Rewind: Giants 'hanging by a thread' after walk-off loss


Rewind: Giants 'hanging by a thread' after walk-off loss

SAN DIEGO — Hope lasted 24 hours.

After getting within six games of first for the first time in three weeks, the Giants woke up Wednesday feeling more alive than the standings said they actually were. They had Jake Peavy pitching with Madison Bumgarner set to follow him, and the first-place Dodgers scratched co-ace Zack Greinke from Wednesday’s game in Los Angeles because of a calf strain.

There was a lot of positivity flowing through the visiting clubhouse at Petco Park on Wednesday afternoon. Hours later, the Giants got walked off 5-4 and fell back to seven games out with 11 to play. 

“Look, my thoughts aren’t good,” Peavy said. “I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you I feel great about our chances. That being said, we’re not mathematically eliminated.”

Not yet, but the numbers are now beyond overwhelming. Any combination of five Giants losses and Dodgers wins will end the repeat bid. Peavy said the only chance now is to try and win out, and this banged-up group knows that would be the franchise’s greatest escape act yet.

“We’re hanging by a thread,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “This was a tough one to let get away.”

The game got away because of two problems Bochy couldn’t have predicted when he mapped out this season. He has been left with a startling lack of depth on the bench and that cost the Giants. The bullpen, so strong for so much of this season, cost the Giants, too. 

Peavy was sharp through six, but Bochy has learned not to fly too close to the sun in search of extra outs from his resurgent right-hander. Peavy has made a habit of pitching brilliantly until his final few pitches, and the bullpen has saved him a few times in recent weeks. He didn’t second-guess Bochy’s decision to end his night after 18 outs and 88 pitches.

“After the last (start) going out in the seventh and giving up a couple back-to-back hits, that had to be fresh in his mind,” Peavy said. 

The bullpen ranks fourth in the majors with a 3.10 ERA, but the meltdown began immediately. Bochy, eager to save a few of his regulars, turned to Cory Gearrin, a newcomer who held right-handed hitters to a .151 average in Triple-A this season.

“He’s been throwing well against righties,” Bochy said. “I was very confident with him up there. It didn’t work out tonight, that’s all.”

Gearrin faced two righties, giving up a single and then issuing a walk. Josh Osich, a standout since the moment he was called up, entered and got two quick outs. Then he gave up a game-tying two-run double. The Giants took the lead on Jarrett Parker’s solo homer, but Sergio Romo gave up a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth.

“We kind of had the bullpen where we wanted,” Bochy said. “The pen was fresh. We were set up right.”

Peavy, watching from the sidelines, thought the same thing.

“They’ve been a strong point of this team for years now,” he said. “It’s a tough night. Those nights happen. We couldn’t quite close the deal. It’s unfortunate.”

George Kontos, nearing the end of his best year as a professional, gave up a key double in the ninth. Closer Santiago Casilla allowed Jedd Gyorko’s walk-off single. It was the final blow for a bullpen that has helped carry the Giants this far but faltered on a big night. 

Still, with a little luck in the health department, the Giants may not have needed to hold on for dear life late Wednesday night. They had a chance to take the lead against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, putting two in scoring position with no outs. 

Bochy looked down at his bench and saw his third catcher (Jackson Williams), a veteran call-up who is 1 for 12 this month (Nick Noonan), a guy called up to the big leagues earlier in the day (Kevin Frandsen), and a rookie without a big league plate appearance (Mac Williamson). He chose the rookie, and Williamson had a rough debut against one of the world’s best pitchers.

“I said, ‘I threw you to the wolves on that one,’” Bochy said. “With what I had there, I thought Mac was our best shot. For your first at-bat, that’s a tough one for him.”

Two more rookies, Kelby Tomlinson (playing for Joe Panik) and Trevor Brown (playing because Brandon Belt is hurt), followed. The Giants did ultimately score on a wild pitch, but it was tough to swallow in the clubhouse that in a huge spot in late September, Bochy had to use three rookies, not a Gregor Blanco or a Nori Aoki. He tried to put a positive spin on it.

“They weren’t quitting,” he said. 

That was the lone positive as the Giants made the short trip back to their team hotel.

“To lose like this is tough,” Peavy said, shaking his head. “It’s harsh reality.”

MLB rumors: Why Giants should trade for Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray


MLB rumors: Why Giants should trade for Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray

The Sonny Gray era in New York appears to be coming to an end, and the Giants should pounce at the chance to add the former Cy Young candidate. 

According to Fancred's Jon Heyman, the Yankees are pushing hard to complete a Gray trade soon. He also lists the Giants as one of seven teams that have been involved as possible partners, and perhaps recent favorites.

Why would the Giants want to trade for someone that had a 4.90 ERA in only 130 innings and a whopping 1.50 WHIP last season? The numbers aren't that simple. 

It all starts with Yankee Stadium, or "The Sandbox in the Bronx." Gray had a brutal 6.98 ERA in 15 games in his home park in 2018, but a great 3.17 ERA in 15 games away from it. His WHIP went from 1.91 in New York to 1.16 at all other ballparks. 

The Yankees are known as the Bronx Bombers for a reason. They turn games into Home Run Derby in their own backyard. Now imagine being on the other side of the ball, the one who throws the pitches and sees a pop-up turn into a jog around the bases. 

When looking at Park Factors, which compares the rate of stats at home versus the rate of stats on the road, Yankee Stadium was the sixth-best home run park in the league. It's no coincidence Gray allowed 11 home runs there and only three on the road. 

By comparison, AT&T Park Oracle Park was the second-worst ballpark for home runs last season by Park Factors. 

It's well known that the Giants play in one of the most pitcher-friendly places in all of baseball. Gray has never had the luxury of pitching in San Francisco -- he's also never pitched at Petco Park (Padres) or Coors Field (Rockies) -- but he's only allowed two earned runs in 15.1 innings combined at Chase Field (Diamondbacks) and Dodger Stadium. 

Gray, 29, could thrive in a new environment like San Francisco -- especially by working with his old pitching coach Curt Young again. Young was Gray's pitching coach on the A's, when Gray had his most success (including a third-place finish for the Cy Young Award in 2015).

As Gray is a free agent after 2019 season, he could either help the Giants contend this season or become a valuable trade chip if San Francisco is out of the playoff hunt by the July 31 trade deadline. 

In an offseason where bringing back Derek Holland has been the biggest move, it's time to take a chance and make it Sonny in the Bay again.

Giants Mailbag: Is there an ideal fit still out there on the market?


Giants Mailbag: Is there an ideal fit still out there on the market?

SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday, we will be one month from the first full-squad workout at Scottsdale Stadium.

If the Giants gathered today, they would look eerily similar to the team that finished far out of contention last season. 

That should change, of course. Team officials expect to make multiple additions over the next three weeks, taking advantage as prices continue to fall for the dozens of quality free agents still on the market. Trade talks have remained steady, too. 

But right now, we’re still in the midst of an extremely quiet offseason. On Wednesday, Ahmed Fareed joined me for a lengthy podcast that went over the slow pace, the Harper-Machado markets, the issues with the CBA, young players vying for jobs and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

Thank you to everyone who sent questions along. There were so many that it’s time to add a mailbag to the podcast … 

Sign Marwin Gonzalez as a super utility, seems like a Zaidi kinda guy, provided he’s not too expensive. Then look to trade him at the deadline to a team in the hunt. - @brayden_cleland

Longtime listeners of the podcast know that Gonzalez has been my target throughout this offseason. He could be the opening day left fielder and provide depth throughout the infield, and he would add some pop. He has been connected to some contenders — primarily the Braves, lately — but for the most part, he has been out of the headlines.

It’s possible Gonzalez is waiting to see where Harper and Machado end up, knowing that the teams that miss out will have plenty of money left to spend. 

The second part of this question is interesting to me because we don’t quite know what Zaidi thinks of no-trade clauses. Bobby Evans handed them out to just about everyone, and the Giants are paying for that. You can bet Zaidi would like to avoid doing the same. But it’s possible that veterans — like Gonzalez — will make that a prerequisite of signing with a team that’s not looking like a contender. It’ll be interesting to see how Zaidi handles the no-trade issue. 

Will Watson and Smith both be traded this year? What teams do you think are the best trade partners? - @Dc_cargo

I would be surprised if they’re both on the Opening Day roster. Ahmed made a good point on the podcast, predicting that the Giants will actually make their trade during spring training. There will be a team that loses a valuable reliever to injury during spring training, and perhaps that’s when Zaidi will pounce. 

Before then, I still think there’s a strong chance that Smith gets dealt. Team officials were awfully shy about naming him the closer when they gathered in Las Vegas last month, and they’ve made no secret of the fact that they get calls on Smith. Andrew Baggarly mentioned the Angels as a team that’s been hot on Giants relievers.

This is just my speculation, but if the Red Sox aren’t able to bring Kimbrel back, Smith could make a ton of sense for them. With Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton in New York, the Red Sox certainly have some work to do to keep up with their rival. 

How does the Giants brass feel about possibly sharing Oracle Park with the Raiders next season? - @SportsAnthony

I’m sure there are mixed feelings throughout the organization. Some people I’ve talked to were shocked that this was an option, but at the same time, it could bring some serious cash into the organization, and this remains a business.

The Giants looked seriously into having an XFL team play at AT&T Park when that league reboots, so they’re prepared to continue hosting occasional football games. I checked on this about a week ago and was told it’s still possible that the Giants and Raiders strike a deal. 

Is Zaidi going to keep the infield and try to trade bullpen pieces for a veteran outfielder? Also, how does the rotation stack up for you? Bum, D Rod, Holland, Suarez, Stratton? Will they trade Samardzija? Will Pablo and Longoria platoon at third? Better athlete...Ahmed or Alex. - @Hardeepd2

A lot to unpack here. If the Giants do trade a Smith or Watson, they won’t be aiming to get veterans back. The goal in any deal right now is to get young cost-controlled contributors who have options remaining. Think of it as trying to get another team’s Andrew Suarez or Steven Duggar. Zaidi wants flexibility. 

It’s just about impossible to trade a guy with a shoulder injury, so the best the Giants can do with Samardzija is hope he’s healthy — his throwing program is said to be going well — and run him out there as part of the rotation, either for their own benefit or to rebuild his trade value before July 31. Right now, it’s Bumgarner, Rodriguez, Holland, Samardzija, and Suarez in some order. 

RELATED: [What Zaidi learned from Muncy, Taylor discovery]

They won’t put Longoria in a straight platoon, although I think all the veterans will lose some time when the matchups are right. Longoria doesn’t have huge splits but I still think they’ll give him more rest. 

As for the final question, this is certainly something we should have settled when the Giants were losing every day in September and we were trying to figure out what to talk about on the pre-game show … 

Any thoughts on Adam Jones? - @jakewilcken420

On a cheap, one-year deal that puts him in an outfield corner? Sure. There’s no harm in that, and the roster certainly needs a veteran right-handed bat in the outfield. But I think there’s a fine line with some of the remaining veterans. You look over the outfield list and at some point, you reach a point where you might as well throw Williamson, Slater, Shaw, Gerber, and Ferguson out there and let them sink or swim.

A big part of the 2019 season is figuring out who can be part of a more potent team in 2020, and the Giants won’t do that if they give too many at-bats to 33-year-olds.