Giants

Roster decisions loom after ugly loss drops Giants to 0-3 on homestand

Roster decisions loom after ugly loss drops Giants to 0-3 on homestand

SAN FRANCISCO — Sometimes it’s not about who you put through waivers, it’s when you do it. 

The Giants intended to be busy during the August waiver wire period, and while they haven’t outright said it, it’s clear that they will dump salary if they feel their hopes of contention are over. Players know as much, and have started to talk about the possibility in recent days.

When, though, do you wave that flag? Often times, teams will put a player through when they feel they can get him to a specific team. Sometimes they’ll do it in response to a specific stretch of baseball. 

If ever there was a loss calling for some changes, it was Thursday’s. The Giants fell 10-5 to the Pirates, trailing by eight runs late after an implosion by the bullpen and infield defense. To top it off, they once again made the opposing starter look like Cy Young, failing to get a hit until the fifth inning against Ivan Nova, who is hardly a Charlie Morton or Dallas Keuchel.

The Giants have played three games on this important homestand and lost them all. In two of the games, they have failed to get a hit through three innings, something they seemingly do every other night. Bruce Bochy has noticed. 

“We’ve talked about how important it is to try to get going early. That’s been an issue,” Bochy said. “The guys are aware of it but it’s not an easy solution. We have been shut down to often in the first four or five innings.”

To combat that, Bochy moved four veterans — Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford — to the top of the lineup. He hoped that would lead to an early spark. On Thursday, the four combined for one hit.

“When it’s early in the game and you don’t get anything going, it doesn’t look like you have any energy,” Bochy said. 

The back end of the lineup finally fired things up in the fifth, getting within one. But two innings later, Joe Panik and Evan Longoria made errors to kickstart a five-run inning for the Pirates. Ballgame. Longoria has 14 errors, his most since 2011. Panik has seemingly been a step late for much of the past few months, and his average dipped to .233 Thursday night. 

The Giants will have a decision to make this offseason with Panik, who is arbitration-eligible and now finds himself among a crowd at second base. They have a lot of decisions to make with this group, which could lose two or three veterans by the first of September. You can bet they were up late Thursday trying to figure out when to make those decisions.

Brawl notes: Giants confused by Hundley's ejection, umpire explanation

Brawl notes: Giants confused by Hundley's ejection, umpire explanation

LOS ANGELES — When Major League Baseball eventually comes for the umpires, replacing them with pitch-tracking technology, perhaps they’ll explain the switch with a simple phrase.

“Watch the tape.”

That’s about all Eric Cooper had to say late Tuesday night when a pool reporter asked why Nick Hundley had been ejected despite not throwing any punches at Yasiel Puig. 

“Watch the tape,” Cooper said. “You’ll see why he had to be ejected.”

Well, not really. First of all, Hundley was wearing a catcher’s mask, so it was hard to tell what he was saying to Puig. Hundley and Puig went face-to-face, but it was Puig who twice shoved Hundley, with the catcher reaching out both times to block the move. The Giants were baffled that Hundley was ejected after a long conversation between the umpires. 

“I don’t get it, either, to be honest,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ll see what the (umpires) report says. You’re going to defend yourself.”

Hundley said he’s not concerned about any discipline from the league.

“I was defending myself. He was defending himself. I don’t see why it should go any further than that,” he said. 

--- This fight escalated quickly but there wasn’t actually much action, with one exception. As Hundley was being held back, Puig ran back in, threw a few teammates out of the way, and tried to punch Hundley. He ended up slapping his mask with an open hand as Hundley was being held back. 

“I saw him coming,” Hundley said. “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to defend myself in that spot, being tangled up with someone else. The league will look at that. That’s something that’s up to the league to discipline somebody. That’s not my job to enforce any behavioral things.”

--- Hundley was held back, and essentially tackled, by first base coach George Lombard. He later came out onto the top step of the dugout and had a brief conversation with Lombard. Hundley said he was checking to make sure Lombard didn’t get hurt in the altercation. 

--- Lost in all that, Andrew Suarez had his best start in over a month. Suarez gave up some loud contact, but threw six shutout innings. He got all four strikeouts with his fastball and said that was the plan. 

“I’ve noticed a lot of teams are spitting on my sliders lately,” he said. 

Suarez went heavy with the heater in two-strike counts and had a big night. He also won bragging rights. Suarez and Manny Machado have been playing on the same fields since they were eight, and while Machado hit the ball hard twice, he didn’t get a hit off Suarez.

Hundley fights Puig in another heated chapter of Giants-Dodgers rivalry

Hundley fights Puig in another heated chapter of Giants-Dodgers rivalry

LOS ANGELES — About 30 minutes before every game he starts, Nick Hundley goes out onto the field by himself, his uniform already on underneath a black hoodie. He walks out to the nearest foul line and then takes off on a dead sprint, legs and arms pumping as he heads towards the center field wall. 

It’s Hundley’s way of getting the juices flowing, getting his muscles and mind ready for the night ahead. He’s locking in, transforming from the mild-mannered, humorous, humble teammate into the man who will control most of the action. 

On the surface, Hundley is just about the last Giant you would ever expect to get into an on-field altercation. But watch him sprint towards the wall and you’ll see the intensity that has carried him this deep into his career. It takes a special breed to be a catcher, and in the seventh inning Tuesday, Hundley showed that fire that’s so tucked away before and after starts. 

Yasiel Puig fouled a pitch off that he felt he should have crushed. As he does, Puig reacted angrily. He flipped the bat in the air and grabbed it emphatically, showing all 46,000 at Dodger Stadium that he felt he should have tied the game. Hundley wasn’t pleased, and let Puig know that he should dig back into the box. The two came face-to-face, and then shoves were exchanged. This rivalry had another heated chapter, with both benches and bullpens clearing and Puig getting in one open-handed shot to Hundley’s mask before order was restored. 

Afterward, in a clubhouse buzzing over the mini-brawl and 2-1 win over the Dodgers, Hundley was as calm as could be. He said it was a good game between rivals, one chasing the other in the standings. He said it was not a big deal. He would not say what he said to set Puig off. 

"That's stuff that's said on the field and that'll be left out there,” Hundley said. 

Here, once again, Puig disagreed with the Giants. It was not hard to see that Hundley took offense to Puig’s reaction to missing a Tony Watson pitch down the middle. Puig confirmed it.

“I knew that was the best pitch that Watson was going to throw me, so I was a little upset,” he told reporters. “He told me to stop complaining and get back in the box. When I got in his face, he told me to get out of his face, so that’s when I got upset with him. I didn’t like that he was telling me what to do, and then he said some words to me in English that I really can’t repeat.”

This is not the first time the Giants and Puig have gotten into it. It likely won’t be the last. But this disagreement came with a twist. Puig and Hundley were ejected, setting off a chain of events that helped the Giants win the game after Sam Dyson gave a run back in the eighth. 

Buster Posey moved from first to catcher to replace Hundley. Brandon Belt, fresh off the disabled list, took Posey’s spot at first. Two innings later, Belt singled off Kenta Maeda and came around on Alen Hanson’s single, scoring the winning run.

Fifty-five minutes after Puig shoved Hundley, the Giants streamed out onto the field for handshakes. A few minutes later, they were celebrating in the clubhouse. This was as loud as it’s been after a game all season long for a team that improved to 61-60, got within three of the Dodgers, and stayed five back of the Diamondbacks. 

“That should bring us even closer together,” Hundley said. “This is a tight-knit group. We’ll feed off that. What a great win.”

It started with six strong innings from rookie Andrew Suarez. When the field cleared and Hundley and Puig headed back to their respective clubhouses, the Dodgers rallied and tied it on Manny Machado’s single. For a second straight night, the Giants beat a Dodgers reliever in the ninth. This time it was Kenta Maeda, supposedly the solution for the Dodgers’ woes. Hanson smoked a single up the middle and Belt, who just missed 17 games with a hyperextended knee, rumbled home. Kiké Hernandez has a strong arm in center, and Hanson admitted later that he was worried when he saw Hernandez scoop the ball on one bounce. 

“I noticed Belt rounding third when the throw was coming in,” Hanson said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “Luckily for us, he made a bad throw.”

The throw was high and Yasmani Grandal couldn’t glove it. Belt slid in safely. He said later that he felt like he was running underwater in his first game back. He also insisted that his knee feels fine. 

“I wasn’t moving fast enough to make it hurt anyway,” Belt said. 

With that, he headed for the bus. The clubhouse was still energetic and players smiled as they walked past Hundley’s locker. The Giants came here with a very realistic shot of being permanently banished from the NL West race. Instead, they’re right back within striking distance, and they got to get their juices flowing, too. 

“Two very good games, great games, to come in here and get a couple of wins,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”