Bochy on being no-hit: 'You hope this is as low as it gets'
CINCINNATI – What did Giants manager Bruce Bochy ponder as he leaned against the dugout rail, surveying the Reds making merry around no-hit artist Homer Bailey?
“Hopefully,” said Bochy, “this is rock bottom.”
The Giants’ 3-0 loss at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday marked the 11th time in the club’s San Francisco era and the first time in more than a decade that they’ve been no-hit. Kevin Millwood was the last to complete the feat, at Philadelphia, in 2003.
But that was a different time and place. That Giants team was 18-6 and on its way to a 100-victory season.
As for this season?
The Giants have lost eight times in nine games. They have baseball’s worst record since May 14, at 16-29. They are five games under .500. Undone by their pitching in the first two months and now sucking wind with the bats, their offense has averaged exactly two runs per game while dropping 10 of their last 12.
And they are in last place.
While just three games separate all five teams in the worm-eaten NL West, the Dodgers officially passed the Giants to escape the cellar. It’s the first time the Giants have been in last place after April since the 2007 season – when the team was a sideshow to Barry Bonds’ home run drama.
Right now, these Giants are defending champions in name only.
And Bochy had no words for them.
“No,” said the manager, asked if he addressed the club. “We’ve talked. We’ve met. I think that’s done. It’s time for us to say enough is enough and come out of this.”
Gregor Blanco is 0 for 16. Brandon Crawford is 0 for 18. Pablo Sandoval has one hit in his last 25 at-bats, and those numbers don’t reflect how bad he’s looked.
They were the right team at the right time for a pitcher who displays an almost bionic ability to throw harder, extend further and bore the baseball that much deeper into the catcher’s mitt as the skies darken.
“He had a great fastball and he used it well and he went right through us with it,” said Bochy, whose clubs had been no-hit two previous times in his 18 seasons as a big league manager – both in 2001, when Bud Smith and A.J. Burnett blanked the San Diego Padres.
“I’d say this was the easiest,” Bochy said. “There were no tough plays. There was no doubt on any play.”
Something stands out about every no-hitter. Usually, it’s a diving grab or a sensational short-hop or a strong throw off the back foot. It becomes a signature highlight, forever entwined with the pitcher’s accomplishment.
Tuesday night, what stood out was the vacuum. There was nothing but Bailey’s 95 mph fastball, whistling in the wind and knocking the bats out of the Giants’ hands.
Andres Torres turned around a 95 mph fastball in the eighth inning and center fielder Shin-Soo Choo broke in hard, but as it turned out, he had time enough to gather himself, maybe even recite a favorite poem, before squeezing the glove.
It was the hardest ball the Giants hit all game.
In fact, the only hard stuff on the offer might have been in the bottle of white lighting that Tim Flannery’s brother, Tom, delivers without fail from the Kentucky foothills.
There’s no way the bottle lasted the night.
“Everything is going wrong for us,” said Blanco, whose 3-2 walk in the seventh inning was the only thing separating Bailey from a perfect game.
The Giants had two baserunners all night. And they made a baserunning mistake.
After Blanco took second base on Marco Scutaro’s ground out, Buster Posey followed with a jam shot that first baseman Joey Votto fielded off a bounce. Bailey didn’t immediately break to cover first base and Votto, taking note of it, looked across the field. He threw to third base and caught a surprised Blanco in a rundown for a fielder’s choice.
“Oh my God, yeah, really surprised,” Blanco said. “I think he did a great play. The pitcher didn’t cover first base and he didn’t have a play and he looked at me.”
Blanco shook his head in disbelief. Under normal circumstances, the Reds wouldn’t have bothered looking at the lead runner. Blanco wasn’t the tying run in a 3-0 game. Bailey, an athletic pitcher, said he thought he still would’ve beaten Posey to the bag, and replays appeared to support that. Votto probably would have fed his throw to first base.
But with the no-hitter on the line … it became another platform to make a mistake. The Giants are all platforms and empty swimming pools these days.
Tim Lincecum, who had firm enough stuff, stepped into a tar pit at a familiar time. It was a 1-0 game before Brandon Phillips clocked a backup slider for a two-run home run in the sixth inning, which has marked the end of his chain.
On the other side was Bailey, who found more bass and treble, and less reason to play with the settings, as the hour grew late.
“It’s impressive,” Lincecum said. “Putting the fastball where you want, especially when it’s 95 to 97 … that’s live stuff, man.”
Now for some dead stuff:
Lincecum, Barry Zito and Mike Kickham are 1-14 in 18 road starts between them. Lincecum owns the lone victory – and that came April 3, so long ago the Giants hadn’t even gotten their rings yet.
The Giants wouldn’t have won those rings if they didn’t figure out a way to beat the Reds in Game 3 of the NL Division Series, on a night when Bailey held them to one hit and struck out 10.
He was that good then. He was just as good Tuesday night.
“I think that’s just how we all have to look at it,” Lincecum said. “When a guy throws a no-hitter, you’ve just got to hit that reset button and start believing again. Stop worrying about what we haven’t done.”