Sandoval: It's disappointing for the offense not to support the pitchers
The Giants scored two runs for Matt Cain in the first inning on Sunday, but failed to score another run the rest of the game. (AP)
With Gregor Blanco on third base, Marco Scutaro popped out to end the fourth inning on Sunday. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – As the Giants struggle to process how their season has spiraled downward, manager Bruce Bochy wants his players to simplify their thinking.
Take things one game, one inning at a time.
And for exactly one inning Sunday, his hitters responded. The Giants scored twice in the first off Baltimore Orioles starter Bud Norris, an omen that good things might be in store for the home team.
But the bats went silent after that in a close game that unraveled into a 10-2 blowout loss.
To blame Matt Cain for allowing J.J. Hardy’s go-ahead home run in the seventh, or the bullpen for allowing seven runs in the final two innings, is to miss the point.
When a team scores early but doesn’t keep its foot on the gas offensively, it leaves the door open to disaster. Pitchers operate on an incredibly thin margin for error, and as good as Cain was Sunday, he was not flawless.
Leading 2-1 in the top of the seventh, he hung a 90 mile-per-hour fastball to Hardy, who lofted a two-run homer over the left field wall for a 3-2 Orioles lead. Baltimore would add four runs in the eighth off Jose Mijares and Sandy Rosario, then Barry Zito allowed Adam Jones’ three-run shot in the ninth.
But had the Giants continued to build on their early lead, the Orioles could not have turned the game around with one swing from Hardy.
At least the Giants are not in denial regarding their offensive problems.
“We score two runs early, and then it’s like we just kind of sit around and wait,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “We sit on that two-run lead and think that’s all we need. A lot of times with our pitchers, it is. But we gotta pile on when we can.”
The Giants (52-65) rank second-to-last in the National League in runs. They are rock bottom since the All-Star break, with 60 runs in 23 games, an average of 2.61 per game.
Just as their starting pitching is finally rounding into form, the Giants can’t muster enough offense to take advantage of it.
The result was another dispiriting loss Sunday, and a 3-4 homestand against Milwaukee and Baltimore.
When you examine why the defending World Series champs are 13 games under .500, their struggles at AT&T Park jump out. They haven’t posted a winning homestand since going 4-2 against Washington and Colorado from May 20-26.
They are 31-31 in San Francisco, making them one of just five teams in the National League without a winning record at home. Over the past four seasons, the Giants have not finished worse than 11 games over .500 at AT&T Park.
“We’ve always played well here,” Cain said. “We’ve just hit a funky patch and we need to get over it.”
But it’s more than a “patch.” The Giants are mired in the N.L. West cellar, a season-high 14 ½ games behind the first-place Dodgers as of Sunday afternoon. Bochy has experimented with every batting order he can, and he’s also trying to reach his players psychologically.
“Let’s just keep our focus on the moment, that pitch, or that play, (a single) inning,” he said in explaining how he wants his players to think. “To me, when you start looking at the scoreboard, you’ve kind of lost some focus and get distracted. Don’t look at the mountain we have to climb, because that can be overwhelming.”
An early look at the scoreboard Sunday showed the Giants in pretty good shape. Then they went silent, and that mountain Bochy wants his players to ignore got even steeper.