29th in the Majors with 103 outfield assists. Parra has 45 by himself during that time. 

Evan Longoria: If he matches last season's 54 RBI, Longoria will reach 1,000 for his career. He's 23 homers from 300. Hitting that mark would be huge for the Giants offense. 

Bruce Bochy: Finally, there's the man who already has said this will be his final season. Bochy needs 74 wins to become the 10th to reach 2,000 as a manager. If the Giants can shake off the last two seasons and finish with a winning record (82-80), Bochy would tie Leo Durocher for 10th all-time in wins. It would obviously be pretty cool for him if he could get sole possession of that 10th spot, and given the state of today's game, it's unlikely that any future manager would ever knock Bochy out of the top 10. 

Finally, there's a goal that seems highly improbable. If the Giants win 90 games, Bochy would walk away with an even .500 record (2,016-2,016), although if Bochy wins 90 games with this roster, Farhan Zaidi should probably talk him out of retirement. 


Bruce Bochy explains how Giants will utilize new catcher Erik Kratz

Bruce Bochy explains how Giants will utilize new catcher Erik Kratz

SAN FRANCISCO -- This is the second time Erik Kratz has been traded to a new organization in the week before the opener. He once got traded, got to the ballpark at six, and entered the game for a new team two hours later. 

So no, he is not sweating the fact that he has to learn a new pitching staff in time to potentially start a game for the Giants later this week. 

Kratz, acquired Sunday morning from the Brewers, will be the backup catcher, manager Bruce Bochy said. That means Kratz likely will start a game this weekend, as the Giants are hoping to ease Buster Posey into the regular season and they have four games in San Diego, followed by three in Los Angeles. 

"What are you going to do? It's part of the gig," Kratz said of the cram course. "It's not my first time."

The 38-year-old is happy for the opportunity regardless of the timing, because at the beginning of camp the Brewers told him he would not break with them. He spent six weeks auditioning for other teams, and he woke up Saturday thinking he was flying back home to Virginia to wait out the waiver process. Instead, he boarded a Sunday morning flight to the Bay Area, getting to the Coliseum in time to warm up two new teammates in the bullpen in the late innings. 

Kratz's arrival was not a surprise, really, given how many moves Farhan Zaidi has made this week. But it did certainly shake things up.

Bochy said the Giants are considering going with three catchers to start the year, allowing them to rest Posey more often and have Aramis Garcia's thump on the bench. 

"It's a pretty big bat," Bochy said of Garcia, "And he does a nice job wherever we put him (catcher or first base)."

That might be a luxury the Giants can't afford, though. They are leaning towards keeping 13 pitchers, which would mean just four bench spots. Kratz has one and Yangervis Solarte has one. Keeping Garcia would leave just one spot for Alen Hanson, Pablo Sandoval and the candidates vying for the fourth outfield job. 

[RELATED: Erik Kratz leaves his mark everywhere he goes]

"There are a lot of variables involved with this decision," Bochy said. 

More will be known Monday, when Bochy expects to announce his rotation (even though it seems set already). Perhaps the Giants will make yet another move, but for now, this much is certain: The Giants have their backup catcher, and a few days to figure out the rest.