Giants

Giants again fail to complete ninth-inning comeback

Giants again fail to complete ninth-inning comeback

SAN FRANCISCO — One of these nights, the Giants will complete a comeback in the ninth. 

Maybe. 

In theory. 

I mean, it has to happen eventually, right?  

Thursday was not the night, not when Eduardo Nuñez hit by far the hardest ball of the comeback attempt and ended up with a game-ending double play. The Giants lost 3-1, falling to 0-6 this year when trailing in the ninth. Since the start of the 2015 season, they are 2-136 when they’re behind after eight. They have lost 120 straight. 

The latest halted rally came against Greg Holland, the new Rockies closer and a pitcher the Giants briefly looked at before signing Mark Melancon. Holland ran into trouble, but it wasn’t necessarily his fault. The Giants loaded the bases on two infield singles, a fielder’s choice grounder, and a walk. Nuñez, one of Bruce Bochy’s hottest players this month, scalded a ball right at second baseman DJ LeMahieu. 

“You feel good when that inning starts to unfold,” Bochy said. “We got some breaks there on a couple of groundballs. Really the only thing you can do is take a good swing and Nuney did that. He’s a tough guy to double up but he hit it that hard.”

The rally was one of few on a night when two aces didn’t get as deep as expected. Jon Gray departed in the fourth with a toe injury and Madison Bumgarner was gone by the seventh of a game where his command was off. Bumgarner paid dearly for one pitch, a fastball across the heart of the plate that Trevor Story crushed to left for a two-run shot that ultimately held up. 

“I certainly would like to have it back,” he said. “I don’t know, I just didn’t make a whole lot of great pitches tonight. I did OK to keep us in the ballgame, but obviously you would like to be a little better.”

The Giants couldn’t complete their latest comeback attempt, dropping to 4-7 on the season. They’re winless in Bumgarner’s three starts, though he has pitched well and contributed two homers at the plate. Bumgarner said he’s not letting that gnaw at him.

“All you can do is control what you can control,” he said. “You go out there and do your job.”

--- Brandon Crawford arrived at the park around 5:15 p.m. and pinch-hit in the eighth. Crawford’s wife, Jalynne, posted on Instagram that her sister, Jennifer, passed away suddenly. The Crawfords drove to Los Angeles on Wednesday night and Brandon took a flight back Thursday afternoon. 

“He said he was ready for anything, ready to pinch-hit,” Bochy said. “It’s been a tough 24 hours for Brandon. You feel for him with what he’s had to deal with. It was a long night last night. Here he is, trying to help us win a ballgame. It says a lot about Brandon. He didn’t have to be here. For him to show up tonight, I really was surprised.”

Save a good thought for the Crawfords tonight. Our condolences go out to Brandon, Jalynne and their family. 

As Arroyo shut down, Sandoval's numbers nosedive

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USATSI

As Arroyo shut down, Sandoval's numbers nosedive

SAN FRANCISCO — There is a Houston Astros prospect named Dean Deetz, and in a way, Pablo Sandoval can thank him for his second shot with the Giants. 

Deetz drilled Christian Arroyo on July 1, halting the young third baseman’s bid to return to the Giants for the final two months. With Eduardo Nuñez traded to Boston and Arroyo recovering from minor hand surgery, the Giants turned to Sandoval, who has been a fixture in the middle of their lineup the last couple of weeks. Arroyo hoped to get some time at the hot corner in September, but on Thursday the Giants conceded that won’t happen. 

Arroyo will miss the rest of the regular season, team officials said. The hope is that he can get healthy in time for the Arizona Fall League and then potentially make up lost at-bats in a winter league.

Arroyo is either the organization’s best or second-best hitting prospect, depending on which list you look at. He hit .396 in Triple-A this season and then provided a momentary jolt after he forced his way into the big league lineup. Then the slump came, and overall Arroyo hit just .192 in 34 big league games. He was sent back to the minors and promptly was hit by a couple of pitches. 

It was a season with plenty of highs but a disappointing ending, but Arroyo is still just 22 and looks to be a big part of the future. Has he done enough to go into next spring with a firm grip on a job? 

“I’ll have to answer that later on and see where we’re at,” manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday. “It’s all going to be competitive, that’s the way I look at it. You look at where we’ll finish, and not in the postseason, and you have to stay open-minded on everything.”

This could be setting up for a pretty intriguing spring battle. Arroyo and 23-year-old Ryder Jones were the internal candidates set for a competition, but Sandoval likely will be the everyday third baseman down the stretch. He has shown flashes of his old pre-Boston self and the Giants have been generally pleased with his play. Still, the results aren’t really there. 

Sandoval is hitting .200 since returning, with a .220 on-base percentage and .325 slugging percentage. That's good for a .545 OPS, which is nearly 100 points below his OPS in Boston this season. The Red Sox, at some point, had seen enough.  

Bochy said he has taken positives away from Sandoval's energy and some of his bigger moments, particularly the upper-deck homer he hit off Max Scherzer over the weekend. That’s his only homer with the Giants so far, but it made an impression. 

“He’s got the bat speed,” Bochy said. “That’s one of the longest homers we’ve seen this year. That shows (the bat speed) is there.”

Jones has been a fixture as well, playing first base in place of Brandon Belt. He has looked much better the second time around, but his average is still below .200 and his OPS of .559 is just about equal to Sandoval's. The Giants have not seen enough from anyone to have a favorite to play third base next season, and Bochy said the same holds true at other positions. 

"We've got to stay open-minded about who is going to be where next year (and) playing time," he said. "It's up to us to adjust and get better."

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span has played enough center field at AT&T Park that he knew not to assume anything when Jarrett Parker crushed a ball to dead center. Span, standing on second, held up for a second to make sure the ball got over Nick Williams. Hunter Pence, standing on first, had a better view, and he took off with the crack of the bat. As Pence approached Span, he tried to yell over the crowd. 

“Go!” Pence yelled.

Span didn’t hear him. 

“I just felt him,” he said later, smiling. 

Span raced around third and Pence roared up on his back like the third sprinter in a 4x100 relay trying to hand off a baton. Span crossed first and Pence was inches behind him, stretching the lead to three runs. 

“It’s one of those plays that’s a little weird but it worked out,” Pence said. 

Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher of record in a 5-4 win over the Phillies, said Pence “was on a mission.” Span said simply, “That’s Hunter being Hunter.”

“I knew he was right on my heels,” he said. “I was trying to run as fast as I could. In my defense, he had a running start. It was fun, though, it was fun. I’ve never had anyone chasing me like that on the bases.”

The moment brought some levity to a season that’s been lacking it. Span laughed as he crossed the plate and the dugout was full of smiles and jokes as the two returned. But on a grander scale, it was a reminder of what Pence has been and what the Giants need him to be if they are to recover from this season. Pence is signed for 2018 at a hefty price. The odds are good that he'll be in right field, so it’s been a relief for coaches and team officials to see Pence pick it up in recent weeks. 

Pence had a hit and two walks on Thursday, scoring two runs and driving in another. He is batting .346 in August. 

“He has just been making more consistent contact and staying in the strike zone more,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

That has led to better results at the plate, and Pence has provided reminders that the physical skills are still there. After going 0-for-AT&T Park in the first half he hit a couple of homers on the last homestand. Statcast’s Sprint Speed shows that Pence is actually running faster at his top speed than in the past couple of years, when he battled injuries. Pence is at 28.2 feet per second this year, a tick up from 28.1 each of the past two seasons. 

“Baseball goes in waves,” he said. “I’ve had some tough stretches, but right now I’m in a stretch where I’m going better and I’m still trying to improve.”

On Thursday, he pushed a teammate to run just a little faster. But perhaps Pence’s good friend deserves some credit for Span’s speed, too. After stealing his fifth base a few days back, Buster Posey started needling Span. The leadoff hitter has three stolen bases in seven games since that point, getting to eight for the year. 

“He was just talking too much trash,” Span said of Posey. 

Span said Posey mentioned their equal stolen base totals two or three times. He didn’t respond because he couldn’t. Now, he has bragging rights again, and he’s enjoying it. 

“Check the tapes,” Span said as reporters started to walk away from his locker. “I think I’ve got a stolen base off of him.”