No offense, but…: Giants lineup underwhelms again in 3-2 loss to the Twins

June 11, 2017

MLB, San Francisco Giants

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By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–With little margin for error, even one of the NL’s hottest pitchers can find himself in a bind.

Jeff Samardzija came into Saturday’s game against the Twins on one of the most impressive runs of his decade-long, big league career, becoming the first pitcher since 1900 to strikeout as many as 59 batters, while walking only one, accomplished in the time frame of his previous seven starts.  The Giants’ pricey 2016 free agent acquisition has been both dominating and consistent–without the results to show for it.  While Samardzija’s been dealing by any measure, wins and losses must be excluded. The Shark’s 2-8 on the season, and only 2-3 during his unprecedented run.

In a matchup with the Twins’ Jose Berrios, a 2012 first round pick, Samardzija knew coming in runs would be at a premium. And once Giants’ hitters started flailing at Berrios’ confounding curveballs on Saturday, that premium number grew smaller.

With run support the elephant in the room, plus the presence of Berrios, the pressure was on. And the Giants didn’t respond well, falling to Minnesota, 3-2, their 31st loss in 37 games this season in which they scored three runs or less.

“Occasionally you’re going to give up three runs, maybe four, but you have to pick these pitchers up sometimes,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We have a hard time, especially here at home. I know this is more of a pitchers’ park but still that shouldn’t happen.”

Leaving the Giants’ starter high and dry has been a reoccurring theme in 2017, and even more recently. In the team’s last eight home games, the Giants have been shutout three times, and scored just once in the homestand finale loss to the Nationals on May 31.

On Saturday, Brandon Belt started the scoring with a splash hit in the first inning, but it was the current San Francisco treat, a solo shot.

In the fourth, the Twins’ Kennys Vargas tied with a rocket off Samardzija on a 2-2 pitch with two outs. The 457-foot home run registered among the longest hit by Minnesota this season. Samardzija would say afterwards, he wanted his pitch in on Vargas’ hands. Instead the pitch was at the knees–not really bad location, but it allowed the powerful Vargas to extend his arms.

In the fifth, Samardzija allowed the one walk he gave up all day to Robbie Grossman, among the AL leaders in on-base percentage.  The Giants’ starter threw three consecutive balls to open the at-bat, only to see Grossman draw the walk on a full count.

Afterwards, Samardzija would admit the one walk issued affected him in subsequent pitches, the second of which turned out to be the game-winner for the Twins, a two-run homer off the bat of Brian Dozier.

Giants’ hitters over the final five innings would attempt to tie it with a pair of runs, but only Buster Posey’s ground out with two runners aboard scored a run. Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence, hitting fifth and sixth in the San Francisco lineup, would both strike out with runners on in the third and again in the fifth, after Posey’s fielder’s choice made the score 3-2.

Pence and Crawford both would finish 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, bringing scrutiny upon both in the postgame press conference.  Crawford is in a 9 for 50 (.180) slide over his last 14 games, and Pence has only three hits (3 for 22) in the week since he came off the disabled list.

“That makes it tough, when you’re in the heart of the order and you have a couple of guys struggling, that makes it tough to score runs,” Bochy said of the pair. “Those are the guys you lean on. The third inning, that’s the difference in the game.”

The Giants look to avoid getting swept at home on Sunday with Matt Cain taking the mound in a matchup with Nik Turley, making his big league debut.

OLD FACES, NEW PLACE: Ehire Adrianza, the former Giants’ utility man from 2015 and 2016, was given his unconditional release by the Brewers in February, and then signed a minor league deal with the Twins. Adrianza hit .303 in spring training, and .297 for the Twins since returning from the disabled list from an oblique injury early in May.  He started at shortstop on Saturday, and was 0 for 4.

Chris Heston, now exactly two years removed from his no-hitter for the Giants and no longer an emerging prospect at 29, just signed with the Twins this week. Heston started the season with the Mariners, and was released by the Dodgers without making a major league appearance.

 

 

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