It's do or be done for Giants

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It's do or be done for Giants

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- For all the energy devoted to the back end of the Giants' starting rotation in the National League Division Series, it turns out that the front end was the problem after all.

And for all the fretting about the front end of the rotation, it turns out that the real problem was the hitting after all.

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It's a hellish Moebius strip of paralysis for the locals, who flee for Cincinnati after a defeat and a sound throttling at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds. They have nothing to use as a springboard, no optimism from recent events to use as a guide for the flop, the turn and the river of this series. The Reds hold king-king, the Giants have a seven-deuce unsuited, and the easy part of the series is done.

Sunday's 9-0 muzzling seems so much worse than it actually is, and it was the worst shutout loss in franchise history, because the Giants did nothing whatsoever to provide any hope. Sure, Tim Lincecum made the transformation from Roy Halladay to Joba Chamberlain with surprising ease, but the bigger picture prevents that development from being other than a catchy little sideshow.

Madison Bumgarner didn't last as long as Matt Cain did the night before, the long end of the bullpen essentially cratered, and the hitters, who had scuffled against Cincinnati's makeshift pitching staff in Game 1, did nearly nothing against the more traditional Bronson Arroyo. It looked, when you put the 18 innings together, like the Giants are simply and thoroughly overmatched.

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And maybe they are. Series are over when they are over, and this one isn't over. But it has the overwhelming feel of over-ish, so much so that there is no second-guessing to be done, no what-ifs, no wasted opportunities. The best moment the Giants have had was Johnny Cueto's eighth pitch Saturday night. After that, they have looked baffled, and buffaloed. Even Giants manager Bruce Bochy was more platitudinous than usual, which is how he typically is when the team gives him nothing to talk about.

"We know where we're at right now and our backs are to the wall," he said, his voice more graverl-based than usual. "We have to come out and be ready to play once we get to Cincinnati. It's been done before and we have to keep fightin'. There is no choice in this. We have to keep our heads up and be ready to go come Tuesday."

So this series is no longer a matter of macro-decisions like the starting pitchers, or who catches whom. The what-to-do-with-Lincecum issue is now played out, and the identity of the Game Four starter is even less meaningful than ever. Even the sniveling about the fans being too quiet to inspire the boys is not only out of place but out of time as well. This is now about little moments, single at-bats, fly ball outs in San Francisco that won't be in Cincinnati. This is about finding at-bats that work, and the best Ryan Vogelsong Ryan Vogelsong has ever been. Just to give them a chance.

The Giants have been in this situation before, most recently in 2003, when they were flap-slapped in four games by the Florida Marlins, but nobody in uniform save pitching coach Dave Righetti was there to draw from it. History doesn't help you when you're face down in a puddle. So it is that their only salvation is incremental improvement in the following areas:

Places 1 through 3 in the order, where Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval are 3 for 26.

Places 5 and 6, where Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt are 1 for 13.

Places 8 and 9, where Brandon Crawford and an amalgam of pitchers and pinch-hitters are 1 for 11.

That's 5 for 50, and there isn't enough Buster Posey and Gregor Blanco and the ghost of Melky Cabrera to tidy that up.

And the pitching? Well, the next time we see Cain would be in an as-yet-still-hypothetical Game 5, and everyone else is available for whatever scut work is there to perfrom. Lincecum acceded to Bochy's desires and went to the bullpen without protest, and his reward is that he and George Kontos are suddenly the staff aces.

But all this is small sample size stuff, and so is the Giants' task -- to make the monumental into a series of small and potentially digestible chunks, if they can. They have no choice, as Bochy said forlornly. It is do, or be done.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Giants spring training Day 9: Bumgarner, Melancon face hitters

Giants spring training Day 9: Bumgarner, Melancon face hitters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Madison Bumgarner aims to get all 27 outs every time he takes the mound, but on Tuesday the coaching staff gave the ace a nice view of the man who will help out if his nights are cut short. 

Bumgarner threw his first live batting practice session of the spring on the main field at Scottsdale Stadium. Mark Melancon, the new closer, followed him. Both players said they felt good. Both also found things to work on in advance of opening day. 

“Strength-wise I felt pretty good, really good, actually,” Bumgarner said. “My command up in the zone was right where I want it. I’m pretty happy with that. My cutter was pretty straight, but that usually comes around pretty quick.”

Melancon didn’t even throw his go-to cutter, saying he usually pockets it until later in camp. He’s getting the feel for his curveball back because he doesn’t throw it until he reports. Like Bumgarner, Melancon said he’s where he needs to be physically.

“I feel really good,” he said. “In years past there has been some slowness but I don’t feel that this year. I’m right where I want to be.”

The Giants have not finalized a Cactus League rotation, but Bumgarner will likely throw an inning in Friday’s opener. Melancon could follow him, as he’ll throw in the early innings until late March. He said he’ll talk to pitching coach Dave Righetti about closing a game or two over the final days of camp so he can start locking his routine down. It’s probably a lock that he’ll close out that first Bay Bridge Series game back at AT&T Park. 

ICYMI: Here’s actual (shaky) footage of Bumgarner throwing today. At one point, he gave Denard Span a hard time for missing a slider that he was told was coming. Span had a good reason. “I didn't understand him when he said it because of his accent,” he said. 

ICYMI, PART II: The latest podcast is a couple of interviews with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Law explained how he ordered 800 chicken nuggets for his wedding. 

CUETO UPDATE: The Giants now expect Johnny Cueto to join camp this weekend. His status for the WBC is up in the air. Speaking of the WBC, trainer Dave Groeschner will be leaving camp on Feb. 27 to work with manager Hensley Meulens and the Netherlands. Bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu is also working with the team, which opens play in Seoul. Anthony Reyes will be head trainer while Groeschner is gone.

PROSPECT WATCH: Bruce Bochy said right-hander Ray Black was a standout during early live BP sessions. “He had a hell of an outing yesterday,” Bochy said. “They said he was really good.”   Black, 26, still throws 100-plus. He still has command issues, though, with 32 walks in 31 1/3 innings last year. If he can get over that hump and stay healthy, he might rocket to the big leagues.

QUOTABLE: After just about every start last season — most of which were dominant — Bumgarner said he wasn’t happy with his mechanics. He said Tuesday that he’s still searching for the perfect feeling. “I was being a perfectionist,” he said. “If you’re being a perfectionist, I really haven’t had (my mechanics) where I wanted the last couple of years. It’s not like it’s too far off, obviously.”

Johnny Cueto hopes to join Giants camp this weekend

Johnny Cueto hopes to join Giants camp this weekend

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants have been watching high-quality clips of Johnny Cueto all spring, even though the co-ace has remained in the Dominican Republic. On Monday, manager Bruce Bochy finally managed to get face-to-face with Cueto. Kind of. 

Cueto spoke to Bochy, trainer Dave Groeschner and others via FaceTime, and all involved finally managed to hammer out a schedule for Cueto’s arrival. Cueto has been in the Dominican Republic tending to his ill father, Domingo, but he is expected to arrive in Scottsdale this weekend. Cueto is working to secure a visa for his father, who will travel with him.

Bochy wanted to have a long discussion with Cueto to get a sense of how ready he’ll be for the World Baseball Classic. Cueto’s participation is still up in the air, and not just because he has missed the first week of camp. There is a chance, Bochy said, that Cueto will choose to stay in Scottsdale to continue taking care of his father. The Dominican Republic opens play in Miami on March 9.

“He said he knows he’s got to make a decision real soon regarding what he does,” Bochy said. “Pitching or not pitching, he’s got to let them know as soon as possible.”

Cueto has been throwing to hitters at a facility in Boca Chica. He threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.