Giants

Why Giants' Jeff Samardzija believes MLB fans will be allowed at games

Why Giants' Jeff Samardzija believes MLB fans will be allowed at games

As the Giants took the field for the first time Friday, most walked through the entrance in the center-field wall, getting a glimpse of the new bullpens on either side. Those bullpens include decks that will give fans a great view of not just the action on the field, but the players getting warmed up. 

It's not expected that fans will get to try those decks out this year, or view any baseball in person. But on a Zoom call with reporters, veteran right-hander Jeff Samardzija said he doesn't necessarily believe that, and took a not-so-subtle shot at ownership groups across the league.

"I wouldn't put the carriage before the horse there," Samardzija said. "I think there's going to be fans in the stands. I think we've seen with these owners they're not scared of anything and they're not scared to put anyone at risk if they get the opportunity to, especially if it makes them money."

Regardless of whether teams and local municipalities can figure that out in the midst of a pandemic, Samardzija's pointed remarks were a reminder of another element of the three-month layoff. As players sheltered in place and followed COVID-19 updates, they also watched their union go to battle with owners and the league. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Ultimately, the sides did not come to an agreement past the March 26 version that allowed commissioner Rob Manfred to impose a 60-game season. Nobody expected either side to forget that long, nasty negotiation, particularly the players. Samardzija confirmed that with a couple of shots Friday. Earlier, he brought up the length of the season. 

"I'd rather have 82 games, 90 games, which we were definitely able to do and had a window to do," he said while talking about how players will adapt and adjust. 

Samardzija and the rest of the Giants returned to Oracle Park on Friday and all appeared to go well, but movement was extremely limited and security was tight. The organization already has told season-ticket holders that fans will not be at games this year, offering instead to make them into cutouts that can take their place in the stands. 

[RELATED: Giants roster breakdown: Johnny Cueto, veterans to fill out rotation]

It seems some players are anticipating a change of course. Samardzija is one of the most experienced players on the roster, and he said that while he wants fans to be safe, he can see them being allowed back in this year. 

"There's going to be people in the stands, they're going to be socially distanced and rows apart, and that's the way it's going to be," he said. "The owners have already said that that's what they want."

Much of this might come down to city preferences. Politicians in New York and Texas are among those who have stated they want fans back at games this year. San Francisco and the Bay Area have been particularly cautious, and it's hard to see that changing anytime soon. Samardzija said players will adjust if they do play in front of empty seats. 

"We're baseball players, that's another hurdle we need to jump over," he said. "But in the end the numbers still count and the wins and losses still count no matter how you got there."

Giants' historic meltdown filled with inexplicable late-game decisions

Giants' historic meltdown filled with inexplicable late-game decisions

The years 1929 and 2020 will always be connected in American history. The former was the year the stock market crashed, leading to the Great Depression. The latter is, well, we're living it, and it's also an all-consuming nightmare. 

In the Giants' history books, those two years now also are connected. And there's some depression involved with this comparison, too. 

The Giants lost to the A's 8-7 Friday night after leading 7-2 in the ninth inning Friday night. If that seems like a nearly impossible result, that's because it is. The Giants had not blown a five-run lead in the ninth inning or later since 1929, amassing 2,133 consecutive wins in that situation, according to Stats Perform.

For all the history there, this unbelievable loss actually unfolded quite cleanly. When the game was over, suffering a historic loss made sense, mostly because just about everything the Giants had done in that fateful inning raised further questions. 

It started with the choice of a pitcher. Gabe Kapler turned to Trevor Gott, his closer, with a five-run lead, which is certainly defensible. But while Gott has not officially been named the closer, that is his role and those guys often have a strange time when asked to finish off a blowout. 

Kapler said the staff chose Gott because they figured they might need to get Gott up anyway if they went with Jarlin Garcia or Trevor Rogers, and that's no day off.

"The thought process is how can we use one pitcher there," Kapler said. 

That leads to an obvious question. How can you trust your secondary relievers in any situation again if you're not confident they can record three outs before giving up five runs

We'll leave that one alone for now. As it was, Gott was the choice and he clearly didn't have it. Gott's velocity was normal, but his command was off. Kapler stuck with him, and he said he didn't think Gott was thrown off by the situation. 

"I totally get why that's where you might go, 'Maybe he's not used to that situation.' He's been pitching in higher-leverage situations, and those are things that are true. But what I saw out there was a very focused and aggressive and intense competitor who just didn't have command and got beat as a result."

Gott gave up a homer and then issued a walk with one out. The Giants still were in decent shape, but then Wilmer Flores made an inexplicable decision on a grounder to first base.

Flores took two steps toward the bag and then, with just one more needed for the 26th out of the night, spun and threw to second. Brandon Crawford slipped his foot off second a split-second too soon, apparently thinking Flores had touched first, and both runners were safe. 

Instead of having a four-run lead with two outs and a runner on second, Gott had two runners on and just one out. 

"I should have just stepped on first base with that lead that we had," Flores said after the game. 

Crawford had come in as a defensive replacement, but Kapler said he wanted to give Brandon Belt a night off because he has some lower-half soreness and the staff trusted Flores to get through that final inning. 

"It's [Flores'] best position and we wanted to do everything possible to get Brandon Belt a day and get him ready for tomorrow," Kapler said. 

The problem was Belt did end up playing. He struck out as a pinch-hitter in the 10th with the tying run on second, swinging through three fastballs from Liam Hendricks. That's fast-forwarding, though. 

After Flores' mistake, Gott hit a batter to load the bases and then hung a curveball that Stephen Piscotty blasted to left for a grand slam that completed the historic comeback. 

[RELATED: Giants given relatively good news with Slater's MRI results]

The Giants went to extra innings for the third time this year, and Garcia entered and got a grounder, flyout and grounder. That was enough, though, to move the placed runner from second to home for the go-ahead run. Three Giants struck out in a similar situation in the bottom of the inning, and that was the end. 

So there you have it, that's how you suffer a loss that hasn't been seen since 1929. It was a trainwreck, but a gradual one, and it seemed to leave the Giants stunned. Kapler said he would process the loss as the night went on. 

"We'll talk about it and figure out ways to get better for tomorrow," he said. "And things we could have done differently."

Giants takeaways: What you might've missed in 8-7 loss to surging A's

Giants takeaways: What you might've missed in 8-7 loss to surging A's

BOX SCORE

There are bad losses, there are horrible losses ... and then there's what the Giants did Friday night.

The first night of the Battle of the Bay looked like a blowout for the home team, but the Giants lost 8-7 to the A's in extras after blowing a 7-2 lead in extras. It was every bit as excruciating as that sentence makes it sound.

The Giants blew that five-run lead in the top of the ninth with their closer on the mound. Trevor Gott was in trouble throughout the inning and gave up a game-tying grand slam to Stephen Piscotty with one out. The slam was the A's third of the season in the ninth inning or later. The other 29 MLB teams have combined for zero.

San Francisco had the winning run on third with two down in the ninth, but Pablo Sandoval, who is batting just .159, grounded out. The Giants then proceeded to give up the go-ahead run in the 10th on a sacrifice fly, and when it was their turn to get a free runner on second, three consecutive hitters struck out.

Man, it was bad. Would you like to read more about it?! Here are three takeaways.

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Epic Meltdown

With a five-run lead heading into the ninth, Gabe Kapler took the opportunity to get some work for Gott, his closer who had pitched just twice in the last nine days. Gott's command was off from the start, and he gave up a one-out homer to Matt Olson before walking Mark Canha. That's when Wilmer Flores made an inexplicable decision.

On a grounder to first, Flores took a step toward the bag and then spun and threw to second, where Brandon Crawford lifted his foot prematurely. Instead of getting the easy out at first, Flores for some reason went for the lead runner, and both A's ended up being safe. After a hit-by-pitch, Gott gave up a game-tying grand slam to Piscotty.

The A's put the go-ahead runner on third but Tyler Rogers struck out a pair.

Johnny Be Good

Cueto was close to a dominant start in Los Angeles over the weekend, but a homer from his final hitter ruined his line. This time around, Cueto did get the job done all the way through.

He went seven innings, the most by a Giants starter this season, and allowed just two earned runs on three hits. Cueto struck out five and threw 104 pitches, his most since Sept. 19, 2017.

[RELATED: Giants given relatively good news with Slater's MRI results]

Luzardo hit hard

The Giants had no issues with A's left-hander Jesús Luzardo, one of the best pitching prospects in the game. Longoria hit a solo shot and Pence made it 4-0 in the third with a three-run shot to dead center.

Luzardo was pulled with one out in the fourth after Longoria's two-run single to left.

The Giants hit six balls at least 100 mph off Luzardo, including Pence's second three-run blast of the week, which left the park at 105.9 mph. This lineup continues to be pretty good against left-handed pitching.