SAN FRANCISCO -- At 73-53, the Boston Red Sox return to AT&T Park for the first time since 2010 with a one-game lead in their division. Meanwhile, the Giants have the lowest winning percentage (.376) in the National League since May 14. Does Bruce Bochy want his team to look at this three-game series against the A.L. East’s best as a chance to play spoiler?
“That’s not something I relish or cherish,” Bochy said before Monday’s game.
Since 2009, the Giants have at least flirted with contention. So the concept of spoiling another team’s chance at postseason play must seem foreign to a clubhouse full of players who reached the pinnacle of major league success just ten months ago.
“You talk about having a chance to be a spoiler; that means you’re not very good,” Bochy said. “That’s not good to hear and I don’t really like to talk about it that much as far as having a spoiler role.”
According to Bochy, his players should have a very simple and singular focus.
“Your job is to come out here and win every game, whether you’re in last or first place. That’s what we’ll do. But we’re not trying to make our season by being a spoiler.”
The Giants have scored four or more runs in five straight games for the first time all season. Over that span, San Francisco hit .299 overall and .327 with runners in scoring position. That's a stark contrast to the .183 average the Giants compiled with runners in scoring position in the 11 previous games.
Hunter Pence, with 13 RBI in his last 10 games, and Pablo Sandoval, with 12 hits in his last 26 at-bats, have helped the Giants find a more consistent offensive rhythm of late.
“They’re having some success and now their confidence has grown and they’ve injected a lot of life in this lineup, which we need,” Bochy said. “So that’s encouraging to see how they’re swinging the bats.”
Bochy also acknowledged the strides Gregor Blanco and Brandon Belt have made recently following prolonged struggles at the plate.
But what about Buster Posey, who is hitting .205 (15-for-73) over his last 22 games?
“Buster’s getting better swings off,” Bochy said. “I think he’s seeing the ball better.”
Despite facing what Bochy called “good arms” in Washington and Miami, Posey started showing signs of life with six hits in 16 at-bats on the road trip.
The Red Sox arrived in San Francisco Monday morning fresh off a primetime matchup with the rival New York Yankees. Boston’s 9-6 win is back-page material compared to what happened when Ryan Dempster hit MLB Enemy No. 1 Alex Rodriguez with a pitch.
Bochy said he was watching the game on the flight from Miami to San Francisco.
“We’re all fans of the game, so when we’re not playing, most of us are watching another game.”
Dempster got off with just a warning, but Bochy saw what made Yankees manager Joe Girardi livid with home plate umpire Brian O’Nora.
“It certainly looked like it [was intentional],” Bochy said. “Only [Dempster] can answer that, but that’s between them.”
On the injury front, Marco Scutaro is back in the starting lineup after a day off Sunday. The veteran second baseman played abbreviated games on both Friday (neck stiffness) and Saturday (tightness in lower back).
“I think he’s feeling fine,” Bochy said. “We’ll keep an eye on him. That was a long flight from Miami. I’ll check with him after batting practice, but I think the day off helped him yesterday.”
Jeremy Affeldt, who has missed 27 games with a left groin strain and is already eligible to be reinstated from the disabled list, could throw off a mound in two-to-three days, according to Bochy.
“He’s in there getting treatment. He’s doing better; he’s making progress.”