Analysis: Young Rockies provide latest wake-up call for last-place Giants

Analysis: Young Rockies provide latest wake-up call for last-place Giants

DENVER — When Nolan Arenado’s game-winner cleared the wall Sunday, the third baseman had his 21st homer in 80 career games against the Giants. He also has 32 doubles and 75 RBI, but there’s another Arenado-related number that might be even scarier. 

The dude who has been terrorizing the Giants for the last five seasons just turned 26 years old. 

Arenado is younger than every current Giants starter except for Austin Slater, the left fielder who has been in the big leagues for all of two weeks, and it’s a trend up and down the Rockies' roster.

Kyle Freeland (24), Jeff Hoffman (24) and Antonio Sentazela (22), three pitchers who have helped the Rockies get into first place — and sweep the Giants over the weekend — are all younger than the rookie starter on the other side, 26-year-old Ty Blach. German Marquez is in the Rockies’ rotation at the age of 22. Their injured ace, Jon Gray, is just 25 years old. DJ LeMahieu (28), Trevor Story (24), Pat Valaika (24) and Raimel Tapia (23) all did damage in Colorado's first four-game sweep over the Giants. Both of the team's catchers are under the age of 27. 

The series dropped the Giants an astounding 19 1/2 games out of first place in the division. It’s their biggest first-half deficit since 1985, and it has made the situation crystal clear: The front office needs to move on to the next step, and as they do so, they can no longer just keep an eye on the Dodgers. The Giants have three of the National League’s best teams in their division, and while the Diamondbacks still could pivot and sell veteran pieces at some point in the next year or two, the Dodgers and Rockies look poised to field contenders for years to come. Both have farm systems that were generally ranked in the top 10 before the season. 

“They’ve got all the tools,” Mark Melancon said Sunday, after taking the blown save and loss. “Speed, power, average — all the way through the lineup. You’ve got to tip your hat.”

If you’re Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans, you have to wonder when the same can next be said about your Giants. Speed? The only notable burner in the lineup, Eduardo Nuñez, turned 30 during the series and is a free agent after the season. Power? The Giants are last in the majors in homers, and it isn’t close. Average? They’re 27th there, and they rank 28th in on-base percentage. 

All those numbers add up to the same reality. It’s time to revamp the lineup, and there were rumblings in Denver that some around-the-edges moves could be made soon. Ryder Jones, a 23-year-old having a good year in the Pacific Coast League, is said to be the closest to a call-up. Bruce Bochy has been eyeing Jones for a while, and given what Slater has provided in left, it’s about time to see what Jones — who plays outfield, first and third — can do with his next challenge. Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean infielder, has an opt-out on July 1. Shouldn’t he get a look as a potential bench bat? 

Christian Arroyo will have an MRI on his sore hand on Monday, so he’s not currently in the picture, but Arroyo will be back at some point and other young players like Joan Gregorio (25), Kyle Crick (24) and Tyler Beede (24) figure to be in line for second-half auditions. Chris Shaw (23) has had a slow adjustment to Triple-A, but he could hit his way into a September call-up. The front office also needs to figure out what Jarrett Parker (28) and Mac Williamson (26) can provide moving forward, because left field is now the least of the concerns in the outfield. 

The Giants were a step behind seemingly every fly ball and line drive over the four-game series, and they talked often of bad luck. Another way of looking at being a “step behind” is that you've lost a step or three. This is a team that regularly starts five players in their 30s -- including 34- and 33-year-old outfielders -- with a matching bench.

The Giants won’t be able to compete in 2018 with this kind of outfield play, and the easiest way to find a fix would be to sell a big piece or two for young outfield prospects. In that respect, the organization has given no hint that a decision to sell has been made. 

Sources say a “we’re open for business” meeting has not been had, noting that the draft was the main emphasis in recent weeks. Johnny Cueto, the most talked-about player in trade circles, has not been approached and asked about his future plans. Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco, and those familiar with his thinking say he’s in no rush to immediately head back to the American League and he doesn’t have an issue with the clubhouse. His biggest concerns have always been about winning and losing. No matter how Cueto feels, there will be pressure to opt-out and seek a bigger deal, and the Giants need to figure out exactly where all this stands. 

They have other potential chips in Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore, who despite a poor start is young and still oozing with talent. Trading Nuñez should be an easy decision; he can help any contender with his versatility and speed. Brandon Belt’s name will come up as it always does, and perhaps there’s a contender that sees bench value in the likes of Aaron Hill, Conor Gillaspie or Nick Hundley. While many fans will scream for a complete teardown, the truth is that most of the oft-mentioned names are untradable because of performance, contracts, or age. 

The July 31 deadline is fast approaching, but the Giants have been in the same situation for weeks. The series at Coors Field was never going to change the math, but it did end up being instructive. The Rockies are younger, deeper, and more talented than the Giants, and they’re only going to get better. As the deadline gets closer, it’s up to the front office to figure out some way to try and keep up.

Bumgarner throws three innings of no-hit ball in first rehab start

Bumgarner throws three innings of no-hit ball in first rehab start

BOX SCORE

Madison Bumgarner was back on the hill Sunday night in a Giants jersey for the first time since being placed on the DL on April 21 due to a dirt bike accident

Bumgarner took the mound for the Arizona Rookie League Giants and did not allow a hit in three innings pitched. The Giants' ace also struck out two and walked one. 

In both the first and third innings, Bumgarner pitched a perfect three up and three down frame. 

Bumgarner was diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain of his left throwing shoulder and sustained bruised ribs from his dirt bike accident on an off day in Colorado. Pitching in a game for the first time in over two months, Bumgarner was throwing between 88-91 miles per hour, according to Tommy Stokke of FanRagSports. 

After finishing his three innings of work, Bumgarner went down to the bullpen to increase his pitch count, reports Sande Charles of FanRagSports

Before sustaining the injury, Bumgarner was 0-3 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts this season. 

The Giants have gone 21-41 since Bumgarner's injury. They are 27-51 on the year and sit 24.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. 

After another Giants clunker, Bochy tells players 'enough is enough'

After another Giants clunker, Bochy tells players 'enough is enough'

SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after yet another missed opportunity at the plate Sunday, a voice came over a speaker in the press box at AT&T Park and announced a 524th consecutive sellout. It nicely summed up this current stretch of Giants baseball. 

The seats are emptier than they used to be at first pitch, and they were just about abandoned in the ninth inning of an 8-2 loss, but for the most part the fans are still showing up in droves. One woman brought a toaster by the dugout Sunday morning and asked players and coaches to sign it, hoping to recapture the magic from across the bridge. Another, Bryan Stow, made his first appearance of the season at AT&T Park, met with Bruce Bochy, and said he hoped to see a win. As Matt Moore started warming up, a band set up on top of the visiting dugout to play hits that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. 

For a while, AT&T Park was rocking. And then, as has happened so often this summer, the game started. 

The Giants turned in another epic clunker in a season full of them. They have lost 12 of their last 13 games and 21 of 26, but it’s worse than the raw numbers. On most nights, some in the organization have noted privately, they are simply boring. It’s one thing to lose, it’s quite another to do it in this way. 

“There’s no getting around it,” Bochy said after the sweep. “I’ve been through some tough stretches here and this is as tough as any stretch I’ve seen. For some reason the baseball gods are really testing us here and (testing) this group. It’s not that they’re not coming out ready or trying, but enough is enough.

“At some point, we’ve got to find a way to get this thing turned around.”

Even a slight pivot would be welcomed by the faithful. There were scattered boos Sunday, the latest in a growing trend. This is a fan base that has seen the highest highs, but rarely in franchise history have the lows been this low. 

The crowd no longer turns to the rally lights that were used so often in an awful April, but the noise still grows with each new rally. And then, every single time Sunday, the Giants killed off any hope. 

In the second inning, a Brandon Belt bunt single and Brandon Crawford bloop put two on, but a pair of rookies flied out. 

In the third, the bases were loaded ahead of Buster Posey. He flied out to bring one run across, and there were still runners on the corners for Belt, who leads the team in homers. On a 2-2 count, Hunter Pence inexplicably took off for second. He was caught, the inning was over, and the two-run Mets lead was intact. Bochy said he did not send Pence. 

In the sixth, there were two on with no outs for Posey. Both runners bolted to stay out of a double play. Posey popped up to first -- for a double play.

“He’s not a guy that strikes out, so I’m pretty confident sending runners with Buster,” Bochy said. “We can’t keep laying back. We’re trying to force the issue a bit and stay out of double plays.”

In the eighth, the Giants loaded the bases for Posey and Belt. Posey grounded out. Belt struck out for the third time. 

“We’re getting guys out there,” Bochy said. “We’re not doing enough damage.”

Matt Moore’s damage was self-inflicted. He twice gave up homers to the guy — Rene Rivera — hitting in front of the pitcher. Moore said he has stopped throwing his cutter the past three starts and tried to get his four-seamer going, but the Mets were teeing off. Moore gave up five runs on seven hits. He was pulled in the fifth, left to think about mechanics that still aren’t right. 

“The cutter is a little bit different of a pitch and at times it can take away from the four-seam fastball location-wise, and command of the four-seam was starting to go down the more I threw (the cutter),” Moore said. “I’m anxious to get back to it, but the foundation has got to be throwing the four-seam fastball. I need to execute where they’re carrying through the zone, not running or cutting.”

Moore said his confidence is fine and his problems are not physical. Others can no longer say that. Austin Slater, a rare bright spot in this five-win month, was pulled with a tight hip flexor. He was headed for an MRI. 

Slater is too young to be one of the players Bochy approached after the game. He said he talked to a few, though, passing along that “enough is enough” message. Moore, last in the National League in ERA (6.04), was not one who needed a reminder. 

“I’m sitting on a six right now with not a lot of wins and not enough team wins when I’m throwing,” he said. “It’s been 'enough' for me for the last couple of months.”