Urban: Without pressure, Giants are flourishing

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Urban: Without pressure, Giants are flourishing

Sept. 16, 2011

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Mychael Urban
CSNBayArea.com

Pretty amazing what the absence of pressure can do for a team, isn't it?The Giants made it six wins in a row Friday night with another victory in Colorado, and it might have been the most stress-free triumph of the season.After four taut frames, Brandon Belt broke things up with a two-run homer that surely left him wondering what life might be like playing 81 games a year at altitude, and Madison Bumgarner pretty much took it from there.The rest of the Giants' offense followed Belt's lead, piling on as any wise Coors Field foe knows is necessary, and Bumgarner continued to confound. How a kid that young, with that heavy a workload over the past two seasons, can keep getting better and stronger as the season wears on is simply mind-boggling.It all added up to a win that, coupled with the Braves' loss, trimmed San Francisco's deficit in the National League wild-card race to five games with 11 games to play.
RECAP: Bumgarner, Stewart propel Giants past Rockies 9-1
Insurmountable? No. Baseball's a crazy game.Daunting? Totally. It'll take a fairly epic collapse by Atlanta, a similarly spectacular slide by St. Louis, and eight or nine more wins by the Giants for any of this to mean anything of consequence.But who cares at this point? It's been a week or so since most realistic fans have come to grips with the defending champions going home before October opens, and what's happening right now sure beats the heck out of watching a series of 2-1, or 3-2, or 1-0 reminders of what went wrong -- even if those scores were in San Francisco's favor.The absence of pressure brings home runs off the bat of Chris Stewart. It brings Brandon Crawford in the starting lineup. It brings Barry Zito out of the bullpen for the ninth inning, of all things, and if that's not a strange sight to you, spare us the details of your night life. We don't want to know.Playoffs? Stop it. Not gonna happen.That doesn't mean, however, that you can't savor every last second of the 2011 season. Your boys are the champions of the world for 11 more games -- heck, they're the champs until somebody dogpiles in the middle of a diamond somewhere late next month -- and they're winning games again. It could be a heck of a lot worse. You've seen it a lot worse. So just sit back and enjoy the release of pressure while you can.

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.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The promotion of an intriguing prospect can bring a certain buzz to the ballpark. It didn’t last long. 

The debut of Ryder Jones came in the latest flat performance from the Giants, who collapsed late and fell 5-2 to the Mets. The loss was their 50th of the season. They did not lose their 50th game last season until August 12. 

With the score tied in the eighth, Curtis Granderson crushed a leadoff triple into the alley. Sam Dyson walked the next batter and then whiffed Yoenis Cespedes, but Jay Bruce greeted Steven Okert with an RBI single to right. It kept going poorly from there. 

Here are five things to know from a cool day by the water … 

—- Jones grounded out to second in his first at-bat and then flied out to center, grounded out to first, and grounded out to second. He had one chance in the field, starting a double play that ended the second inning.  

—- Johnny Cueto seems to have turned a corner. Over his past two starts, he has allowed just three earned runs over 14 innings. Whether they trade him or not, the Giants certainly could use a nice little hot streak for the next six weeks. 

—- A few seconds after Bruce Bochy shook Cueto’s hand, Brandon Belt got him off the hook for a loss. He hit the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh into the seats in left-center, tying the game. The homer was Belt’s 14th. He’s on pace for 29. 

—- The Mets got eight one-run innings out of Jacob deGrom, who is quietly the most reliable of a star-studded rotation. He struck out seven and gave up just four hits. 

—- If Madison Bumgarner wants another Silver Slugger Award, he’ll have to chase down deGrom, who hit a homer in his last start. His single in the third was his 10th hit, and he finished the day with a .294 average.