Giants

Giants continue April trend, fail to give Bumgarner any run support

Giants continue April trend, fail to give Bumgarner any run support

KANSAS CITY — There are many ugly stats that sum up a 6-10 start to the season for the Giants, but the one that explains how they’re winless in Madison Bumgarner’s four starts might be the most vomit-inducing.

The Giants have scored five runs with Bumgarner on the mound this season. He has driven in two of them. 

The group that had given Bumgarner three runs of support through three winless starts was blanked on Wednesday by Jason Vargas and two Royals relievers. The Giants lost 2-0 in Bumgarner’s return to Kauffman Stadium, continuing a disturbing April trend. 

“The story was not him,” interim manager Ron Wotus said. “He did his job. We just couldn’t score a run.”

If there’s increasing frustration, Bumgarner didn’t show it. He blamed himself for not covering first quickly enough on the first run of the night. He said he missed quite a bit with his command, and he insisted he won’t press if this lack of support continues.

“I feel like there’s no chance of that,” he said. “I’ve been around and I’ve seen enough to know how this works and what I’ve got to do.”

The run that held up as the game-winner came on a play that is usually made, and that was part of the problem for Bumgarner. With a runner on third and two down in the fifth, Mike Moustakas hit a hard liner at Brandon Belt. The first baseman couldn’t field it cleanly and Moustakas slid in safely to first with an RBI infield single. Bumgarner was a beat behind him with the tag. 

“I got my feet tangled there and it’s easy to take Belt for granted because he’s such a good defensive first baseman,” Bumgarner said. “I should’ve been there a little sooner.”

Against Vargas, that would be the only play that mattered. The lefty lowered his ERA to a sparkling 0.44, baffling the Giants with well-placed fastballs and a devastating changeup. For the third time in four games, the lineup failed to put a runner on in the first three innings. Vargas threw well, but it’s not exactly a murderer’s row that has set the Giants down in those three games: Tyler Chatwood, Jason Hammel and Vargas. 

Wotus said he’s not concerned about the slow starts, noting that it’s a fluke of a long season. When you couple it with the Giants’ inability to come back late, however, it’s a bad marriage. 

Wotus will turn the big chair back over to manager Bruce Bochy on Friday, and perhaps two days watching on the couch have led to some new thoughts about how to jumpstart an offense that all too often bogs down. 

At the very least, the Giants appear close to making a change in the outfield. Michael Morse and Mac Williamson played a rehab game Wednesday in San Jose and both will join Triple-A Sacramento on Friday. Fresh blood can’t come soon enough. After Wednesday’s game, Gorkys Hernandez, Chris Marrero and Aaron Hill (who has played out of position several times) have nine hits in 83 combined at-bats.

Morse could be ready as soon as next week, team officials said Wednesday. Two other options aren't immediately in play. Justin Ruggiano was placed on the Triple-A DL and Melvin Upton Jr. was injured during an extended spring training game. 

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

moore.jpg
AP

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Moore knew there was something different about his final home start at AT&T Park this season, and not just the fact that he received a loud ovation as he walked off the mound in the seventh. Moore noted later that the outing was the first shutout he has been a part of this year. In fact, it was the first time in 30 starts that he walked off the mound without having allowed a run. 

“I guess it’s better late than never,” he said. 

The Giants are hoping it’s actually a preview of things to come. They counted on Moore to be a big part of their 2017 push, but instead, he likely will finish with the worst ERA of any full-time starter in the National League. Still, general manager Bobby Evans has informed Moore that his 2018 option will be picked up, something that Moore appreciated given the time of year. 

“I always pictured myself here,” he said. 

Whether coincidence or some kind of “weight off the shoulders” situation, Moore’s first start since the public revealing of the decision was his most encouraging of the year. Facing a good lineup, and a team that needed a win desperately, he pitched six shutout innings. The Giants beat the Rockies 4-0. 

Moore was already showing signs of life, with a 3.76 ERA over his seven previous appearances. Bruce Bochy viewed this as another step forward. 

“It’s been getting better and better with each start,” he said. “What he did really well today was on the arm side. He had good balance to both sides of the plate.”

Moore peppered the outside corner with fastballs, and he credited catcher Nick Hundley with stealing a few strikes. The plan allowed Moore to put hitters away in big spots, one of three points of emphasis he brought into the second half. The other two: limiting lefties and getting ahead of hitters.

That’s Moore’s roadmap back to being the player the Giants acquired. For the team as a whole, the roadmap back to relevance is similar to Wednesday’s plan. This is not a home-run hitting lineup, but the Giants are 47-21 when scoring four runs, and Wednesday was a reminder of the different paths to that magical number. 

Brandon Crawford had a solo homer, but the first two runs came on sacrifice flies and the fourth on a walk-wild pitch-single combination. Bochy said he liked “the brand of ball” his team played.

“They executed so well today,” he said. “It’s just good baseball, and that’s what I felt good about.”

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

SAN FRANCISCO — A couple of weeks ago, a Giants official expressed amazement about how little was known about the desires of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani.

“Teams know just about as much as you guys (in the media),” he said. 

The Giants are hoping that changes this week. General manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley have traveled to Japan to take a look at the 23-year-old, who reportedly will come over to play in Major League Baseball next season. 

“There’s going to be a lot of attention on him and it’s part of the scouting process every club goes through,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s doing our due diligence, as you say.”

Otani is a rare prospect, a potential ace on the mound and lineup-altering bat in the outfield. He has 47 homers in just over 1,000 professional at-bats, and this season he’s batting .341. As a hard-throwing pitcher with a wipeout breaking ball, Otani has a 2.57 career ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He had a 1.86 ERA last season with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. 

Because he’s said to be coming over at such a young age, Otani will sacrifice the chance to sign a massive contract. The CBA limits him to collecting money from a team’s international bonus pool, and the Giants are limited to $300,000. Still, some other big-market teams are in the same boat, and despite their lack of pool money and poor season, the Giants surely believe they have plenty to offer. 

It’s not known what Otani is looking for, but perhaps he wants to play in a big city to make up some of his lost earnings? Perhaps he wants to play on the West Coast, closer to his home country, or in a region with a big Japanese population? Perhaps he’s just a big Buster Posey fan? The Giants intend to find out, and to be in the bidding. 

It’s possible that Otani has seen the way Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter, but Bochy said he can’t imagine using a true two-way player. 

“I don’t think it would work,” he said. “You’re talking more of something that might work in the American League. That’s a lot of throwing and wear-and-tear.”