Tyler Austin keeps crushing lefties, makes case for more playing time

Tyler Austin keeps crushing lefties, makes case for more playing time

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ronald Acuña made a habit this week of going back to the wall slowly, timing his leap, and jumping to catch a deep fly ball as a Giant dropped his head and the crowd groaned. But the Braves superstar could do nothing but watch as Tyler Austin's blast flew over his head and landed a dozen feet beyond the wall on Thursday afternoon. 

Austin has been doing that pretty regularly, and he looks to be carving out a nice role for himself in an organization eager to embrace platoon life. Austin's homer off promising young reliever Sean Newcomb was his third in 33 at-bats against left-handed pitchers. He has 12 hits in those 33 at-bats, including two doubles. He also has six walks.

"He has got a history of doing a nice job against them," manager Bruce Bochy said after a 5-4 loss. "He got all of (that ball). When he hits it, it goes. He's got tremendous power."

The homer was Riley's second in as many days. On Wednesday, he became the third right-handed batter to hit one into the arcade this season, joining San Diego's Manny Machado and Los Angeles' David Freese.

So, why isn't Austin playing every day? For the Giants, there are two issues. 

First, Austin's splits are jarring. He is just 3-for-23 against right-handed pitchers with 13 strikeouts, and this isn't new. He has a .958 career OPS against lefties and .654 OPS against righties. 

The second hurdle is that the Giants aren't quite sure where to play him. The staff does not feel comfortable with Austin in left field, although Bochy noted Thursday that "we're working him out there." Austin has only started four games in the outfield since an April trade, while getting seven starts at first base, where Brandon Belt is entrenched as a good two-way player. 

[RELATED: Giants again looking for LF answer with Williamson slumping]

Belt's knee issues have kept him from moving over to left at times, but that also may open up more starts at first for Austin against lefties. For now, Bochy will try to find spots to get Austin more time, but at the very least, the Giants can take comfort in one thing. Regardless of how they use Austin, they appear to have traded for a pretty good weapon. 

Bruce Bochy reacts to quirk at Oracle Park he had never seen before

Bruce Bochy reacts to quirk at Oracle Park he had never seen before

Bruce Bochy has seen just about everything since he started managing in 1995.

But in the Giants' 5-3 loss to the Brewers on Sunday, Bochy witness something he had never seen before.

"First time I've seen it," Bochy said. "First time."

In the second inning, reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich roped a Jeff Samardzija pitch to right field. The ball skipped to the wall and then it disappeared.

Right fielder Kevin Pillar threw up his arms, the universal signal to the umpires that the ball has gone out of play.

But a ground rule double in right field at Oracle Park? That seems hard considering the height of the wall.

In this case, the ball bounced perfectly between the archway gates and into the standing-room only section under the out-of-town scoreboard where a fan picked up the ball.

First base umpire John Libka ran out to see what happened and once Pillar explained the situation, Yelich was awarded two bases. Ben Gamel, who was on first base, was awarded third base.

"I was a little concerned," Bochy said. "But Kevin, with his experience, he did the right thing instead of trying to dig it out."

Samardzija was able to strike out Ryan Braun to strand Gamel and Yelich.

[RELATED: Giants feeling good about themselves]

Oracle Park is in its 20th year of existence. Bochy is in his 13th and final year as Giants manager. Somehow, after all of Bochy's games in the ballpark on the shores of McCovey Cove, he saw something new.

"I've never seen that," Bochy said. "I didn't know what happened until the replay you could see it, where it went through the cushion."

Giants feeling good about themselves, love how they played on homestand

Giants feeling good about themselves, love how they played on homestand

For the Giants, this season isn't about contending for a playoff spot. It's about doing the small things right and building towards future success.

One thing manager Bruce Bochy wants his team to work on is playing better at Oracle Park.

Prior to the just-completed eight-game homestand, the Giants were 10-18 at home. But against the Dodgers, Padres and Brewers -- three quality clubs -- the Giants took five of the eight games.

"I think you look at it as a pretty good homestand," Bochy told reporters after the game. "We would have loved to have finished it off today ... and we could have, we had our chances. But we took two series against two good teams, so good bounce back off a tough series."

The Giants lost two of three to the Dodgers last weekend, but swept a two-game series with the Padres earlier this week. Then, this weekend, they had a chance to sweep the NL Central-leading Brewers before losing 5-3 on Sunday.

"So, better at home, that's what we've been looking for," Bochy said. "Hopefully when we get back it's the same thing, but now we got to hit the road here against some good teams. I like the way we're pitching, keeping it close and we are creating those chances and that's what you need to do. You do enough of it, as I said, odds are somebody's going to come through for you."

Jeff Samardzija started against Milwaukee Sunday and was tagged with four earned runs in five innings.

Despite taking the loss, Samardzija echoed Bochy's feeling that the team is on the right track.

"We're playing good ball right now," Samardzija told reporters. "I think we even showed it today. There were a couple situations there that definitely on my end, if we get out of there with a zero, it's probably a little bit different of a game and we had our opportunities."

[RELATED: Bumgarner-Twins trade chatter 'premature']

The Giants head down to LA to begin a four-game series with the rival Dodgers on Monday. After that, they head to Arizona for a three-game series before returning home next week to take on the Rockies.

"I love the way we're playing," Samardzija said. "We'll learn a lot about ourselves here in this next week."