Samardzija's return overshadowed by another quiet day for Giants' lineup

Samardzija's return overshadowed by another quiet day for Giants' lineup

SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after a quiet loss at AT&T Park, manager Bruce Bochy was asked whether his team could go on a run now that the top three starters in the rotation are together for the first time. 

That idea, one the Giants have clung to for much of the first half, misses a key point. This team is not 46-45 because of starting pitching woes. The injuries opened opportunities for Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, and the two have exceeded any expectations the front office could have had, not just for rookies, but for starters in general.

This team is not a game above .500 because of starting pitching. It is a game above .500 because of maddening inconsistency, and that has shown throughout a skid that has undone the good work accomplished during a sweep of the Diamondbacks last weekend. 

This time, the culprit is the offense. It often is, but this skid is particularly ugly. The Giants lost 3-2 on Saturday. They have scored just 10 runs in their last six games, losing five of them. It doesn’t matter what your rotation consists of when you’re swinging it like that. 

“We’ve got some guys that aren’t in a zone right now, so to speak,” Bochy said. “We’ll come out of this. You guys have seen how we can put runs on the board.”

That’s what makes all this so baffling. This group scored nine runs last Sunday to complete a sweep but has barely matched that total in the six days since. The Giants failed to take advantage of Coors Field or a couple of young Cardinals starters, and on Saturday that left them facing a tough test. Carlos Martinez is one of the best in the game, and the Giants got just one run off him.

On the other side, Jeff Samardzija gave up three over five innings in his first start since May 29. The line didn’t really matter. What did was that Samardzija felt no irritation in his shoulder, which has bugged him all year. He said his first stint in the big leagues this season was about trying to “will” himself through the soreness. This time, everything was normal.

“The mistakes aren’t because of the arm,” he said. “They’re just because of execution of pitches.”

In an odd way, that’s encouraging for both player and team. Samardzija’s fastball was up a tick from his first go-around this year, but it’s clear he’s still battling rust. He said he’s confident it will get better by the start, and Bochy agrees. 

“I thought he was pretty good the first game back,” he said. 

The Giants will be better with Samardzija and Johnny Cueto back. At the very least, they have bumped others into lesser roles, and Derek Holland looks like a potentially valuable piece as a left-handed reliever. The pitching staff is fine, but it hasn’t mattered during this slump. 

The lineup couldn’t get to Martinez, which left an even tougher task: Trying to come back against Jordan Hicks, the rookie who rests above 100 mph. Brandon Belt did smack triple digits back up the middle to cut the deficit to one, but that was all. Hicks maxed out at 102.7 mph in the eighth, bringing some juice to a ballpark that’s been lacking.

“That’s pretty impressive, isn't it?” Bochy said. “You see (Aroldis) Chapman, but it looks like (Hicks) is taking it up just a notch. That’s a big arm. That’s as big an arm as I’ve seen.”

Mike Yastrzemski's three-hit day offers hope in Giants' 'worst series'

Mike Yastrzemski's three-hit day offers hope in Giants' 'worst series'

SAN FRANCISCO -- The fans were booing in the second inning. It was that kind of day -- and series -- for the Giants.

After being thoroughly dominated and outscored 28-6 by the Diamondbacks over the previous two games, Sunday's series finale offered more of the same, as the Giants fell 6-2 for their fifth straight loss and sixth in seven games.

San Francisco turned to rookie right-hander Shaun Anderson with the hopes of turning things around, but it was all for naught. Anderson gave up a solo shot to the second batter of the game and allowed five runs (three earned) over the first two innings, after which the Giants trailed 5-1. While Anderson wasn't sharp, neither he nor his teammates did him many favors.

Aside from his own two wild pitches, Anderson also failed to look a runner back to third on a sacrifice by Diamondbacks starter Luke Weaver, allowing the runner to score. Both Buster Posey and Evan Longoria committed throwing errors in the first two innings, contributing to the early deficit. And, in a sequence that cemented the Bad News Bears nature of Sunday's loss, rookie Mike Yastrzemski notched his first career major league hit -- a bloop to left field in the bottom of the second -- but was thrown out at first after rounding the base too far.

The end result? Anderson's still looking for his first major league win, and the Giants are a season-worst 10 games below .500 heading into a nine-game road trip.

Bruce Bochy was not in a mood to mince words following the loss.

“That’s the worst series of the year,” Bochy said, opening his post-game press conference in disgust. “I can’t remember when we had three consecutive games with that kind of baseball we just played.”

“Across the board,” he continued, “baserunning, defense, pitching … this was, no question, the worst series I’ve seen in a while, so we’ve got to huddle up here. The day off will give them a chance to wash this one off, but this road trip, I’m hoping, brings them together and we get back to playing the kind of ball we need to play.”

That explains the boos. The fans, however, did have the occasional reason to cheer.

Yastrzemski is no longer looking for his first major league hit. Nor his second. Nor his third. In a game that was most parts depressing for the Giants, the 28-year old rookie outfielder was the lone bright spot.

[RELATED: Watch Yastrzemski's memorable first career hit sequence]

He reached on a single to left in the fifth, then lined a double down the left field line to lead off the bottom of the seventh before coming around to score on Joe Panik's RBI single. All told, it was the first three-hit game by a Giants' left fielder this season. It’s May 26th.

“Any hit you can get, you’re going to take,” Yastrzemski said of crossing ‘first career major league hit’ off his bucket list. “You never have any bad words to say about it, regardless of what it looks like. The rest of (the hits), they kind of just let you relax and have a better approach at the plate and not have to press or anything like that.”

Yastrzemski, of course, is the grandson of Hall of Famer and former Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski, a three-time batting champion. The grandson got his first three-hit game in his second major league game, eight games faster than it took grandpa, and Mike admitted he was thinking of Carl when he was at the dish.

“We worked for a long time when I was growing up,” Mike said of picking up pointers from his grandpa, “and I kind of just keep that stuff pretty close to heart when I’m at the plate, understanding that he did it for a really long time and he’s got some good advice for it.”

The advice appears to be working. San Francisco has been cycling through outfielders throughout the first two months of the season, looking for someone to stick. It’s only been two games, but Yastrzemski gave Bochy plenty of reasons to keep faith in him, whereas most other Giants Sunday did not.

After spending seven years in the minors, Yastrzemski finally got his major league shot, and so far, he’s taking advantage of it.

That’s a long time to build up a major league debut in one’s mind. Has it been everything Yastrzemski dreamt it would be?

“Other than the result of what happened, yeah, it’s better than what I could expect,” Yastrzemski said steps away from his major league locker. “Hoping to just put a ‘W’ on there now.”

Yastrzemski was far from being the reason the Giants didn’t take home the ‘W’ on Sunday.

His three-hit performance offers hope for a team currently lacking any semblance of it.

Watch Mike Yastrzemski get thrown out after first career major league hit

Watch Mike Yastrzemski get thrown out after first career major league hit

Well, he'll never forget that.

Giants rookie outfielder Mike Yastrzemski made his second start in a San Francisco uniform in the series finale against the Diamondbacks on Sunday, and got off the schneid by collecting his first career major league hit off Arizona starter Luke Weaver in the second inning, a bloop to left field.

Unfortunately for Yastrzemski, the bloop landed in a bit of a no man's land, prompting him to take a few extra steps toward second base after rounding first. Those extra steps cost him, as he was too slow getting back to the bag.

So, it was a sequence of firsts for the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski: his first career major league hit, and his first major league baserunning blunder.

There's bound to be more of both, but in the meantime, it'll make for a great story.