Giants' failures leave Bochy frustrated

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Giants' failures leave Bochy frustrated

Rael Enteen
CSNBayArea.com staff writer 

SAN FRANCISCO – Brandon Crawford’s glove giveth, and Brandon Crawford’s glove taketh away.

The Giants and their fans have been blessed to witness the amazing feats Crawford performs with the leather on a daily basis. Monday’s game was no difference, as San Francisco’s shortstop maintained a tie thanks to a diving backhand stop and strong throw with the potential go-ahead run at third base in the 11th inning. But the Giants’ offense didn’t do enough to end the game in time for Crawford to avoid a costly error that led to the New York Mets’ game-winning run in the 16th inning.

[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants fall in 16 innings

“He made that one play to save us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s so good over there, he just didn’t come up with it.”

“These things happen,” Hunter Pence said. “He makes it look a lot easier than it is. It’s going to happen every now and then and it just happened to come about at a bad time like that.”

It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Giants, who have lost six of their last seven games and 12 of their last 14 to fall to 40-48.

But while Crawford’s error will be the lasting memory of a five hour and 26 minute marathon game, his game-saving play in the 11th would’ve lingered longer if not for the Giants’ woes with runners in scoring position.

Brandon Belt, batting in the three-hole in Bruce Bochy’s lineup for the first time in his career, is an easy target (0-for-8 with five strikeouts) but it’s truly a team-wide failure.

The Giants left 13 runners on base in extra innings and 18 total, the most since June 6, 1998, and finished 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position, giving them three hits in their last 51 at-bats in such situations.

“That’s as frustrating a game as we’ve had,” Bochy said. “I think it’s caught up to all of us. We had so many chances and just couldn’t get a hit.”

Even after Crawford’s error gave the Mets a 4-3 lead, the Giants had an opportunity in the bottom half of the 16th, an inning that serves as a solid representation for San Francisco’s struggles of late. Mets closer Bobby Parnell gifted the Giants a leadoff baserunner when he walked Marco Scutaro, but Belt couldn’t even make a productive out, striking out on a foul tip. After Buster Posey picked Belt up with a sharp single up the middle for his career-best fifth hit of the evening, Pablo Sandoval struck out swinging on a pitch out of the zone, leaving him with just four hits in his last 48 at-bats. The game ended one pitch later when pinch-hitter Guillermo Quiroz rolled over a Parnell curveball to strand Scutaro at second.

“We had a lot of runners on, we just couldn’t get the final big hit,” Pence said. “There’s frustration. We want to stay as positive as we can, but we gotta get it done. We’ve got to keep pushing to find a way to turn it around.”

Pence, who snapped a career-long 0-for-24 slump with a seventh-inning triple and almost ended the game with an opposite field line drive in the 10th that required a running catch from Mets rightfielder Marlon Byrd, owned up to his own issues with situational hitting.

“Me personally, I haven’t gotten much done with runners in scoring position,” Pence said. “Part of it is maybe being too aggressive, trying to do too much. But there in the 10th, I hit a ball hard, just right at them. So it’s tough when it’s going like this.”

Bochy now has to go back to the drawing board to decide how to jumpstart a team that looks less and less like the defending World Series champions. It will not be an easy task Tuesday, as Bochy said he would have to rest Posey, who caught all 16 innings, and likely keep Belt in the No. 3 spot, despite the first baseman becoming the first Giant to go hitless in eight at-bats since Jose Uribe on June 11, 1985.

The Giants’ inability to get consistent offensive production from anyone not named Buster Posey overshadowed Tim Lincecum's start, which by game’s end felt as ancient as his long hair and Cy Young Awards.

Lincecum struck out a season-high 11 and was done in by some shoddy defense in the sixth, the inning that he has most frequently failed to post zeroes in. After the Mets scored twice in the sixth, Lincecum owns an 8.44 ERA and .429 opponents batting average in the fateful frame.

“Timmy threw well, we just had a tough time making a play there in the sixth inning and let them take the lead there,” Bochy said.

George Kontos, who took the loss after being charged with an unearned run due to Crawford’s error, was impressed with what he saw from Lincecum.

[RELATED: Giants notes -- Bochy's sense of urgency, Belt's opportunity]

“He came out and looked like he had a really good tempo going,” Kontos said. “He was locating everything, throwing that nice slow breaking ball. He looked really good. That’s definitely one of the big positives from the game is him looking like his old self.”

The other positive is what Kontos and the bullpen did for Bochy, despite the eventual outcome.

“One unearned run in nine innings is pretty good,” Kontos said. “It’s definitely a positive. Anything we can take away right now in the skid we’re going through. You just gotta look at the positives. You can’t really focus on the stuff that’s not going right. We’re a much better ballclub than the last 10-to-12 games that we’ve played. I definitely think just keeping our heads down, playing the game the right way and doing the things that we’ve been doing, we’ll come out of it.”

There’s nothing wrong with Kontos’ optimism, but it came just eight hours after Bochy’s pregame proclamation that certainly bears repeating:

“At some point, you have to turn it around and get clicking as a club.”

It didn’t happen Monday night, or even Tuesday morning, but part of the beauty of baseball is the prospect of a new game tomorrow. Or in this case, today.

Krukow: Belt needs to make mechanical improvements, 'it's a concern'

Krukow: Belt needs to make mechanical improvements, 'it's a concern'

Brandon Belt is hitting .238 with four home runs and nine RBI.

He has struck out 23 times in 80 at-bats.

"I just don't think he's hitting the fastball," Mike Krukow explained on KNBR 680 on Friday morning. "I think they're coming at him with a lot of fastballs at the belt, and until he turns some of those fastballs around, he's gonna get a continued steady diet of the same pitch.

"Go back and take a look at his home runs -- they're curveballs down and in ... this is something that's been a weakness of his for awhile. And teams are on it. They're telling him what's coming, and he's unable to hit it."

Belt has drawn 16 walks this season and his on-base percentage is .365.

"That's outstanding ... but he has to start beating that fastball," Krukow added. "And his best defense in most instances is just to take the fastball. But he can't do that. You see a belt-high fastball, a little bit above, you're thinking 'I gotta hit this.' And he's not hitting it.

"And until he starts making some adjustments, and you say, 'Well, how do you do that?' Well, you gotta flatten out your swing someway, to be able to take that loop that you have when you're swinging at that high fastball, out. And I think that's the way that you try and beat it."

"They're continuing to pound him with fastballs, and he's not doing anything with them. So it's a concern and he's got some work to do to try and solve that. He's gonna have to make some mechanical improvements."

 

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

SAN FRANCISCO — The momentum generated by Christian Arroyo and Michael Morse late Wednesday night lasted just a few hours. By the end of this four-game series, the Giants were left with a harsh reality: Even with two injections of new blood, they are not hitting. 

Arroyo drove in another run Thursday, but that was it for a lineup that couldn’t support Matt Moore’s effort. The bullpen, which had kept Bruce Bochy’s guys in close games all series, finally broke in the 10th. The Dodgers walked away with a 5-1 win and a split of a series that was rather uninspiring for both sides. 

After scoring 10 runs on the last road trip, the Giants scored just eight during the four games against the Dodgers. Three of those RBI came from Arroyo, called up Monday. A fourth came from Morse, called up Wednesday.

“We’ve got to get this offense going,” Bochy said. “It’s a better offense than what we’re doing right now. You need to find a way to put a few runs on the board. We had our chances, we just couldn’t find ways to get the big hit.”

With Denard Span out for at least another week, Bochy moved Hunter Pence to the top of the lineup. His temporary No. 3 hitter against lefties, Eduardo Nuñez, has one hit in his last 20 at-bats. Buster Posey, the cleanup hitter, is batting .357, but he has driven in just three runs this month. With two on and one out in the eighth, he bounced into a double play. The production closer to the bottom of the order has been nonexistent, leading to constant shuffling that has moved Nuñez and Belt to left at times. Bochy said the staff will continue to search of a lineup that works. 

“You talk about it and do thing to adjust, and it will get better, but right now we’ve got some guys who aren’t swinging the bat well, to be honest,” he said. “You look at the order and we don’t have a lot of guys swinging well.”

The list does not include Arroyo, the rookie who will eventually have to deal with adjustments from pitchers. It doesn’t appear that’ll be a problem. Arroyo has been making adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. He did so against Sergio Romo for his first career homer and said he learned about the depth of Julio Urias’ curveball during their first two battles Thursday. In the sixth, the 21-year-old Arroyo drove in the game-tying run against the 20-year-old Urias. The lefty had walked Posey to face Arroyo, who singled up the middle. 

“He handles himself so well,” Bochy said. “They walked Buster and he smokes the ball. This kid has shown he’s not in awe. The upper deck, the bright lights, he comes to play.”

Arroyo’s effort briefly backed Moore, who was sharp in seven innings. Moore struck out eight, six of them looking, but he didn’t get much help and the bullpen fell apart in the 10th with a series of walks.

Bochy challenged his starters on Saturday at Coors Field and they responded with a strong series back home. The bullpen was tested during the first week but — Thursday’s result aside — it has settled down. The Giants are not as worried about their pitching as they were as they flew back from Denver. They know, however, that this team is going nowhere if two runs per game continues to be the nightly output. 

“We’ll tweak it again,” Bochy said of his lineup. “We'll see if we can get this thing right.”