Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0-for-4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”

Sloppy defense costs Giants in back-and-forth slugfest at Coors Field

Sloppy defense costs Giants in back-and-forth slugfest at Coors Field

DENVER — The secret about Coors Field is that often times it’s not the home runs that kill you. Oh they leave their mark, but it’s the bloops that turn into singles, the lazy fly balls that turn into doubles, and the gappers that go for three bases that really add up. 

Because of that, this is a place where you can’t skimp on outfield defense. You will pay for your mistakes, and the Giants certainly did Friday. They might have actually completed the comeback this time, but a brutal stretch in the seventh put the finishing touches on a 10-8 loss to the Rockies. 

Trailing 7-5 at the time, Bruce Bochy sent Jeff Samardzija back out on a batter-by-batter basis. Neither player nor manager lasted long. Samardzija’s 3-2 pitch to DJ LeMahieu appeared to catch the inner edge, but home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom disagreed. Samardzija felt Cederstrom gave up on the pitch too soon, missing out when it caught an inch of the plate. He pointed at Cederstrom and soon Bochy was running out to argue. He was ejected and Samardzija was pulled after six-plus up-and-down innings. 

“It was just frustration,” Bochy said. “I told him he missed it. I still believe he missed it. That's a big out. We finally make a pitch and get the guy out. That’s a big out (he missed). They ended up putting up a crooked number in that inning.”

As Samardzija walked off the field, he had a few more words for Cederstrom. He later said the umpire had a good night overall. 

“We’re in the seventh inning — there are a lot of emotions,” Samardzija said. “I’m out there fighting. He’s a professional and I said what I had to say and he didn’t throw me out. The one pitch I was unhappy with was in a situation where I really needed it.”

The walk set off a comically bad stretch. A passed ball got LeMahieu to second and he scored when Carlos Gonzalez’s flare to right-center dropped just in front of Hunter Pence. That was only the beginning. Two batters later — after a sacrifice fly made possible by two defensive mistakes — Pence couldn’t handle Raimel Tapia’s single to right. It clanked off his glove and bounced toward the wall, Gonzalez scoring from first and Tapia ending up on third. He, too, would score, on a double to right that was just out of Pence’s reach. 

“The ball popped up on me,” Pence said. “There might be a small part of me trying to do too much because (other) balls seemed to be just out of reach. It’s unacceptable. I’ve got to make better plays out there.”

Pence is said to be healthy, and he said the lights were not a problem. The ball has been taking off in this series — five homers were hit Friday — but outfield defense has been an issue all year, not just in this series. Per FanGraphs, the Giants’ outfield has been worth negative 30 defensive runs saved, the worst mark in the big leagues. And that was before Friday’s mistakes. 

“We’ve got to clean it up a little bit here,” Bochy said. 

Pence said players might be trying to do so much because they want to turn this around so badly. The emotion showed earlier, particularly on Samardzija’s two-run homer. It was his first in four years and traveled 446 feet, the longest by a pitcher since Statcast began tracking it in 2015. 

Samardzija flipped his bat, held a wing up on his way around the bases, and shot out a Ric Flair scream as he crossed the plate. A few minutes later he gave up five runs, including a three-run homer to Ian Desmond that wouldn’t go out anywhere else. Samardzija wasn’t able to celebrate his homer very much, but he also didn’t blame the park for his eight-run night. 

“It’s a tough place, but listen, it’s even both ways,” he said. “It helps out both teams.”

On this night, so did the Giants. 

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' loss to Rockies in slugfest

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' loss to Rockies in slugfest

BOX SCORE

DENVER — A 93-degree night at Coors Field is an absolute nightmare for pitchers, and Friday night’s action certainly lived up to expectations. 

The Giants and Rockies combined for five homers, including a go-ahead three-run shot by Ian Desmond in the fifth. The Giants played sloppy defense from there, costing themselves a couple of crucial late-inning runs in a 10-8 loss. 

The Giants have dropped four straight and 13 of their last 17. Yikes. Anyway, here are five things to know so you can impress the person next to you at the bar on this Friday night … 

--- Samardzija is one of the few pitchers who can go toe-to-toe with Madison Bumgarner in batting practice, so it’s actually kind of a surprise that it took him 46 starts as a Giant to go deep. Samardzija hit a two-run blast in the fifth, his third in the big leagues and first since 2013. The ball went an estimated 446 feet and was the longest homer by a pitcher since Statcast started tracking them three years ago. It was also longer than any of Bumgarner’s in-game blasts. 

--- Samardzija screamed as he crossed the plate. The good vibes didn’t last long. The Rockies got two runs back right away and then three more on Desmond’s two-out homer. The ball looked to be a flyout to right, but kept carrying in classic Coors Field fashion. A livid Samardzija stormed off the field at the end of the inning. He was charged with eight runs. 

--- The Giants have taken a big step back defensively, and nowhere are the problems as glaring as in right field. Hunter Pence had a brutal stretch in the seventh as the Rockies tacked in three runs. He couldn’t catch up with a bloop to shallow right-center and also came up short on a liner to deep right-center. Both could have been outs. In between, a single bounced off his glove, allowing a runner to score all the way from first. 

--- Bruce Bochy took his first ejection of the year after Samardzija walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh. Ball four was right on the inside edge of the strike zone and Samardzija pointed at home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom. When Cederstrom started walking toward the mound, Nick Hundley got in the way and then Bochy came out to have a few heated words. 

--- Joe Panik had a homer and two doubles. He raised his slugging percentage 29 points in one night.