Instant Replay: Giants 6, Astros 3

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Instant Replay: Giants 6, Astros 3

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO Madison Bumgarner and Brandon Belt hit their first home runs of the season and the Giants opened a three-game series against the Houston Astros with a 6-3 win.Starting pitching report: Madison Bumgarner struck out the side in the first inning and cruised through 7.2 dominant innings, as he allowed two runs, just one earned, en route to his sixth win of the season.The Astros unearned run came in the third inning, when Jose Altuve reached on a two-out throwing error by Brandon Crawford on a routine ground ball. Crawfords throw sailed wide of Brandon Belt, allowing Altuve to advance to second, where he didnt stay for long. After stealing third base, Altuve trotted home on Brian Bixlers bloop single.Bumgarner was in cruise control from that point on, as he put together 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth. The Giants young southpaw didnt allow an extra-base hit until the eighth inning, issued no walks and struck out 12, his seventh career double-digit strikeout game. All but one of Bumgarners strikeouts were swinging.His final line: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 12 K (98 pitches, 70 for strikes).Bumgarner is now 13-2 with a 1.99 ERA in his last fifteen home starts after going 0-5 with a 5.82 ERA in his first seven starts at 3rd & King to start the 2011 campaign.Bullpen report: Sergio Romo entered the game with two outs in the eighth, a 4-2 lead and a runner on second. Five pitches later, all Frisbee sliders, he returned to the dugout with his standard flash and gave way to Clay Hensley in the ninth.Hensley walked pinch-hitter Jordan Schafer to lead off the final frame, but rebounded with two quick outs, including a fielders choice that could have been a game-ending double play if fielded cleanly by Brandon Belt. With two outs and a runner on second, Bruce Bochy turned to Javier Lopez to face lefty Jason Castro, who doubled down the right field line on the second pitch he saw from Lopez to cut the Giants lead to 6-3.Bochy turned to closer Santiago Casilla for the final out. Pinch-hitter Brett Wallace flew out to Melky Cabrera in left to end the game. Casilla earned his 17th save in 18 chances filling in for Brian Wilson.At the plate: Novato native Bud Norris overmatched the Giants in the first inning with a fastball that touched 95 miles per hour at times. Buster Posey got San Francisco into the hit column with an opposite field single in the second inning, but the Giants didnt get into the run column until the third, thanks to an unlikely hero.Entering Tuesdays game, the Giants had gone 16 straight contests at AT&T Park without hitting a home run. Madison Bumgarner stepped to the plate to leadoff the third and sent a 2-1 Bud Norris fastball deep to left field for the Giants first home dinger, ending a homerless streak of 517 at-bats and 138 innings.Bumgarners bomb tied the game 1-1 and the Giants came back in the fourth to take the lead, thanks to a wild Norris. Posey worked a walk to lead off the inning, and after a Pablo Sandoval pop out, Norris issued back-to-back walks to Nate Schierholtz and Brandon Belt to load the bases. With Bumgarners big bat lurking in the on-deck circle, Brandon Crawford redeemed himself for an earlier error with a seeing eye single past Norris and a diving Jose Altuve at second base. Crawford came into the game 9-for-52 with runners in scoring position, but his clutch hit drove in two for a 3-1 lead.Norris had to leave the game midway though the third inning with a left knee sprain sustained when chasing down a foul pop up by Bumgarner, and the Giants didnt fare well against his replacement. David Carpenter worked 2.2 scoreless innings, despite giving up two hits and issuing a walk.The Giants added an insurance run in the seventh, when leadoff man Gregor Blanco worked a walk, stole second, and advanced to third when catcher Jason Castros throw trickled into centerfield. Blanco scored the Giants fourth run on Melky Cabreras second single of the night in his first game after missing three with a balky hamstring.Even with Bumgarner ending the Giants home homerless streak, Brandon Belt entered Tuesdays game stuck in his own season-long dinger drought. It came to a merciful end in the eighth inning, as the first baseman took Wesley Wright deep with a towering shot to right that hit the arcade and bounced into McCovey Cove.Nate Schierholtz and Crawford joined Cabrera with two hits each. The Giants totaled nine hits, drew five walks and went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position.In the field: Brandon Crawford committed his Major League-leading 11th error by a shortstop when he threw wide of Brandon Belt in the third inning, leading to an Astros unearned run. It was the Giants 57th error of the season, tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the most in the Majors.In the third inning, Madison Bumgarner threw to first as Brian Bixler took off for second, but Brandon Belts throw to Crawford at second was high and wide, allowing Bixler to slide under the tag.Pablo Sandoval has taken some heat for his defensive efforts since returning from the disabled list, but he made an impressive catch of a screaming line drive off the bat of Bixler. Diving to his right, Sandoval caught the ball just off the ground, robbing Bixler of a likely double.Sandoval came close to another amazing play when Matt Downs laid down a bunt in the seventh, but a charging Sandoval bobbled his attempt to catch the ball with his bare hand and Downs was credited with a single.Belt had the opportunity to turn a game-ending double play, but bobbled Downs grounder and settled for the out at first. Two batters later, Brett Wallace fouled a ball in play, but Joaquin Arias backed off and Brandon Crawford slipped, extending the game.On the bases: Nate Schierholtz took off for second base after leading off the bottom of the sixth inning with a single, but was hung out to dry when Astros first baseman and former Giant Matt Downs snagged Brandon Belts liner for an easy double play.Gregor Blanco led off the seventh inning with a walk, and was on third base in no time when he stole his seventh base of the season and advanced to third on a bad throw from Jason Castro that made it into centerfield.Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,200 on Irish Heritage Night for their 117th consecutive sellout.Up next: Matt Cain will take the mound Wednesday in search of his eighth win of the year. At 7-2 with a 2.41 ERA, Cain is off to a stellar start to the season, but is 1-3 with a 4.69 ERA in his career against the Astros. Houston will start J.A. Happ (4-6, 4.54 ERA) opposite Cain. Happ is coming off a rough outing against the St. Louis Cardinals in Houston and is 0-2 with a 3.75 ERA in 12 career innings pitched against the Giants.

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”

 

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.