Kruk and Kuip: Giants can't get hits at the right time
The Giants are 2-for-22 with runners in scoring position over their last two games. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN FRANCISCO – Marco Scutaro rummaged through a compartment in his locker. He wasn’t going to find his swing in there. But he might as well try.
He’s looked in all the rational places already.
“I don’t have it right now, bro,” said Scutaro, who couldn’t come through in a pair of RBI situations as the Giants once again lacked the timely hits in a 3-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday night.
“I’m searching. I’m looking for it. If you see it, let me know.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: No run support for Cain, Giants fall to Brewers]
Scutaro isn’t the only one praying to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost artifacts. Buster Posey and Gregor Blanco each failed to plate a runner from third with less than two outs. Pablo Sandoval ended three innings with a runner on base.
It would be one thing if the Giants could change their approach or take early batting practice or work their way out of a brutal stretch that’s caused them to go 7-11 since the All-Star break despite vastly improved pitching.
But Bruce Bochy isn’t seeing flawed approaches. He is seeing swings that are late on the fastball.
And that’s hard to fix. It’s just as hard to watch.
“We had trouble catching up with the fastball,” Bochy said. “That’s been the recent trend. The bats, to be honest, look a little slow. I don’t know if they’re tired, being we are in August.”
Bochy has tried to pace Buster Posey by giving him routine days off, or at first base. He’s given Scutaro regular rest. He rotated both of them, and Pablo Sandoval, through the DH slot in Tampa Bay last weekend.
He’ll give Scutaro another day off on Wednesday, and either pick Hunter Pence to lead off or go back to Gregor Blanco.
Scutaro was 0 for 9 in two games in the top spot. It’s part of a larger downtrend in which he has a .224 average in 37 games since June 20. Of his 33 hits over that 37-game span, 31 have been singles.
Giants fans have never seen him like this.
“They’ve got to know it’s not that easy,” said Scutaro, who has battled a sore back and hip since spring training. “Hitting is the toughest thing in sports. … I want to be more consistent day in and day out, but that’s the way it is. I’ve got to keep fighting. That’s the way it’s gone all year. We haven’t been consistent as a team.”
Does he feel unable to drive the ball, as those 31 singles out of 33 hits would appear to suggest?
“I just want to hit it good,” he said with a sigh. “It’s all rollovers and little fly balls to right field. It’s hard to explain, but the feeling … it goes away. I’ll let you know when it’s coming back.
“You just … you just don’t want to make outs.”
Said Bochy: “More than anything, he needs a break. He needs days off. He’s not one to make excuses, and he wants to go out there for the team. He wants to win. But it’s time to take it out of his hands.”
He’s 37 years old and signed for two more seasons. You wonder how often Bochy will have to take it out of Scutaro’s hands before it’s all said and done.
For now, the Giants are 2 for 22 with runners in scoring position in these two nights against the Brewers, and that’s a problem when you haven’t hit a home run in 10 consecutive home games.
It takes bat speed to hit home runs. And right now, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are the only ones whipping their bats through the zone. As left-handed hitters, their home runs here become doubles, or worse.
The prototypical sluggers aren’t slugging at all. Pence has one home run since June 30. Sandoval has hit one since May 22.
“He’s out of sync,” Bochy said of Sandoval, who hasn’t been able to capture his World Series MVP form at any point this season. “You can see it. his timing … he’s a little long right now with his swing. He’s overstriding. That’s created a longer swing and right now, he’s late with everything.”
It’s late for the defending champions, who are 12 back and still in last place. As Bochy said, “Without hope you don’t have anything.” But the Giants are at the point where they need to sweep series to keep giving their clichés any meaning.
“We’re getting the pitching to get that kind of run,” Bochy said. “We’ve been in position to win so many of these games. We need somebody to come through for us. It happened that way again tonight.”
The Giants really are a few hits away from being on their best streak of the season. They are 2-5 in one-run games since the break.
They’ve also allowed just 15 runs in their last seven games, and 28 in their last 11.
“We won’t worry about the offensive guys,” said Matt Cain, who took the loss despite holding the Brewers to two runs on four baserunners in seven innings. “We’ve just got to keep throwing the ball well.”
Cain is well versed in this line of questioning from earlier in his career.
What happened on Buster Posey’s throw into left field, which allowed Norichika Aoki to score the Brewers’ second run?
It looked like a pitchout but it wasn’t, Posey said. It was just an outside pitch and he started out of his crouch quickly.
“I tried to be a little too quick with it,” Posey said. “That was the biggest issue.”
Posey said the pitch that struck him in the seventh inning actually hit above his left elbow guard, and not in the ribs. He appeared to be in a godo deal of discomfort, but said he was fine.
A rookie reporter asked Bochy what he saw on the play.
“I saw it go into left field, like you did,” the manager said.
At least he still has a sense of humor.