Samardzija's velocity returns, but Phillies knock him out early in 'off night for everybody'


Samardzija's velocity returns, but Phillies knock him out early in 'off night for everybody'

PHILADELPHIA — The locals were buzzing Monday afternoon, and not just because the 76ers had a playoff game on deck. The weather in Philadelphia has finally turned, and this city enjoyed some sunshine after a long and cold winter. 

Jeff Samardzija enjoyed it, too … up to a certain point.

After a couple of weeks during which his fastball sat 90-92 mph in the early innings and basically topped out at 94, Samardzija came out firing 96 mph heaters in the first inning at Citizens Bank Park. What was the difference?

“It was a nice night out,” he said. “We were sweating a bit and getting going.”

That was the positive. The negative was that Samardzija had his manager sweating in the first inning, too. Bruce Bochy almost had to pull his starter during a 40-pitch frame that included three walks and a long homer from Odubel Herrera. The velocity is back. The command has disappeared. Samardzija has walked 13 batters in four starts. He walked 14 before the All-Star break last season. He said he needs to work on harnessing the velocity that has returned, and sharpening a slider that often times looked like a flat 90 mph fastball in an 11-0 loss. 

“I’ve gotta get that slider right,” he said after lasting just four innings. 

Still, the Giants were oddly happy given the blowout score. It’s easier to sharpen your command than it is to throw in the upper 90s, and Samardzija hit 97.3 mph in the third inning, a throwback to prior seasons. 

“I was encouraged, really,” Bochy said. “He’s back to having normal stuff, velocity, everything. He’s got to get the command now. He’s been pitching without that and missing spots.”

Coming off a layoff for a shoulder injury, Samardzija admitted that his preparation has been affected. He can’t throw long bullpen sessions to try and tighten certain pitches, so he’ll need to find some other way to bring the slider back. 

The Giants will need it, too, given their current state. The news on Johnny Cueto earlier in the day was viewed as a positive and a surprise, but the Giants still will spend the next month without their two best pitchers. They could use a nice run from Samardzija, and they’ll need the full squad to resemble the team from the weekend, not the one from Monday night. The lineup did nothing against Zach Eflin and made three errors in the field. The bullpen was hammered. 

“It was just an off night of everybody,” Bochy said. 

Crawford does the heavy lifting, and the little things, in Giants win

Crawford does the heavy lifting, and the little things, in Giants win

SAN FRANCISCO — Quietly, Brandon Crawford spent much of his day saving teammates.

When Nick Hundley’s throw down to second in the fifth inning drifted, Crawford deftly moved a few feet off the bag, grabbed the ball and placed a nifty tag down on Manuel Margot to erase a runner in scoring position. In the seventh, Pablo Sandoval had trouble finding a two-out pop-up into the midday sun. Crawford, his glove shielding his eyes, kept creeping and creeping until he was standing in Sandoval’s place at third, and he gloved the ball to end the inning. An inning later, Tony Watson got what looked like a double-play ball back to the mound, but his throw to second was low. Crawford did well to scoop it, getting the lead runner out on a force play. 

Then there were the contributions that were impossible to miss. 

Crawford broke an 0-for-18 mini-skid with a scorched triple off the wall in the fourth inning. That brought Andrew McCutchen home with the game-tying run. Two innings later, the likely All-Star starter went the opposite way for a two-run double that would hold up in a 5-3 win over San Diego. 

On many days, Crawford might weigh the offensive and defensive contributions equally. But when you’re riding a mini slump … 

“I always want to make plays out there for sure, but when you’re 0-for…I don’t even know, I’m not going to lie, the triple and doubles felt better today,” he said, smiling. 

They were sorely needed, too. The Giants were caught off-guard when Jordan Lyles was a late scratch with elbow tightness, and they struggled against hard-throwing lefty Matt Strahm until Crawford broke through. He said he had seen signs in recent days that his swing from May and early June was returning.

“You just know him. You know it’s a matter of time,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “What a great game, and we needed it. We needed someone to come through. This guy was throwing well…when you’re in a game like this you need someone to deliver and Craw did it.”

The contributions backed Andrew Suarez, who continues to get better and better and show signs of his maturity on the mound. Suarez discovered early that his slider had abandoned him, so he teamed up with catcher Nick Hundley to go sinker-changeup heavy. That led to three double plays in the first four innings. 

Crawford was in the middle of those, and so much that went right on this day. But he’s a bit of a perfectionist, and the ending of this one stuck with him. Crawford was one of three Giants who couldn’t get under a high pop-up to center in the ninth that dropped for a sun-aided double. His throwing error on a tough roller led to some anxiety as the Padres tried to come back. 

“It’s frustrating, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I’ve always said I try to not take at-bats to defense of defense to at-bats. I try to separate things. Obviously I want to go 3-for-3 any day but I wanted to make those plays.”

They were minor blips on a day that otherwise showed all the reasons why Crawford very likely will be starting for the National League All-Star team next month, and they won’t cost him any sleep. Not during a week when his wife gave birth to the couple’s fourth child, a second Crawford son. 

“A little tiring for a couple of days,” Crawford said of his week, “But they’re still in Arizona, so I’m getting good sleep right now.”

Crawford's big day paves the way for Giants in win vs Padres

Crawford's big day paves the way for Giants in win vs Padres

SAN FRANCISCO — Padres starter Jordan Lyles was a late scratch Saturday because he felt the dreaded forearm tightness while warming up. The change happened so late that nobody even knew about the injury until lefty reliever Matt Sarah started warming up in the top of the first inning.

The Giants faced a steady stream of relievers, but that didn’t mess with Brandon Crawford. In his third game back from paternity leave, Crawford drove in the first three Giants runs in a 5-3 win over the Padres. The Giants have taken two of three in this series and four of six on the homestand.

--- Crawford sat in the high .330s with his batting average on the last road trip, but he was hitless in 18 at-bats when he strolled to the plate in the fourth. He smoked a triple off the wall, scoring Andrew McCutchen. The triple was Crawford’s second of the season. He was stranded on third. Crawford’s two-run double in the sixth put the Giants on top for good. 

--- Andrew Suarez did a nice job before being lifted with two on and two outs in the sixth. He scattered eight hits, getting out of trouble by inducing three double plays in the first four innings. Suarez was at just 76 pitches when Bruce Bochy came out and called for Reyes Moronta, who immediately gave up a rocket to center field. Gorkys Hernandez was there, making a running catch to end the inning. 

--- Reyes Moronta threw a 99 mph fastball to A.J. Ellis in the seventh inning that was the fastest pitch by a Giant this season. Moronta, of course, held the previous high, at 98.9 mph. 

--- In his return to the big leagues, Austin Slater got robbed of a double, but still got a sacrifice fly. He became the first Giants outfielder to drive in a run as a pinch-hitter this season. Really. 

--- File this one away for Sunday: Phil Maton came up-and-in on Andrew McCutchen and then hit him with the next pitch. McCutchen popped up with his arms outstretched, but then calmly took his base.