Giants

Sloppy defense costs Giants in back-and-forth slugfest at Coors Field

Sloppy defense costs Giants in back-and-forth slugfest at Coors Field

DENVER — The secret about Coors Field is that often times it’s not the home runs that kill you. Oh they leave their mark, but it’s the bloops that turn into singles, the lazy fly balls that turn into doubles, and the gappers that go for three bases that really add up. 

Because of that, this is a place where you can’t skimp on outfield defense. You will pay for your mistakes, and the Giants certainly did Friday. They might have actually completed the comeback this time, but a brutal stretch in the seventh put the finishing touches on a 10-8 loss to the Rockies. 

Trailing 7-5 at the time, Bruce Bochy sent Jeff Samardzija back out on a batter-by-batter basis. Neither player nor manager lasted long. Samardzija’s 3-2 pitch to DJ LeMahieu appeared to catch the inner edge, but home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom disagreed. Samardzija felt Cederstrom gave up on the pitch too soon, missing out when it caught an inch of the plate. He pointed at Cederstrom and soon Bochy was running out to argue. He was ejected and Samardzija was pulled after six-plus up-and-down innings. 

“It was just frustration,” Bochy said. “I told him he missed it. I still believe he missed it. That's a big out. We finally make a pitch and get the guy out. That’s a big out (he missed). They ended up putting up a crooked number in that inning.”

As Samardzija walked off the field, he had a few more words for Cederstrom. He later said the umpire had a good night overall. 

“We’re in the seventh inning — there are a lot of emotions,” Samardzija said. “I’m out there fighting. He’s a professional and I said what I had to say and he didn’t throw me out. The one pitch I was unhappy with was in a situation where I really needed it.”

The walk set off a comically bad stretch. A passed ball got LeMahieu to second and he scored when Carlos Gonzalez’s flare to right-center dropped just in front of Hunter Pence. That was only the beginning. Two batters later — after a sacrifice fly made possible by two defensive mistakes — Pence couldn’t handle Raimel Tapia’s single to right. It clanked off his glove and bounced toward the wall, Gonzalez scoring from first and Tapia ending up on third. He, too, would score, on a double to right that was just out of Pence’s reach. 

“The ball popped up on me,” Pence said. “There might be a small part of me trying to do too much because (other) balls seemed to be just out of reach. It’s unacceptable. I’ve got to make better plays out there.”

Pence is said to be healthy, and he said the lights were not a problem. The ball has been taking off in this series — five homers were hit Friday — but outfield defense has been an issue all year, not just in this series. Per FanGraphs, the Giants’ outfield has been worth negative 30 defensive runs saved, the worst mark in the big leagues. And that was before Friday’s mistakes. 

“We’ve got to clean it up a little bit here,” Bochy said. 

Pence said players might be trying to do so much because they want to turn this around so badly. The emotion showed earlier, particularly on Samardzija’s two-run homer. It was his first in four years and traveled 446 feet, the longest by a pitcher since Statcast began tracking it in 2015. 

Samardzija flipped his bat, held a wing up on his way around the bases, and shot out a Ric Flair scream as he crossed the plate. A few minutes later he gave up five runs, including a three-run homer to Ian Desmond that wouldn’t go out anywhere else. Samardzija wasn’t able to celebrate his homer very much, but he also didn’t blame the park for his eight-run night. 

“It’s a tough place, but listen, it’s even both ways,” he said. “It helps out both teams.”

On this night, so did the Giants. 

A few longtime Giants could hit milestones this season

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USATSI

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.