Rewind: Bochy chooses Casilla, gets booed as game unravels

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Rewind: Bochy chooses Casilla, gets booed as game unravels

SAN FRANCISCO — Santiago Casilla has had a nightmare season, but it took a new and ugly turn Saturday night. As manager Bruce Bochy walked out to the mound to replace Sergio Romo with Casilla, the crowd at AT&T Park started booing. It increased after a seeing-eye single up the middle tied the game, and again when Casilla walked off the mound after his ninth blown save of the season. 

It’s rare that a Giant gets booed at AT&T Park — the only other recent time was good-natured booing when Bochy tried to pull his own son in the ninth inning — but Casilla said he understands the frustration. 

“I’m doing my best,” he said. “I’ve never had that moment before (where I’m getting booed). I had it now. I’m working to pitch better. It’s a game and you keep working and you put it in the past. I feel bad because I’ve never had that moment before. I tried to do my best.”

[PAVLOVIC: Instant Replay: Giants bullpen coughs up game to Cardinals]

The Giants have never questioned Casilla’s commitment. He is known as one of the hardest workers in the clubhouse, but it’s just not working this year. It appeared he had permanently lost a ninth-inning role last week, but now it’s got to be a certainty. 

After a 3-2 loss to the Cardinals, Bochy said he thought this was the right matchup, and he pointed out that alternatives haven’t worked since Casilla lost the closer tag. But ... there’s one the Giants haven’t tried (in large part because of an injury), and Derek Law is long overdue for a shot at the ninth. 

Bochy made a different call tonight and he knew he was going to take heat for it if it played out poorly. It did during a messy inning that included Romo laughing in an apparent sign of disrespect as his manager took the ball away. A few minutes later the Giants had their 28th blown save, matching their franchise record. This one came on a night when Jeff Samardzija was dominant and Brandon Crawford showed every bit of his Gold Glove form. 

The Giants have blown two saves this month in part because of shallow fly balls to left and Crawford wasn’t going to let that happen again. He went deep into the outfield for the first out of the ninth, but it wasn’t enough. The Giants dropped five games behind the Dodgers. They were two outs away from a four-game lead over the Cardinals in the Wild Card race. Instead, they’re now tied with the Mets and they’re just two up on St. Louis. 

It was a crushing night at the ballpark. There’s no getting around it. 

Instead of highlights and lowlights or some form of a game story, here’s how Bochy explained the decision making in the ninth: 

Question: Why did Casilla come in for Romo?
Bruce Bochy: “We huddled up and said if it got to Molina there — he’s had success off of Romo (4-for-9 with a HR) and Casilla would be a better matchup. That’s kind of what the plan was. It didn’t work out. If the ground ball is a foot to the left we wouldn’t be talking about it. He ended up walking him, that’s what hurt. We went with what we thought was the better matchup, or I thought. That’s a tough one. Samardzija threw great and we played well. It’s just tough luck there on that ground ball and once he hit it I thought it was a double play. It just got through.”

Q: Did the single off Romo play into it?
BB: “For some reason Molina has seen the ball pretty well off of Sergio. You go with the history and that’s why the change was made there. (Casilla) got ahead 1-2, he was just a little slow to home plate with the stolen base there and then he ended up walking him. That’s what hurt.”

Q: Strickland started warming up when Casilla ran into trouble. Why did Casilla come in before him? 
BB: “(Casilla) has closed over 30 games and he threw the ball well last night. We had Strick once Casilla went into the game to give us some coverage there. We’ve tried some different things and it hasn’t quite worked out. We’re going with what we think is our best matchup and it didn’t play out tonight. Sure that hurts, but like I said, it’s all hands on deck and we’re going with what we think is our best matchup there.”

Q: Did you consider using Law in the ninth after he got two outs in the eighth?
BB
: “Yeah. He just hasn’t been out there a lot. Sure it’s a consideration. He didn’t get a chance to throw a lot and go a couple innings. But I was fine with Sergio and then like I said, the plan was he would start the inning and if somebody got on, Casilla would have Molina there. It didn’t play out.”

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.