Giants drop series opener to Cubs, 6-4

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Giants drop series opener to Cubs, 6-4

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO Madison Bumgarner was the only fully rested player in a Giants uniform Friday afternoon.

But he looked just as sleep-deprived as everyone else in a 6-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Bumgarner had terrific stuff early, but made a series of damaging, two-strike mistakes in a four-run third inning. His lack of focus was obvious when he failed to back up home plate, allowing another run to score.

Bumgarner put the Giants in a 5-0 hole, and although they came back from a four-run deficit to win the previous night at Houston, their legs were too heavy to reel off another. They arrived at their hotel after 3:30 a.m. Friday morning following a night game in Houston; Bumgarner was sawing logs well before that, since he traveled ahead of his teammates.

The Giants had to be satisfied to end August with an 18-11 record -- their most victories in a month since their memorable kick to the finish in September, 2010.

Starting pitching report

Bumgarner (14-9) could become the first Giants left-hander to win 15 games since Shawn Estes in 2000, but he remained stuck on 14 for the second consecutive start.

He gave up a run in the first inning when Joe Mather drew a leadoff walk, stole second base and scored on Alfonso Sorianos single.

It exposed an emerging weakness in Bumgarners game. Even though hes left-handed and has whats considered to be a good pickoff move, he has allowed a team-high 22 stolen bases (out of 30 attempts). Obviously, advance scouts are seeing an area to exploit.

Bumgarners biggest weakness was his lack of focus with two strikes. He had two outs and an 0-2 count in the third when Anthony Rizzo punched a single, then he had an 0-2 count on Soriano when he threw a cutterslider that ran right onto the barrel of the veterans bat.

It was Sorianos 24th home run of the season as he continued to take a scouring pad to Bumgarner. It didnt make it any easier that Soriano reportedly rejected a potential waiver trade to the Giants, citing the chilly weather at AT&T Park.

With two outs and the bases empty, Bumgarner still couldnt get his teammates into the dugout. Starlin Castro singled on yet another two-strike pitch, then Wellington Castillo hit a double to the wall in left field. Gregor Blanco nearly got swallowed whole by the ivy as he chased after it.

Then came the biggest sin of all. Castro scored easily as the throw bounded away from Buster Posey, and by the time the catcher realized he had nobody behind him, Castillo already had begun his sprint around third base. Poseys desperation toss skipped past Bumgarner as he broke toward the plate a Bad News Bears moment for a club that had played such solid fundamental baseball all through the month.

At least Bumgarner threw 60 of 85 pitches for strikes in four innings. That might have been a few strikes too many.
Bullpen report

Chicagoland native and Northwestern University alum George Kontos fulfilled a lifelong dream by pitching at Wrigley Field, and he nearly committed a balk by levitating a few inches above the mount.

Not really, no. But the fifth pitch he threw took flight, as Anthony Rizzo rattled a home run in the basket that fronts the bleachers. Umpires originally called it a triple, but fittingly on the first college football weekend of the season, the boys in blue went under the hood and quickly determined on replay that it was a home run.

Kontos didnt allow another run in his two innings.

At the plate

Did we mention the Giants were tired?

Even with a warm wind blowing out to Waveland Ave., the Giants barely registered a pulse against right-hander Chris Volstad, who entered 1-9 with a 6.28 ERA.

On Sunday, Volstad snapped a streak of 24 winless starts when he emerged the pitcher of record in a rain-shortened victory over the Colorado Rockies. Now you can use the words Volstad and winning streak in the same sentence.

Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence grounded into double plays to stall rallies in the early innings. Posey hit an RBI double after Ryan Theriot singled in the fourth and Sandovals sacrifice fly scored Angel Pagan in the sixth, but otherwise the Giants showed theyd make lousy long-haul truckers.

They never seem to lack for a second wind in the late innings, though. Posey, who was expected to rest Friday, hit an RBI single in the eighth to complete an impressive afternoon in which he reached in all four plate appearances. Pence brought home another run on a ground out to make it a 6-4 game.

But although the Giants chipped away, they lacked the dagger shot to complete the comeback.
In field

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a lunging stop and a strong throw to take a single away from Castro in the fifth. Right fielder Hunter Pence looked a but ungainly as he fought the wind but managed to make a nice play on Castillos fly ball in the second.

And file this one away for future reference: Bumgarner gave a bull-snorting glare in the direction of Josh Vitters after the Cubs catcher flipped his bat in disgust after lining out in the fourth. Bumgarner did not face Vitters again. Theres always next season for a rib tickler.
Attendance

The Cubs announced 32,476 paid, and there were plenty of ample-sized, yellow-shirted Iowa fans dotting the stands. The Hawkeyes open up with Northern Illinois at Soldier Field on Saturday. It might be their best shot at a victory against an Illinois-based team this season.

Up next

You expect day baseball at Wrigley Field, but the Giants will start especially bright and early on Saturday. Its a 10:05 a.m. PDT first pitch against the Chicago Cubs. Tim Lincecum (7-14, 5.30 ERA) will oppose right-hander Justin Germano (2-4, 5.09). Well see if the remnants of Hurricane Isaac disrupt proceedings. Its forecasted to be a wet weekend in the Windy City.

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”

 

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.