Bochy on Kickham: 'Against a tough lineup, he did a pretty good job'
LOS ANGELES – This might surprise you, but ballplayers seldom know what their record is.
The games come too quickly, one after the other. The schedule tends to swallow you up, force you into a short-term focus. The big picture is hard to see when your nose is to the grindstone.
So it was not obvious to everyone in the Giants clubhouse when Tuesday night’s 6-5 loss at Dodger Stadium put them under .500 for the first time since Opening Day. And you can bet they didn’t know it was the latest a Giants team has been under .500 since 2008, when they were a 90-loss club.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford was asked: Can this be a wakeup call, to be under .500?
“Honestly, I didn’t know we were under .500,” Crawford said. “But I know we weren’t playing well. That can be a wakeup call in itself.”
Said first baseman Brandon Belt: “I don’t look at the standings much. But we know we’re not playing our best baseball. The good thing about this team is we have good veteran leadership. They really do keep our spirits high in the dugout and the clubhouse. When you’ve got that, you honestly think you can win every game, come back from any deficit.
“Hunter, Marco, Buster, some of the pitchers, you can see it in their eyes. When they don’t panic, it puts your mind at ease. It reminds you that we’ve been through times like these before.”
The Giants’ third consecutive loss, and their fifth in six games, was a strange one. Like the Padres’ Will Venable last week, the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp laid out on the warning track to take away a sure-fire go-ahead hit. The last one prevented a walk-off win. This one, punctuated by Kemp’s fist to the wall, sealed the Dodgers’ victory.
There are times when you’ll catch breaks, either from lucky bounces or an opponent’s sloppy play. The Giants are getting neither right now. Hanley Ramirez’s tiebreaking home run in the sixth was inches away from being a scary foul. In the ninth, even before Kemp’s catch, Gregor Blanco expected to get hit by a breaking ball inside. He turned and flinched, but the pitch barely missed him.
But the Giants are not making their own breaks, either. And in a one-run loss, every little mistake rattles more chains than Jacob Marlowe.
Crawford popped up with Belt on third base and one out in the fifth. Jake Dunning made an errant pickoff throw that allowed an unearned run to score in the sixth. Juan Perez fouled off a bunt attempt in the ninth that might have changed the complexion of the inning. And second base umpire Kerwin Danley appeared to blow it when he called Blanco out on a stolen-base attempt in the sixth.
“Little things add up,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
In a game, in a month, in a season.
As Belt reminded, the Giants have been through tough times before. They weren’t wire-to-wire winners in 2010 or 2012. They haven’t truly coasted since their 100-win season in 2003, which was a prelude to a first-round knockout in Miami.
You’d rather have the breaks go your way in October. But you need to get there first. And although the Giants are in a similar spot to 2010, when they were 41-40 and on a bad losing skid halfway through the season, Bochy said they couldn’t just set autopilot and trust they’ll climb to a smoother altitude.
“I take it hard. The players take it hard,” Bochy said prior to the game. “You never want to hear somebody say, `We’ll be fine. We’ve done this.’ That’s not the case. We’ve got to pick it up, no getting around it.”
Giants GM Brian Sabean had an equally blunt assessment:
“When you’re playing like a .500 team, you’ve earned that record,” he said, prior to the game. “A lot’s happened: injuries, poor play, not performing up to expectations. We’ve had a tough schedule maybe we haven’t negotiated too well.
“You earn your way to winning a division, you earn your way to go to the World Series and you earn your World Series trophy by doing it on the field. Right now, we’re not doing too much of it on the field, no matter what the expectations were or are.”
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That’s the big picture. Crawford’s up-close view was different. He thought more about that pop-up with Belt at third base, and those two bases-loaded at-bats the previous night.
“Venable doesn’t make that catch and we win. Kemp doesn’t make that catch and we score. But we definitely can’t blame it on that,” Crawford said. “We have to step up and all our pieces need to be working at the same time. For me, I could’ve hit better with runners in scoring position, for sure. Personally, for me, that’s what I look at.”