'Pride involved' as pressing Giants search for answers

Bochy: 'We got what we deserved because we couldn't get a runner in'

'Pride involved' as pressing Giants search for answers
July 27, 2013, 11:15 pm
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Bruce Bochy will forego pregame batting practice in favor of infield drills before Sunday's series finale. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants are just ten months removed from winning six elimination games en route to their second World Series title in the last three seasons, so they’re not exactly waving the white flag in July. But after wasting a gem from Madison Bumgarner and two separate late-game situations with the bases loaded and less than two outs in a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs, the quotes tell the story of a squad that’s grasping at straws in trying to explain an MLB-worst 23-42 mark since May 14.

Bruce Bochy: “We’re trying things. That’s all I guess you can do is keep coming out here working… The only thing we can do is keep working here and try to get this thing figured out.”

Bumgarner: “You like your chances usually with the bases loaded and no outs. But there’s times where it doesn’t happen.”

Losing pitcher Sergio Romo: “It’s just a lot of mishaps and misfortune on our behalf and today was just another example. We had chances to make some noise and it just didn’t turn out our way.”

Despite committing two early errors to take over the major league lead from the Houston Astros with 76, the Giants found themselves poised to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the eighth thanks to another brilliant Bumgarner start and a great table-setting job for the 3-4-5 hitters.

A leadoff walk and two misplayed sacrifice bunts loaded the bases for none other than Buster Posey. But the reigning N.L. MVP’s nine-pitch at-bat culminated in a broken bat fielder’s choice that forced Gregor Blanco out at home. Pablo Sandoval, batting .368 with runners in scoring position this season, had a chance to pick Posey up, but chased the first pitch for another fielder’s choice out at home. (Sandoval also went after the first offering he saw with runners at first and second in the sixth inning.) At least the Giants’ Nos. 3-4 hitters put the ball in play, though. Hunter Pence followed with a four-pitch at-bat that ended with an off-balance swing at a low and away slider out of the zone.

“You have the guys up there that you hope to have up there in that situation,” Bochy said. “We couldn’t get a fly ball or a cheap hit or anything.”

Romo, who took the loss on Friday despite allowing no earned runs, fell to 3-6 thanks to former teammate Nate Schierholtz’s solo home run in the ninth.

“Fastball. Tried to go inside and it tailed right over the plate. Nothing other than a bad pitch,” Romo explained. “This is the big leagues. You make bad pitches and they’re going to hurt you.”

The Giants had another chance to give that hurt right back to the Cubs and their closer. Once again, they did not take advantage. Kevin Gregg got a quick first out, but gave up a single to Joaquin Arias and walked Gregor Blanco and Brandon Belt to load the bases. Bochy sent up Tony Abreu to pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot with the game on the line and ended up watching the career .254 hitter ground into a rare 3-1-3 double play to end the game.

“We had great chances and hoped we’d find a way to cash in and we didn’t do it,” Bochy said. “That’s why we lost the game. You look at the job Bum did and it was an impressive outing. We’re just not swinging these bats.”

Despite the offensive struggles, Bochy plans to cancel batting practice before Sunday’s series finale in lieu of more defensive drills. But there’s no workout regimen for players that are understandably pressing.

“It’s quiet in that clubhouse, believe me,” Bochy said. “Those guys, I know they’re trying hard and they’re probably pressing a little bit trying to get out of this. These are games we normally win but right now we’re not executing.”

Thanks to a Padres win Saturday, the Giants fell into a tie for last place in the N.L. West so there’s no time like the present to start executing.

“You’ve got to keep going forward and keep working hard,” Bumgarner said. “You can’t stop and start taking it easy and coasting. You’ve got to keep pushing. You never know what might happen the rest of the season.

“We haven’t really been able to find consistency. But I think everybody in here believes in the guys that we do have. It’s just about putting it all together and coming together. We know what we got to do and we know how to do it, we just have to get it done.”

It’s hard to believe every member of the 25-man roster shares Bumgarner’s optimism considering the hole the Giants are in. That’s why Bochy’s job is more than just orchestrating double-switches and playing the matchups with his bullpen arms. Maintaining morale may be a manager's toughest task.

“You try to keep them going…stay positive,” Bochy said. “We’re being tested. Why? I don’t know, but we’re really being tested. Hopefully when you get tested, you get stronger. That’s why these two games are disappointing because the pitching’s been there.”

Bochy said he met with his players before the game. It’s unclear whether the Giants will face another matinee meeting with their manager before Sunday’s series finale.

“They’re coming out with a lot of energy, but right now we just have some guys that aren’t swinging the bats that well, to be honest, and we’re getting shut down,” Bochy said. “There’s a lot of baseball left and there’s a lot of pride involved. The only thing we can do is just give it our all tomorrow.”

Playing for pride is a concept rarely promoted by the manager of a team defending a title, but motivational tactics are hard to come by when you’re nine games out of first place.