Bad breaks or breakdowns? Both put Giants in 2-0 hole


Bad breaks or breakdowns? Both put Giants in 2-0 hole


SAN FRANCISCO Marco Scutaro slowly packed for a flightwith no guaranteed return, still wearing a jersey streaked orange-brown withdisappointment and misfortune.

Sometimes, infield dirt is more than infield dirt.

Inches, said Scutaro, asked how close he came to getting aglove on Ryan Hanigans ground ball, which bled through for a two-run singleSunday night.

All the ground balls hit to me it seemed like I was thisclose to catching it.

The same was not true for Scutaro, or the rest of his Giantsteammates, when they stood in the batters box during this NL Division Seriesagainst the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are getting the luck and the breaks, forsure.

But dirt stains come out easily enough. The Giants, to comecorrect, were nearer to buried alive Sunday night. The Reds outhit them 13-2and outscored them 9-0 to stun a hand-sitting sellout crowd and grab a 2-0 leadin this series.

Scutaro entered the postseason with a 20-game hitting streak inwhich he was hitting .436.

Hes 0 for 8 in two playoff games. He and leadoff man AngelPagan are 1 for 17.

Thats the way baseball is, man, Scutaro said. I goteight at-bats and I have at least three or four hard-hit balls. When things arenot going your way, mentally youve just got to turn the page and staypositive.

Bad luck is a comfortable and convenient fallback. It beatstrying to explain these two games any other way.

Seems like the whole series, everything is bouncing theirway, Scutaro said. They get the momentum going and it seems like we cant geta break. They make a nice play or its at somebody.

Its a short series. It can change real quick. We just haveto come back Tuesday and keep fighting.

RATTO: It's do or be done for Giants

They will try to succeed where 21 other NL clubs havefailed, rallying back to win an NL Division Series after losing the first twogames. And for all their road savvy while winning 10 of 12 series away fromAT&T Park after the All-Star break, sweeping three in the Queen City issomething no major league team has done to the Reds this season.

We know where were at right now and out backs are to thewall, said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who will wait to address the team untilthey reconvene at the ballpark for a 10 a.m. flight Monday. I know they knowwhats at stake, and theyve done a great job all year at bouncing back. Itsbeen done before and theres no choice in this. We have to keep our heads upand be ready to go.

As Bochy and third base coach Tim Flannery know well, the1984 San Diego Padres are one team that came back from a 2-0 deficit to win abest-of-5 series. But they went back home to Jack Murphy Stadium to take threestraight from the Chicago Cubs and clinch the NL pennant.

Time and place and historical precedent aside, and luck,too, the Giants knew from the outset that they wouldnt get anywhere withoutthe kind of dominant, hold-the-line pitching that they received in 2010.

That pitching was nowhere to be found down the stretch, andthere is no plugging those leaks now. Neither Matt Cain nor Madison Bumgarnercould retire a hitter in the sixth inning.

Well, of course you want your pitcher to go out there andgive you a quality start, Bochy said. It hasnt happened these first twogames. Now you hope it happens the next three. Its hard to beat this team ifyou dont get a quality start.

Its tough when those guys arent quite on top of theirgame.

It means the Giants are rallying from behind -- not scoring first, which they did so often while surging to an NL West title. When you trail in 15 of 18 innings, and lead in none, you aren't able to swing or run the bases with the same press-the-issue aggressiveness.

Bumgarner, like Cain a night earlier, had an encouragingfirst inning but left too many mistakes over the plate after that. Catcher Buster Poseyeven said he thought Bumgarner got away with a few mistake sliders.

You hate to see it, Bochy said. Its a good hitting ballclub and they threw out some good at-bats against him.

Bumgarner took the Scutaro approach.

They found holes, he said. I felt good. I was throwingthe pitches I wanted to throw. Just bad luck, I guess.

They guess. If the Giants entertained any other explanation,how could they convince themselves they're good enough to save this season?

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves


SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job. 

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.