Giants vs. Pirates lineups: Derek Holland takes hill against NL's top team

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USATSI

Giants vs. Pirates lineups: Derek Holland takes hill against NL's top team

A road trip that started with such promise has quickly gone downhill for the Giants. 

After starting their road trip with a win over the Washington Nationals, Bruce Bochy's club now has lost three straight heading into Saturday's game against the National League's best team, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Giants opened the series against the Pirates in disappointing fashion, as Madison Bumgarner gave up four runs in six innings in the Pirates' 4-1 win Friday night. 

Despite the skid, Bochy's lineup for Saturday will look quite similar to the one in the series opener, with Buster Posey hitting third and Brandon Belt hitting cleanup.

Derek Holland will get the start for the Giants. The left-hander is coming off a loss to the Colorado Rockies when he allowed four runs in six innings. Prior to the loss to the Rockies, Holland had not allowed more than three earned runs in a start this season.

The Pirates will counter with right-hander Jameson Taillon, who recorded a win over the Nationals in his last start, allowing three runs in seven innings.

Here are the full lineups for Saturday's Giants vs. Pirates game:

San Francisco Giants (8-13)
Steven Duggar, RF
Gerardo Parra, LF
Buster Posey, C
Brandon Belt, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Brandon Crawford, SS
Kevin Pillar, CF
Joe Panik, 2B
Derek Holland, LHP (1-2, 4.09 ERA)

[RELATED: Pirates call-up reminder Giants waited too long to change]

Pittsburgh Pirates (11-6)
Cole Tucker, SS
Jung Ho Kang, 3B
Francisco Cervelli, C
Josh Bell, 1B
Bryan Reynolds, CF
J.B. Shuck, RF
Pablo Reyes, 2B
Jason Martin, LF
Jameson Taillon, RHP (0-2, 3.43 ERA)

Pirates call-up a reminder that Giants waited too long to change

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USATSI

Pirates call-up a reminder that Giants waited too long to change

PITTSBURGH -- On Saturday morning, a few hours after Starling Marte and Erik Gonzalez had a frightening collision in shallow center field, the Pirates called up a pair of prospects. 

One of them is a 24-year-old outfielder who is a former top pick and was tearing up Triple-A. The switch-hitter has a .367 average in 13 games, with five homers, three stolen bases, and a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has a .312/.373/.472 slash line in over 1,200 minor league plate appearances. He can play all three outfield spots but is primarily a center fielder. 

Is this the type of player you might be interested in seeing with the Giants, who have serious, serious offensive issues and little help on the way in the upper minors?

Under different circumstances, you would have.

The player is Bryan Reynolds, who was taken by the Giants in the second round out of Vanderbilt in 2016. The Giants felt he was a first-round talent who slipped due to concerns about his desire to sign, but Bobby Evans worked out a deal with Scott Boras. The Giants felt they had one of the steals of the draft. Two years later, they dealt Reynolds and Kyle Crick for Andrew McCutchen. 

Now, that's a somewhat defensible move. Reynolds did not show much power while with Giants affiliates, although he did always hit for a high average. The Giants felt McCutchen and Evan Longoria could join the core and return an aging team to the postseason, and McCutchen was still a valuable player last season. The Giants did eventually get a couple of prospects in a second McCutchen trade. Abiatal Avelino may help them at some point and Juan De Paula helped bring Kevin Pillar to San Francisco. 

Plus, who really knows what Reynolds will become? He has turned into a nice prospect but he's not on anyone's top 100 list. He could be a bust. 

Regardless, he shows why it's so important that the Giants don't continue to kick the can down the road. They dealt one of their best prospects -- and a good controllable reliever -- to the Pirates a few months after losing 98 games. There was every reason to tear down, not deal prospects, but the Giants tried to extend the glory days. They desperately need players like Reynolds, who are young and have the kind of upside that they'll show up in Triple-A one season and start mashing homers.

[RELATED: Bruce Bochy believes Mark Melancon is 'invaluable']

The good news is that Farhan Zaidi knows all this. He has kind of tried to extend the window but has done it half-heartedly with low-cost additions like Derek Holland, Drew Pomeranz and Pillar. He is stockpiling lottery tickets in the minors, and the odds are good that this July he'll be adding a half-dozen more as he subtracts bullpen pieces and a starter or three from a team that's off to an 8-13 start. 

But man, the Giants sure could have used this attitude after the 2017 season.

Giants digging hole with first-inning woes, and they might not have solution

Giants digging hole with first-inning woes, and they might not have solution

PITTSBURGH -- Madison Bumgarner was mad at himself for digging too big a hole Friday night, and he certainly did just that. But as the Giants move past the 20-game mark, it's clear that it's another part of the team mostly digging the holes. 

The Giants are the only team in the Majors without a run in the first inning and they have scored first just six times in 21 games. When Bumgarner gave up four in the bottom of the first Friday, that was all it took. The Giants had not, of course, done any damage in the top of the inning. They would lose 4-1 on their first night with the Pirates. 

The first-inning woes have been there since the first at-bats of the season. The Giants are 6-for-66 in the first inning, and all six of the hits have been singles. They have just two walks in 21 first innings and have struck out 21 times. 

"Not scoring early again, that's making every game an uphill climb for us," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Friday's script was familiar. After an 85-minute rain delay, Steven Duggar opened the night by striking out. He is 3-for-17 while leading off games, with seven strikeouts. Joe Panik, who is batting .193, also struck out and Buster Posey, batting .217, grounded out to second.  

Bochy said the staff is talking about changes that can be made, but they are limited by their personnel. Kevin Pillar also brings speed, but he's batting just .167. Gerardo Parra is at .224. Up and down the lineup, there is nobody hitting, or reaching base at a rate that screams "put me up near the top of the lineup!"

"There's not a lot that you can do at this point," Bochy said. "These are our guys and you can move them a spot or two. But wherever you hit in the order, those guys have to come through. You look at the back end of (Pittsburgh's) order and they did a pretty good job in the first inning."

Bumgarner retired the first two batters he faced before walking third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who entered batting just .130. Josh Bell singled and Francisco Cervelli hit a two-run double. The exit velocity barrage continued a bit longer, and singles by Pablo Reyes and JB Shuck made it 4-0 before the rain drops on the dugout seats had even had time to dry. Bumgarner threw 38 pitches in the inning. 

"They weren't all bad pitches but a lot of them were," he said. "You've got to give those guys credit. With two outs and nobody on, to score four, that's hard to do even in batting practice."

[RELATED: Marte, Gonzalez collide violently]

The first-inning blip was the only one for Bumgarner, who has always had a good time in this park. In his next five innings he allowed just two singles and struck out six. 

But the damage had been done. It was an uphill climb, and as they've done for most of a month now, the Giants didn't approach the summit.