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SAN FRANCISCO – There won’t be many games when a backup catcher touches your ace for five RBIs.
So in a sense, Giants manager Bruce Bochy shouldn’t be concerned by the 6-4 loss to the San Diego Padres that he witnessed Monday night. Rene Rivera had himself a career night against Madison Bumgarner, and that’s part of baseball’s charm. Sometimes the spotlight shines in unexpected places.
But something else concerned Bochy: his first baseman and his third baseman. That light is more harsh, more glaring.
“Our corner guys, they’ll have to get on track for us to have success and put runs on the board,” the manager said. “They’re having a tough time, both of them, right now. I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow. I’ll have to figure it out. But we certainly need to get these two guys going.”
Brandon Belt has seven home runs, one off the NL lead, but he is coming off a series when he was 0 for 12 with nine strikeouts against the Cleveland Indians, and he wasn’t much more competitive while going 0 for 3 with a walk Monday.
Pablo Sandoval had better at-bats, hitting one ball to the warning track. But he also hit into a double play, struck out with runners at the corners and one out in the sixth and went 0 for 4 to drop his average to .172.
The Giants entered Monday with a .549 OPS at third base. Only the Padres and Phillies were getting less production from what’s supposed to be a power position.
Bochy noted some improvement from Belt but “there were times he was going too fast again.” And Sandoval, although he faced a tough assignment when the Padres brought in hard-throwing lefty Alex Torres, needed to put a ball into play to score a run and couldn’t do it.
Sandoval has nearly as many errors (four) as RBIs (six). And he hasn’t driven in as many runners as Brandon Hicks, a non-roster invitee, who has eight after hitting a solo homer.
The Padres feature left-handed starters each of the next two days and Sandoval is 12 for 24 lifetime against Tuesday’s pitcher Eric Stults, although the Panda didn’t get a hit when they faced each other 10 days ago at Petco Park. So if Bochy gives a break to one of his two corner infielders, it’s more likely to be Belt.
As for Bumgarner, he just didn’t have it from the first pitch off the bullpen mound. He was all over the place, making non-competitive misses, and could only be effectively wild for so long.
Yes, it’s troubling that Bumgarner has failed to reach the sixth inning in three of his six starts – especially after he failed to do that just three times in his 31 assignments last year. But this was the first start where he truly looked like he had no clue where the ball was going.
“Something felt a little off,” he said. “I’ll see if I can figure out what it was for my next start. The command was not good. … We had a good game plan going in, but I just wasn’t able to make pitches.
“I feel today was probably the worst I’ve been command wise. The other ones I was trying to nibble too much, maybe. Today I was trying to get ahead. I just wasn’t able to do it.”