Pablo Sandoval

Sluggish Giants can't build on Sandoval's blast

Sluggish Giants can't build on Sandoval's blast

LOS ANGELES — The Giants were so gassed after a 16-inning game in Miami on Thursday that they chose to add a 14th pitcher instead of Brandon Belt, their best hitter, for the opener at Dodger Stadium. The situation was still dire even with Pierce Johnson, so manager Bruce Bochy was prepared to let Derek Holland hit for himself if there were two on and two outs in the top of the fifth, despite a rising pitch count. 

And yet there was Pablo Sandoval, a day after playing all 16, muscling a Ross Stripling offering into the left field bullpen in the seventh inning. Sandoval looked fresh. The rest of the Giants looked like a team that played the equivalent of a doubleheader and then flew across the country. The Giants managed just four hits, Derek Holland gave up two homers, Austin Jackson committed a back-breaking error, and the Dodgers went home with a 3-2 win. 

When it was over, Sandoval was asked about his new role as an everyday player. 

“We lost Longo,” he said, shrugging. “We don’t have too many guys.”

They still might have more than the Dodgers, though. The reigning league champs have a full rotation on the disabled list, but Stripling has stepped up to turn into a right-handed ace to complement Clayton Kershaw, who should be back soon. The Dodgers look poised to go on one of their patented summer runs and take control of the division, and the Giants — healthy or not — will have to play better ball to keep pace. That means they can’t make the kinds of mistakes that haunted them Friday. 

Jackson’s was the big one. The center fielder has lost his starting job to Gorkys Hernandez, but Bochy felt Hernandez needed the day off after Thursday’s marathon. Jackson went back to the wall on Yasmani Grandal’s fly ball in the fourth but dropped it. The three-base error led to a third Dodgers run that didn’t look as big when the Giants were flailing against Stripling, but loomed as a game-changer when Sandoval hit a two-run shot. The error proved to be the difference. 

“I don’t know if he lost it in the lights,” Bochy said. “It was a little (bit of) twilight still, I think. I don’t know.”

Jackson has struggled on both sides of the ball and has Steven Duggar breathing down his neck in Triple-A. The Giants have shown no indication that they’re ready to make that move, but the misplays are piling up at the big league level and, beyond that, this is a group that often looks in need of some new energy. The Giants have lost four of five since a strong weekend in Washington D.C., dropping three back of the Dodgers and 5 1/2 behind the first place D'backs. They all of a sudden find themselves just a game ahead of the last-place Padres. 

Perhaps a drop that low will lead to changes beyond Belt’s return. You never know what a player — whether it’s Duggar or Austin Slater — can provide when given a chance, and Sandoval is a shining example of that. In his second go-around with the Giants, he is once again a fixture. On an otherwise lackluster night, Bochy lit up when asked about the Panda. 

“I love the guy,” he said. “The way he plays, his enthusiasm and passion for the game. He’s doing a great job.”

Giants outlast Marlins in 16-inning marathon to avoid getting swept

Giants outlast Marlins in 16-inning marathon to avoid getting swept

BOX SCORE

MIAMI -- Pablo Sandoval's tie-breaking two-run single in the 16th inning lifted the San Francisco Giants past the Miami Marlins, 6-3, on Thursday.

Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer to continue his torrid month and Mac Williamson also homered for the Giants, who salvaged the final game of a four-game series and beat the Marlins for only the second time in the last 10 meetings.

Giants' starter Dereck Rodriguez pitched 6 2-3 innings, allowing two runs with his father and former Marlins' World Series championship catcher Pudge Rodriguez sitting behind home plate. Ty Blach (4-5) also pitched 6 2-3 innings for the Giants without allowing a run. He gave up seven hits, walked two, and struck out three. Sam Dyson came on for Blach to get the final out with two runners on for his first save of the season.

McCutchen started the 16th with a single, Brandon Crawford walked and Alen Hanson singled to load the bases of Elieser Hernandez (0-4). Sandoval's single to center made it 5-3, and Gorkys Hernandez added a sacrifice fly later in the inning. The runs were the first for the Giants since the second.

Miami had two runners on in the bottom of the 16th for Bryan Holaday, who flew out to end the game.

It was the longest game of the season for the Giants and the second-longest for the Marlins, who went 17 innings in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on March 30.

Both teams had opportunities in extra innings after the Marlins tied the game in the bottom of the ninth off Hunter Strickland on a sacrifice fly by Lewis Brinson. Second baseman Joe Panik was unable to hold onto a pop up near the foul line, allowing the lead-off runner to reach.

It was the eighth time in the series the Marlins came back to tie the game.

The Giants looked to take the lead in the 11th on a double by Hanson, but Crawford was thrown out at the plate.

Miami threatened in the 13th when manager Bruce Bochy ordered an intentional walk to load the bases with two outs and Hernandez due to bat because the Marlins were out of position players. Hernandez bounced out to Blach.

The Marlins had another opportunity in the 15th with runners on the corners and one out, but Justin Bour grounded into a double play. Bour slammed his helmet to the ground in disgust.

McCutchen hit a two-run homer in the first inning for the second straight game. Five of his eight home runs have been this month. He went 3 for 7 to raise his batting average to .339 (19 for 56) in June, historically the best month of his career. He has 11 multi-hit performances in his last 18 games.

Williamson's fourth home run of the season gave the Giants a 3-0 lead against Dan Straily in the second inning.

JT Riddle's solo shot, his third, cut the deficit to 3-1 in the fifth.

Holaday's two-out base hit to left pulled Miami within 3-2 in the seventh, ending Rodriguez's outing.

Rodriguez scattered seven hits and struck out four in his third start.

SMITH EXPECTED TO GO ON BEREAVEMENT LIST

Miami's Caleb Smith was not with the club due to a funeral and is expected to go on the bereavement list. Manager Don Mattingly said Smith will make his next scheduled start at San Francisco on June 18.

HOLADAY'S STREAK CONTINUES

Holaday threw out Mac Williamson trying to steal second base in the fourth inning. It was the ninth consecutive base stealer Holaday has thrown out, extending his franchise record. The nine straight is the most in the majors since Arizona's Miguel Montero threw out nine in a row in 2011.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Giants: 3B Evan Longoria (left hand) was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning and stayed in the game briefly to run before being replaced in the field.

Marlins: RHP Brett Graves (left oblique) is nearing a return and the plan is for him to begin out of the bullpen.

UP NEXT

Giants: LHP Derek Holland (4-6, 4.54 ERA) will take the mound Friday to begin a three-game series at the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants are 6-4 against their rivals this season.

Marlins: RHP Jose Urena (1-8, 4.59) begins a three-game series at Baltimore on Friday.

Pablo Sandoval to get audition as Giants' backup shortstop (really)

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USATSI

Pablo Sandoval to get audition as Giants' backup shortstop (really)

SAN FRANCISCO -- As he gave the update, Bruce Bochy started cracking up. You can't blame him. It was hard for the manager to keep a straight face as he told reporters that Pablo Sandoval will take ground balls at shortstop to audition to back up Brandon Crawford. 

How did the Giants get here?

Well, Sandoval was already backing up second base, and when Joe Panik returned on Friday afternoon and slipped back into the leadoff spot, the Giants optioned Kelby Tomlinson back to the minors. Tomlinson has served as Crawford's backup. 

So, the staff is juggling two different plans. If something happens to Crawford in the middle of a game, they can move Panik -- drafted as a shortstop -- over and put Sandoval at second base. They also could play Sandoval at short and keep Panik at a position where he has won a Gold Glove. Bochy was wary about weakening two defensive positions by moving Panik. 

"That decision hasn't been made until we take a look at Pablo taking a few groundballs at short," Bochy said, smiling.  

The Giants hope this never comes into play. Crawford is durable and almost never needs a breather, but you never know ... so, Sandoval will add to his versatility. He already backs up Evan Longoria at third and Brandon Belt at first and serves as the emergency catcher. He has made two starts at second base. He pitched an inning in a blowout. 

(It's at this point that we should note how ridiculous this all is. The Giants want to carry 13 pitchers because they can't get a starter through five innings and they're unwilling to shake up the veteran outfield mix. So, they're playing with one backup infielder. That's not exactly how you're taught to build a roster.)

All of this will change when Alen Hanson returns from a hamstring strain, but Bochy said that won't happen this weekend. For at least two or three days, the possibility exists that Sandoval will add to the tool belt.