Lincecum: 'I didn't give my team a chance'
SAN FRANCISCO – Whenever a respiratory ailment infects the clubhouse, be it flu, cold or allergies, Giants manager Bruce Bochy uses one catchall term to describe it:
That’s what the Giants have, and it’s spreading.
The starting pitching has been crud. The defense has been crud. And the offense, for all its late-inning effervescence, can’t keep bubbling up like Alka-Seltzer every night to clear the sinuses.
The Giants cannot afford to be cruddy for much longer. Not with a June schedule that will require them to live out of their suitcases. And not when 19 of those next 22 road games will come against winning teams. (The Dodgers are the exception, and it’s not like the Giants ever receive a warm welcome in LA, either.)
The crud is infecting the Giants at home, too.
After Tim Lincecum lost focus, the defense committed three errors and another A’s starter with a 5-plus ERA held down the Giants in the early innings of a 9-6 loss, Bochy’s first reaction was of a man who had a light aircraft crash land into his bathroom.
“I don’t know what happened, to be honest,” he said.
“We just didn’t play well,” the manager said. “There’s no sugar coating this thing. We pretty much covered all facets. The only thing we can do is keep grinding, come back tomorrow and keep working.
“We’ve got to get our act together because it wasn’t good tonight.”
In more ways than one, the Giants cannot sustain this pace. They played a three-hour, 43 minute game and their reigning NL MVP, Buster Posey, was behind the plate for all of it.
Not only did Wednesday’s loss cost the Giants a game in the standings, it might cost them their cleanup hitter for Thursday afternoon’s quick turnaround game.
“I’ll talk to Buster,” said Bochy, who wasn’t sure if Posey would be in the lineup. “We are playing longer games, and that’s because you’re using your ‘pen a lot. Guys are logging a lot of pitches.
“This is not our game. It’s gotten away from us, and not just tonight. It takes a toll on players, especially a catcher.”
Posey acknowledged it hasn’t been easy.
“I think everybody feels it, and we have been playing long games,” he said. “You’ll go through stretches like that, so you just try to take care of your body the best you can.”
What will take care of this mess? Where does it start? Addressing a major league high 25 errors in May? Getting more innings from a rotation that has thrown two quality starts in the last 15 games – and none on the road since April?
“Baseball is contagious,” Posey said. “If we start doing one aspect of the game better, I think everything will follow suit. I don’t think you can point to one thing in general. We’ve just got to play a little better.”
In the meantime, long innings are taking their toll. Some of Tim Lincecum’s innings have felt never-ending. After he failed to escape the fifth inning, he now has a 5.12 ERA after posting a 5.18 ERA last year. Simply put, the Giants are not getting enough from the rest of the rotation to absorb an inconsistent, unfocused, cruddy Lincecum now.
“He still has to find a way to get it done,” Bochy said. “The pitches caught up with him again.”
Said Lincecum: “I just didn’t give my team a chance to win. … Elevated pitches, that’s what happened.”
And a lack of focus when he didn’t cover first base on a ground ball that first baseman Brett Pill bobbled. Pill could have been charged with an error, since a clean pickup would’ve led to a force play at second base. But when he lost the handle for a moment, the only possible out would’ve been at first base. Lincecum didn’t give him a shot at that, either.
“I didn’t read the situation well,” said Lincecum, who pointed to his own failure when asked about plays not made behind him. “It was a lot of tough plays. Balls in nowhereland.”
Nowhereland. That is where the Giants should be, given the way they’ve played. Instead, they are 28-25 and a very manageable 2 ½ games out of first place in the NL West.
It is hard to latch onto a positive these days. Posey plans to start there.
“It feels like we should be further behind than what we are,” he said. “So we should look at that as a positive and realize there’s still four months to go.”
In the meantime, they will not win this Bay Bridge series with the A’s. They are still the defending World Series champions, though, as much as they might need someone to stand up and remind them. And although they are about to hit the road, they once found a way to bond together when nobody else believed in them.
“This is our club,” said Bochy, rejecting the notion of wholesale changes. “It’s a good club. This is a very talented ballclub. They’ve done some good things here. These two weeks, this stretch here … we’re not playing like the team we are.
“It’s got to get better. We’re not playing winning baseball.”
That's what you hate about the crud. When you've got it all over, it's impossible for anyone to breathe easy.