Giants' failures leave Bochy frustrated

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Giants' failures leave Bochy frustrated

Rael Enteen
CSNBayArea.com staff writer 

SAN FRANCISCO – Brandon Crawford’s glove giveth, and Brandon Crawford’s glove taketh away.

The Giants and their fans have been blessed to witness the amazing feats Crawford performs with the leather on a daily basis. Monday’s game was no difference, as San Francisco’s shortstop maintained a tie thanks to a diving backhand stop and strong throw with the potential go-ahead run at third base in the 11th inning. But the Giants’ offense didn’t do enough to end the game in time for Crawford to avoid a costly error that led to the New York Mets’ game-winning run in the 16th inning.

[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants fall in 16 innings

“He made that one play to save us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s so good over there, he just didn’t come up with it.”

“These things happen,” Hunter Pence said. “He makes it look a lot easier than it is. It’s going to happen every now and then and it just happened to come about at a bad time like that.”

It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Giants, who have lost six of their last seven games and 12 of their last 14 to fall to 40-48.

But while Crawford’s error will be the lasting memory of a five hour and 26 minute marathon game, his game-saving play in the 11th would’ve lingered longer if not for the Giants’ woes with runners in scoring position.

Brandon Belt, batting in the three-hole in Bruce Bochy’s lineup for the first time in his career, is an easy target (0-for-8 with five strikeouts) but it’s truly a team-wide failure.

The Giants left 13 runners on base in extra innings and 18 total, the most since June 6, 1998, and finished 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position, giving them three hits in their last 51 at-bats in such situations.

“That’s as frustrating a game as we’ve had,” Bochy said. “I think it’s caught up to all of us. We had so many chances and just couldn’t get a hit.”

Even after Crawford’s error gave the Mets a 4-3 lead, the Giants had an opportunity in the bottom half of the 16th, an inning that serves as a solid representation for San Francisco’s struggles of late. Mets closer Bobby Parnell gifted the Giants a leadoff baserunner when he walked Marco Scutaro, but Belt couldn’t even make a productive out, striking out on a foul tip. After Buster Posey picked Belt up with a sharp single up the middle for his career-best fifth hit of the evening, Pablo Sandoval struck out swinging on a pitch out of the zone, leaving him with just four hits in his last 48 at-bats. The game ended one pitch later when pinch-hitter Guillermo Quiroz rolled over a Parnell curveball to strand Scutaro at second.

“We had a lot of runners on, we just couldn’t get the final big hit,” Pence said. “There’s frustration. We want to stay as positive as we can, but we gotta get it done. We’ve got to keep pushing to find a way to turn it around.”

Pence, who snapped a career-long 0-for-24 slump with a seventh-inning triple and almost ended the game with an opposite field line drive in the 10th that required a running catch from Mets rightfielder Marlon Byrd, owned up to his own issues with situational hitting.

“Me personally, I haven’t gotten much done with runners in scoring position,” Pence said. “Part of it is maybe being too aggressive, trying to do too much. But there in the 10th, I hit a ball hard, just right at them. So it’s tough when it’s going like this.”

Bochy now has to go back to the drawing board to decide how to jumpstart a team that looks less and less like the defending World Series champions. It will not be an easy task Tuesday, as Bochy said he would have to rest Posey, who caught all 16 innings, and likely keep Belt in the No. 3 spot, despite the first baseman becoming the first Giant to go hitless in eight at-bats since Jose Uribe on June 11, 1985.

The Giants’ inability to get consistent offensive production from anyone not named Buster Posey overshadowed Tim Lincecum's start, which by game’s end felt as ancient as his long hair and Cy Young Awards.

Lincecum struck out a season-high 11 and was done in by some shoddy defense in the sixth, the inning that he has most frequently failed to post zeroes in. After the Mets scored twice in the sixth, Lincecum owns an 8.44 ERA and .429 opponents batting average in the fateful frame.

“Timmy threw well, we just had a tough time making a play there in the sixth inning and let them take the lead there,” Bochy said.

George Kontos, who took the loss after being charged with an unearned run due to Crawford’s error, was impressed with what he saw from Lincecum.

[RELATED: Giants notes -- Bochy's sense of urgency, Belt's opportunity]

“He came out and looked like he had a really good tempo going,” Kontos said. “He was locating everything, throwing that nice slow breaking ball. He looked really good. That’s definitely one of the big positives from the game is him looking like his old self.”

The other positive is what Kontos and the bullpen did for Bochy, despite the eventual outcome.

“One unearned run in nine innings is pretty good,” Kontos said. “It’s definitely a positive. Anything we can take away right now in the skid we’re going through. You just gotta look at the positives. You can’t really focus on the stuff that’s not going right. We’re a much better ballclub than the last 10-to-12 games that we’ve played. I definitely think just keeping our heads down, playing the game the right way and doing the things that we’ve been doing, we’ll come out of it.”

There’s nothing wrong with Kontos’ optimism, but it came just eight hours after Bochy’s pregame proclamation that certainly bears repeating:

“At some point, you have to turn it around and get clicking as a club.”

It didn’t happen Monday night, or even Tuesday morning, but part of the beauty of baseball is the prospect of a new game tomorrow. Or in this case, today.

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jae-Gyun Hwang’s day started with an ovation from teammates who had selected Hwang as the Barney Nugent Award winner. It ended in style, too. 

Hwang’s walk-off single in the ninth gave the Giants an 8-7 win and raised his spring average to .308. Barring an injury or sudden change, Hwang will not make the team out of camp, but he’ll travel to San Francisco for the Bay Bridge Series next week and the Giants expect him back at AT&T Park soon.

“He can keep the award now,” Bochy joked after Hwang’s walk-off. “Good for him. Players love him, and the way he’s come out every day and the effort he puts in. He’s been inspiring with how hard he has gotten after it every day.”

The Barney Nugent Award is given to the player in his first big league camp “whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.” It is meaningful in large part because the voters are teammates, trainers and coaches. Hwang was called to the middle of the clubhouse by trainer Dave Groeschner on Saturday morning to accept the award. 

“With this being my first time coming to spring training to play baseball, I wanted to work hard and show that I belong here,” Hwang said through interpreter Mark Kim. “I think my teammates have noticed how hard I’ve worked for the team.”

The rest of the Giants have also noticed how easy Hwang has made the transition look. He said that, outside of learning a new strike zone, the adjustment hasn’t been a difficult one. He has four homers this spring, but doesn’t necessarily view that as a shining positive. Hwang said he wants to show more of an all-around game, especially on defense, and a stint in Triple-A Sacramento should provide that opportunity. 

If the rosters play out as expected, Hwang should see most of the time at third base in Triple-A. He can also play first, and he’s eager to show that he’s viable in left field. 

“I want to show I’m a versatile player,” he said. 

GAME RECAP: Chris Stratton was having a good spring, but he got knocked around by the Padres early … Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford both hit deep homers in their second game back from the WBC … Mark Melancon still has not allowed a run this spring … Hunter Pence's March slump got a bit deeper with an 0-for-3 ... Bryan Reynolds, last year’s top pick, entered as a pinch-runner and flew home from first on a Gorkys Hernandez double off the wall. 

BULLPEN BATTLES: In the front office’s perfect world, Josh Osich would be the one to take over for Will Smith, giving the team a hard-throwing lefty capable of neutralizing lefties and righties. It’s been an up-and-down spring for Osich, but he was filthy Saturday, striking out a pair in his lone inning. 

George Kontos looked even better in his inning, striking out the side. Kontos has allowed just five hits in 10 innings this spring, with 15 strikeouts. He seems forever stuck in that sixth-seventh range, but given his splits have been just about even over the years, maybe it’s time the Giants see what he can do in a more high-profile role. 

Cory Gearrin followed the previous two with a perfect eighth. Neil Ramirez struck out one and allowed one hit in the ninth. In 9 1/3 innings this spring, Ramirez has struck out 16 and allowed just five hits and two runs. He has a real shot to take someone’s job in the bullpen next week. 

ICYMI: The big news from this morning: Michael Morse will stick with the team and try to rehab/play his way back to the big leagues. And from the early afternoon, Johnny Cueto had a ton of fun with a 19-year-old he faced in a minor league game. 

NOTABLE: Bochy said that all of the players left in camp are slated to head home on the team flight Tuesday, but some guys have opt-outs on March 30, so moves are coming. This would seem a great sign for Aaron Hill, who is due a $100,000 retention bonus on Tuesday. Hill has slumped late in camp, but he’s still in position to make the team. Also noteworthy: Tyler Beede is scheduled to start Saturday’s game in Oakland. The Giants surely want to knock some MLB-stadium-nerves off before Beede heads down to Triple-A to wait for a call-up.

 

Cueto toys with young prospect in Giants minor league game

Cueto toys with young prospect in Giants minor league game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There is no way to really ramp up the intensity when an All-Star pitcher makes an appearance in minor league camp, so Johnny Cueto instead found a way to have a bit more fun. 

While getting his work in against A-ball hitters, Cueto had a prolonged, smile-filled battle with 19-year-old Jasrado Chisholm, one of the Diamondbacks’ top prospects. The sequence between Cueto and the shortstop from the Bahamas: 

  • Cueto just missed with a two-strike inside fastball, so he went right back to the same spot, freezing Chisholm, who smiled and nodded at Cueto, who laughed back. 
  • The next time up, Chisholm took two vicious hacks, trying to crank a homer onto Hayden Road. He missed both breaking balls by about a foot. 
  •  Before the third pitch, Cueto yelled something at Chisholm and smiled. “I was telling him to keep his eye on the ball,” Cueto said. “Because every time he was swinging, he was taking his eye off the ball.”
  •  The advice worked. Chisholm hung in on the third pitch, lining a single to left-center. Cueto laughed and pointed his glove at the teenager. He promptly picked him off of first base. “He probably doesn’t know I have a quick move,” he said. “I was having fun with a kid who wanted to actually hit against me.”

Nobody has more fun than Cueto, even on a sun-baked minor league field. He capped his day by standing in for an at-bat of his own, and he stood and watched as a young Diamondback struck him out.

The work on the mound was just what was needed: 7 innings, 85 pitches, 10 strikeouts, 0 runs. Cueto, who missed the opening weeks of camp, is ready for the season.

“I feel strong,” he said. “I feel really good."