Moore pitches better, but defense lapses, offense rests, sellout streak snapped in loss to the Indians

Cleveland Indians’ Michael Brantley, right, reaches first base for a single as San Francisco Giants first baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang, left, reaches for the ball in the fifth inning of a baseball game Monday, July 17, 2017, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Starting pitching that was good… for awhile, and defense that was absent at two, key junctures had the Giants attempting to squeeze a win through a pinhole, once again, among the slimmest of possibilities to realize on a major league diamond.

How slim?

When the Giants couple mediocre pitching, shoddy defense with three runs scored or less, well, the numbers aren’t kind. With Monday’s 5-3 loss to the AL Central-leading Indians, the Giants fell to 7-44 when they score three runs or less.

Add in the 3-1 lead in the fifth that evaporated, and the sellout streak that was snapped, and one must conclude things aren’t nearly as enchanting at AT&T Park as they have been.

“This season couldn’t have gone worse,” manager Bruce Bochy admitted.  “I don’t think any of us could have seen it unraveling the way it has. It’s been a tough go and the one constant has been the support. We can’t thank (the fans) enough. We appreciate it. We’re disappointed we’re not in a better place for our fans.”

The Giants have dropped four in a row, and 14 of 18 at home. Interleague play hasn’t been kind either; the Giants are 3-8 versus the American League this season.

Did we mention that things could have looked up Monday had not starter Matt Moore inexplicably flipped the baseball over the head of first baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang when gifted the opportunity to record the third out in the fifth?

But Moore did overthrow Hwang, allowing the Indians to get even, 3-3. They would push across the winning run in the sixth, given a big assist by Hwang’s throwing error, then an insurance run in the ninth.

Offensively, the Giants simply didn’t do enough, and very little outside of a successful challenge of an out call at the plate that allowed Joe Panik to score their initial run upon review, and Moore’s RBI single that followed, in the third.

Brandon Crawford would add a ringing, RBI double high off the bricks in right center in the fourth, but the Giant’s final hit would come in the fifth. Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin, with assists from relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, would combine to retire the final 13 Giants’ hitters.

The Giants’ power game was again non-existent with team home run leader Brandon Belt out of the lineup with a wrist injury. The Giants have hit an MLB-low 24 home runs at home, and have hit at least one home run in only 48 of their 94 games. The team’s ability to hit for power has been so tepid, one ESPN piece written over the weekend suggested the Giants blow up their entire starting lineup in search of hitters with a power-hitting profile. Given that, rumors of the team’s interest in Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton and his massive, 10-year contract make some sense.

Moore pitched far better than he has in most of his 2017 starts, relying on an effective fastball-changeup combo early in Monday’s game. Despite pitching into the seventh inning, Moore lost for the fifth, consecutive time at home, and the tenth time overall. Once again, Moore’s margin for error was slim, far slimmer than his overwrought toss to first in the fifth.

“I grabbed it and picked it up and threw it underhanded,” Moore said. “As soon as I let it go, I knew it was too high.”

Giant’s CEO Larry Baer personally announced the end of the Giant’s 530-game sellout streak, a foregone conclusion with the team struggling and empty seats popping up throughout the park. Baer said he expects another sellout on Wednesday, a sure sign the park hasn’t lost all of its allure in a season of losing.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t hang in there and keep this thing going,” Bochy said. “The fans, they did their part. This has been tough on them, too.”


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