SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants tried to spark a spiraling team by calling up second baseman Joe Panik from the minor leagues. They’re expected to add another new face today – Adam Duvall, anyone? – as Angel Pagan is all but certain to cozy up to the disabled list.
But there’s only one proven safe and effective means for treating a team that has lost 11 of its past 14, including five consecutive at AT&T Park following a desultory 7-2 defeat to the San Diego Padres Tuesday night.
It starts, as it usually does, with the starting pitcher.
“Well, it’s fair to say that’s our biggest issue now through this tough stretch,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, after the league’s worst offensive team slapped singles against Tim Hudson. “It’s our rotation that put us in (first place) and it’s important we come out of this. It’s our starting pitchers that will get us out of this.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Wheels come off for Hudson as Giants fall 7-2]
The Giants’ lead in the NL West is down from 9 ½ games (on June 8) to three, following the Dodgers’ victory Tuesday night. Making matters worse, the Giants have won just two of their last eight games despite playing four sub-.500 clubs: the Rockies, White Sox, Diamondbacks and Padres.
Hudson and Matt Cain have combined to allow 12 runs (10 earned) in two nights to the team that entered with the worst offense in the major leagues. It didn’t help matters that the Giants couldn’t punch back against two Padres pitchers, Odrisamer Despaigne and Jesse Hahn, who entered with a grand total of four big league stars – and just five at Triple-A between them, too.
The Giants are not weathering Pagan’s 10-game absence as well as they managed to make up for Brandon Belt’s broken thumb. Belt is starting a rehab assignment on Thursday; Pagan’s back hasn’t improved after 10 days of waiting and hoping, and Bochy said “we’ll have some news” prior to Wednesday afternoon’s game.
You know what that means.
The Giants have been exceedingly patient with Pagan because it’s not like he’s been shelved in the trainer’s room. He is doing baseball activities and hitting every day on the field, but has not cleared himself to grant the Giants so much as a pinch hitting appearance. Now, it makes no sense to wait on him any longer. You can only backdate a player’s DL stint for 10 days, so basically, the Giants would be without him for five days whenever they’d put him on. Might as well do it now so he’s eligible sooner.
Unless the Giants call up a 13th pitcher, the choices would appear to be center fielder Gary Brown or Duvall, who leads all of Triple-A with 23 homers and ranks second with 67 RBIs for Fresno. The club could put Duvall at first base and move Michael Morse back to left field.
It’s more a longshot but Brown could be seen as a better short-term fit if all the Giants want to do is limit Gregor Blanco’s exposure in the outfield. Blanco has cooled off and is 3 for 19 with one run scored over his last five games. He has played every inning over the Giants’ last nine games.
But again, the spot that needs fixing is the rotation. The starting five have a 5.85 ERA over this span of 11 losses in 14 games. Cain can’t make pitches from the stretch. And Hudson, coming off a miserable start on the South Side of Chicago, could not keep the home fires burning.
He allowed the first six batters to reach in the sixth inning and was charged with six runs (two unearned, thanks to Panik’s missed catch error in the fifth) on nine hits, two walks and a hit batter in 5 2/3 innings.
“I felt pretty good tonight,” said Hudson, who got three double-play grounders in the first four innings. “I’ve just got to give them credit. I made a couple mistakes and they capitalized. Not a whole lot else to it.”
It was the first time his team lost one of his home starts since 2012. The Giants and Braves had been 16-0 in his last 16 home assignments over the past two seasons.
It’ll be up to Tim Lincecum, mercurial as ever, to keep the Giants from losing a sixth consecutive home game – something they haven’t done since 2008.