Bruce Bochy

Chris Stratton goes the distance vs. Rockies for first Giants shutout

Chris Stratton goes the distance vs. Rockies for first Giants shutout

SAN FRANCISCO — For 147 games, Bruce Bochy had two choices. Take the ball from his starter on the mound or shake his hand as he reached the top step of the dugout. But in the eighth inning Friday night, Bochy could do neither. 

Chris Stratton was at 105 pitches and shutting out the first-place Rockies, and Bochy had Mark Melancon and Tony Watson loose, with Will Smith starting to stretch. But he also had just watched Stratton strike out two in a clean eighth, so he went to a third move. As Stratton approached the dugout, Bochy turned his back to his starter and had a brief conversation with pitching coach Curt Young and consultant Madison Bumgarner. 

Stratton was going back out for the ninth, Bochy decided. But then he turned and looked at the scene behind him.

“My worry was that I saw all the guys high-fiving him after the eighth,” Bochy said, smiling. “I didn’t want him to think he was done. I didn’t think he was done. His stuff was still there.”

You could forgive the Giants for prematurely celebrating Stratton. They hadn’t celebrated, period, since August 31. Stratton did think that his night might be done, but he didn’t shut it down. He went out for the ninth, got three more quick outs, and put an end to the longest losing streak since 1951. The Giants won 2-0, getting their first win of September, and Stratton became the first Giants starter in two years to get double-digit wins. 

Bochy thought it would take a night like this. He figured he would either need an offensive explosion from somebody or a shutout. 

“We’re challenged right now with getting runs on the board,” he admitted. “The shutout part was more likely to happen.”

Not necessarily. Not in today’s game. The Giants did not even have a complete game entering the night, but they were hardly alone. Five other National League teams have not had a starter go the distance, and the Pirates lead the league with three whole complete games. Bumgarner had four by himself just two years ago, when the Giants had 10 complete games from their starters. 

This season, they have only had two starters even get through eight. Before Stratton’s performance Friday, he had one eight-inning start and Bumgarner had three. The game has changed, and you’re considered foolish if you let your starter go through a lineup three full times, or four. 

Bochy doesn’t believe in all that, but he hasn’t really had the horses the last couple of years. Bumgarner has been hurt and playing catchup. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija have been hurt. Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez are rookies, and Derek Holland has been unable to cross that seven-inning hurdle. 

But on this night, Stratton sailed. It wasn’t even a difficult decision to send him out for the ninth. Bochy watched him command all four quadrants of the zone with his fastball and keep a good lineup down. He let him go. 

The Giants got two early runs on a seeing-eye single from Austin Slater and good defense allowed Stratton to stay out of trouble. Gregor Blanco had the biggest play, a running catch to rob Nolan Arenado of an RBI double in the sixth. That almost certainly would have changed Stratton’s fate. Instead, Blanco was one of many Giants waiting for a hug at the end of nine innings. 

“He pitched an unbelievable game,” Blanco said. “It was a huge win for us. You could see how excited everybody was.”

Bruce Bochy wants Giants to be 'disruptor' over final 15 games


Bruce Bochy wants Giants to be 'disruptor' over final 15 games

SAN FRANCISCO — Throughout the last couple weeks of August, Giants manager Bruce Bochy shied away from any talk of his team being a “spoiler” down the stretch. He still wanted to believe the Giants could go on a winning streak and sneak back into the National League West race, but before Tuesday’s game, a 10th consecutive loss, he met with his players and delivered a tough message. 

Bochy said one of the hardest parts of his job is to come to the realization that a season is over, and he had to tell his players this week that their focus should be on playing hard and showing character. A season that started with hope is down to 15 games that are meaningless to the Giants but not to their opponents, three of whom are fighting for postseason spots. 

Bochy still does not want you to call the Giants spoilers, though. 

“I probably prefer ‘disruptor,’” he said, smiling. 

The Giants haven't done any disrupting, either. They'll show up to the ballpark tonight riding an 11-game losing streak, the franchise's longest since 1951. On the last trip they helped the Rockies stay in first place and the Brewers sneak up on the Cubs. They started this homestand by getting the Braves three wins closer to a surprise NL East title, and a contender is once again coming into AT&T Park this weekend. The Giants play three more with the Rockies, who have a 1 1/2 game lead on the Dodgers.

[JOHNSON: Larry Baer says Giants will 'shake it up' with roster in active offseason]

“It’s not a great position to be in, but it is a motivational thing for players in this kind of year, when you’re not in it,” Bochy said. “You can impact what happens.”

In an ideal world, the Giants will impact the Dodgers in a way that brings a little joy to what otherwise has been a depressing month for fans. The rivals will meet at AT&T Park over the final three days of the season and Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez are lined up to start two of those games, ending their strong rookie seasons with important matchups. If the Giants want to push Madison Bumgarner back a day, he could start the opener of that series. 

Perhaps that will allow for the best case scenario at this point. The Giants will not make the playoffs, but they should have a chance to knock the Dodgers out, too. The flip side of that is that they may have to watch their rivals celebrate a division title at AT&T Park for the second time in four years. 

Before that, the Giants will face other contenders. While they have six left against the Padres, they visit Busch Stadium at the end of their next road trip. The Cardinals are currently the second Wild Card team.

This is not how Bochy imagined September going, but he has been able to take a silver lining from the situation. At the very least, his rookies are getting quality reps. Rodriguez and Suarez will finish up against one of the best lineups in the National League, and players like Austin Slater, Chris Shaw and Aramis Garcia aren’t being sent up against pitchers they saw in the minors this season. They’re getting at-bats against guys like Mike Foltynewicz, who cut the Braves’ magic number down on Tuesday. It’s likely the Giants will see Clayton Kershaw over the final weekend of the season. Every night, the Giants are seeing the best opposing bullpens have to offer, too. 

“It’s been great for them. It gives them an idea of what they’ll see in the Major Leagues, especially as far as relief pitchers,” Bochy said. “As they go into the winter they’ll see some of the best and not just (see) call-ups. It’s good for them. Now they have a visual of what they could be facing next year.”

Bruce Bochy meets with free-falling Giants ahead of 10th straight loss

Bruce Bochy meets with free-falling Giants ahead of 10th straight loss

SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy doesn’t like admitting that his team is out of the race no matter how many consecutive losses might pile up. He doesn’t like admitting that they’re playing poorly, and on three consecutive days he has talked about how many of the last 10 losses could have easily flipped the other way. 

But Bochy did make a concession to the reality of the situation on Tuesday afternoon. He met with his team, talking for about five minutes about the importance of playing hard and holding each other accountable. That is not a meeting you have when you’re trying to clinch a playoff spot. It’s the type of meeting you have when you’re losing every night and looking flat, as the Giants have while dropping 10 straight for the first time in 22 years. 

“This is a tough time of year when you’re going through something like this,” Bochy said after a 4-1 loss to the Braves. “It’s about character right now. You get in these tough times, it does build character.”

Bochy pointed out that there are only 16 games left, and while this season was long ago lost, the Giants are evaluating on a daily basis. It’s not just about hits or scoreless innings. He is looking for passion, effort, and fight. 

“This tells you a lot about players,” he said of the final three weeks. 

At the very least, the Giants have learned a bit more about two of their better ones. A night after Dereck Rodriguez took a brutal loss, Andrew Suarez gave up three runs over six innings against a tough lineup and had no chance of winning. He took the 11th loss of his rookie season, watching hard-throwing righty Mike Foltynewicz throw a 108-pitch complete game with relative ease against the coldest lineup in baseball. 

The Giants handed Foltynewicz his worst start of the season in May, but that was a different team. Andrew McCutchen hit second that day. Buster Posey hit third. Brandon Belt hit fourth, and on Tuesday he was limited to a pinch-hit appearance because of a knee that likely will require surgery. 

Without his stars, Bochy started five young players. The result was predictable, but the rookie pitcher took it in stride. 

“We really can’t do anything about that,” Suarez said of the lack of run support. “We’ve got to go out there and try to keep the game close.”

This is where Bochy has learned something. He is looking for character, and he sees it in Rodriguez and Suarez. On Monday night, Rodriguez asked to go out for the seventh inning despite a high pitch count. A night later, Suarez worked around plenty of traffic to try and keep his team in the game.

“They’re doing great,” Bochy said of the two, the pride clear in his voice. “They’re handling everything fine. Both of them are good kids, good competitors.”