The Low Point: Coming up short, injuries, Craw’s ejection symbolize the Giants’ squandered season in 5-4 loss to San Diego

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Well, we now know when the next meaningful Giants-Padres game will be.

April 29 at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú Béisbol in Mexico City. The remaining meetings between the clubs this season will be of diminished importance.

Adios Pelota.

The Giants suffered a third straight one-run loss to the Padres, 5-4 on Wednesday afternoon at a sparsely-populated Oracle Park. And if that weren’t burdensome enough, their season is unofficially done with a seventh straight loss to end August and a fall to fourth place in the NL West.

“Admirable effort, no quit,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “A lot of grind at the end no matter the situation. But the only thing that matters in this league is wins and losses and we weren’t able to get it done.”

That’s kind of the beginning of what’s wrong. The rest?

Have a seat.

Brandon Belt delayed his decision to opt for knee surgery until Thursday. The first baseman got a second opinion on his troublesome knee from Stanford Medicine that recommends surgery. The opinion alone likely ends his season, and starts speculation that his career with the Giants will end at the conclusion of the season. The 34-year old will be a free agent and he plans to speak to his agent regarding his options before deciding on the recommended surgery.

Austin Slater has a dislocated finger suffered in Tuesday’s loss. He couldn’t hit, but was available to pinch run, which he did, scoring a run in the eighth inning. Slater’s been a top performer offensively through the Giants’ last two months of losing, but it’s unlikely he plays much going forward or at all with the team wanting to audition other players in September.

Evan Longoria started Wednesday despite his sore hamstring. Joc Pederson and Brandon Crawford jawed with the umpires, who appeared to contribute to the Giants’ 14 strikeouts with questionable calls. Crawford was ejected after gesturing for calm and turning away from third base umpire Ryan Blakney and his emphatic heave-ho.

“You play below-par baseball for a really long period of time, tempers are going to flare,” Kapler said. “People are going to be pissed off. Stress levels are going to be high. Patience is going to be low.”

Then to conclude their afternoon, the hosts’ rally from a five-run deficit ended with an uneventful ninth inning while facing disposed closer Josh Hader. The former Brewers’ All-Star hasn’t tipped the scales with a 19.06 ERA in eight appearances since his trade. But he mowed down the Giants in the ninth, retiring Tommy La Stella, Luis Gonzalez and Austin Wynns after Thairo Estrada’s leadoff base hit to end it.

“Whether it was with Milwaukee or it was here, at the end of the day, it was something mechanically that I was going through. It was a little bump in the road that, ultimately, is making me into a better player, said Hader, who finally realized an opportunity to positively spin his struggles.

“We’ve got to get him going,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin. “This is a guy that we brought in for a reason.”

Giants display unconventional tactics to no avail in 5-0 loss to the Diamondbacks and Zac Gallen

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Over the weekend, the Giants’ bunting seemed like a smart tactic, a way to lift their collective, moribund batting averages, and put pressure on the opponent’s defense.

On Thursday, bunting drew the boo birds.

The story begins and progresses to a decisive juncture with Zac Gallen, Arizona’s starter in the finale of the four-game series. Gallen was as good as it gets, shutting out the Giants into the eighth inning while striking out 12.

“I felt like I was ahead early and I felt like I was able to put them away after one or two pitches,” Gallen said.

If that simple statement sounds cocky, it matters not. Gallen dealt to the degree that this may have been the best start of his career. He didn’t walk anyone, he allowed three singles and a double to Evan Longoria, and he started the first 21 batters he faced with strike one. Gallen finished with an amazing 23 of 25 first pitch strikes. Combine that with the effectiveness of his four pitches, and know that in the latter stages of the outing the Giants were flailing, and made to guess.

“He was feeling it and it was a lot of fun for all of us to watch,” manager Torey Lovullo said.

With two on, two strikes and two out in the seventh, Brandon Belt attempted to bunt his way on, squaring at the last second and not getting enough of the bat on the ball, leaving little momentum as it went foul 10 feet from the plate. That ended the team’s most promising rally with a dud. Gallen appeared confounded by the move, and the crowd responded with boos. Neither conventional or effective, Belt was left to explain after the game.

“(Gallen) didn’t miss a whole lot and I wasn’t doing much with it,” Belt said. “From my point of view I’ve been struggling a little bit. He was tough all day. He didn’t have a whole lot of misses high and inside with his fastball. I took the best route that I thought would keep the inning going. I’m not saying I’m right about that, but that was the decision I made.”

After a pair of exhilarating wins to start the series, and Brandon Crawford’s come-from-behind, walk-off homer on Tuesday, the Giants ended up with a split with the Diamondbacks. Despite winning five straight, the Giants are back to square one. With 44 games remaining, they’re 59-59 and trailing the Padres by six games in the wild card chase. Needless to say, they can’t afford many more afternoons like this one.

Logan Webb started for the hosts and ran into difficulties in the third inning. The Giants’ ace wouldn’t survive the fifth after allowing nine hits and three walks along with having to account for Joc Pederson’s fielding error in the fifth. Pederson’s gaffe helped the Diamondbacks score twice, increasing their lead to 5-0.

The Giants open a three-city trip in Denver on Friday, facing the Rockies and starter Jose Urena, who’s won just once in eight starts since being acquired from Milwaukee. Alex Wood will start for the Giants.

San Francisco Giants podast with Marko Ukaloic: Giants need to shore up defense and bullpen needs to shut it down in second half

Brandon Belt San Francisco Giants first baseman is expected to help lead the way for the second half of the season (mercurynews.com file photo)

On the Giaints podcast with Marko:

#1 Going into the second half of the season how important is accomplished players like Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.

#2 Also taking a look at the second half with infielders Marco Luciano and Thairo Estrada they’ve been a big help and manager Gabe Kapler can insert them in the line up at anytime.

#3 Evan Longoria has entertained the possibility of retiring at the end of this season playing away from his family who live in Arizona could this be his last season?

#4 Carlos Rodon who starts tonight for the Giants at Dodgers Stadium after resting in LA during the All Star Game had a great first half and is looking forward to the second half.

#5 Marko for the second half the Giants have some talent in their bullpen but can they keep it together in the middle and late innings with pitchers like Dom Leone, John Brebbia, Jarlin Garcia, Tyler Rogers, Camilo Doval and Trevor Rosenthal.

Marko filled in for Daniel Dullum for the Giants podcast at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Craw Delivers: Giants complete comeback on Crawford’s walk-off hit, win 4-3 over the Diamondbacks

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Consecutive wins have the Giants looking like their old selves.

As in the 2021 version with the 107 wins, the record number of homers and late comebacks. It’s not a bad look.

After trailing 3-0, the Giants got a game-tying home run from Wilmer Flores in the eighth, and a game-winning RBI single from Brandon Crawford in the ninth to put the squeeze on the Diamondbacks in a 4-3 win.

The Giants have won four of five to stay within striking distance of the Phillies and Cardinals, the two teams ahead of them in the National League standings and the race for one of the three wild card spots.

“We’re getting back on track and these kinds of games can definitely help you pick up the momentum and carry into the next games, next series and rest of the year,” said Brandon Belt, who homered in the seventh to get the Giants their initial run. “I’ve seen it happen in our World Series years. I saw it last year with Atlanta. You just get momentum and a lot of crazy stuff happens.

“We battled and didn’t give up the entire game,” Belt continued. “To come back in the last inning and to see the whole team clicking a little bit, that’s the kind of baseball we have to play to win ballgames.”

The Giants employed their bullpen from the start in this one with John Brebbia opening, then giving way to Sam Long. But Long labored, allowing five hits and two walks, enough to stake the D’Backs to a 3-0 lead in the third inning. But four more relievers followed Long, allowing just two hits, and halting Arizona’s afternoon on the scoreboard.

Meanwhile, Gabe Kapler turned to his pinch-hitting game in the eighth and it paid off with Flores’ homer to tie it and a Darin Ruf single to chase reliever Joe Mantiply. Yermin Mercedes struck out and Luis Gonzalez grounded into a double play to end the inning, but the four, consecutive pinch-hitters got the game tied, and set up the Giants for their winning rally in the ninth.

Belt singled to leadoff the ninth against Mark Melancon, then Thairo Estrada struck out. Mike Yastrzemski doubled, moving Belt to third. And after David Villar drew a walk to load the bases, Crawford delivered the walk-off single.

The Giants conclude their first half of the season prior to the All-Star break with four home games against the NL Central-leading Brewers with the hope they can move closer to the Phillies, Cardinals, but the Padres and Brewers as well. Speculation that the Giants will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline has begun, but the suspense dissipates without the wins. Right now, the Giants are maintaining that suspense and trying to put a rough month of June behind them. Getting back to their situational game might be the trick, it was just that a season ago.

“Everyone knows how we play and everyone on the bench is always ready,” Flores said. “I was ready since the fourth inning.”

Giants’ All-Star Carlos Rodon gets the start on Thursday night in a matchup against Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes.

San Francisco Giants podcast with Daniel Dullum: Belt’s back in full form; Hits HR on Wed against Royals

The San Francisco Giants Brandon Belt rounds third base and heads home after hitting a bottom of the fourth inning home run at Oracle Park in San Francisco against the Kansas City Royals on Wed Jun 15, 2022 (AP News photo)

On the Giants podcast with Daniel:

#1 One of the key figures in the San Francisco Giants line up is back since Tuesday night Brandon Belt who was a pinch hitter and on Wednesday was a designated hitter. Belt had been on the IL since May 18th.

#2 In the fourth inning on Wednesday Belt worked the an eight pitch count to 3-2 before hitting a rocket in the center field Kansas City Royals bullpen. It looks like Belt hasn’t missed a step.

#3 Fans have a waited over a month for Belt’s return and got their monies worth saluting the team captain as he rounded the bases after hitting the massive home run.

#4 The Giants did lose a tough one 3-2 Wednesday in a close game Giants starting pitcher Sammy Long pitched the first three innings giving up two runs and three hits but didn’t take the loss.

#5 The Giants open a three game series in Pittsburgh Friday night at 4:05 pm PDT. Starting pitchers for the Giants Carlos Rodon (5-4, 3.18) and for the Pirates Zach Thompson (3-4, ERA 4.50).

Join Daniel Dullum each Friday for the SF Giants podcasts at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Giant Strides: SF looks to gain ground in the NL West race with favorable pre-All Star break sked

By Morris Phillips

A week ago the Giants were frustrating themselves and their fans. A week later, things are much brighter. Winning games in bunches, and beating the preferred opponent makes a difference.

Prior to facing the Dodgers and Royals, the Giants had lost 21 of 38, a step back for a club that got off to a roaring start to their 2022 season (13-5 through the first 18 games). Injuries to starters Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and position players Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt and Lamonte Wade Jr. were a major part of a team didn’t measure up to other playoff worthy teams, and/or saw its offense disappear one too many times/or saw the bullpen blow a couple of leads.

Plus, when your coming off a 107-win season and the retirement of Buster Posey, the biggest name in local baseball over the last 15 years, the microscope gets a longer look. But overall, the Giants have held up without looking good throughout. Now with the team’s health improving and the schedule easing considerably, the Giants can–hopefully–look more like themselves.

The biggest thing that needs to change? And road baseball could enhance the chances of it happening? The Giants need more base hits, doubles and triples, anything that improves a .239 team batting average that’s a culprit when the team has scoring droughts.

The pitching’s been good not great with an ERA of 3.92, just ahead of the league average. But the numbers have swelled in recent weeks, suggesting a tweak or additional arm could lower that number. Even more encouraging, the Giants continue to be rough on opposing home run hitters, by allowing a MLB-least 48 homers thus far.

Power hitting could set the Giants apart as the season progresses, with health being the biggest factor. Of the guys who’ve missed time, Brandon Belt has returned to the lineup and hit his fifth home run of the season on Wednesday. Evan Longoria’s return has reached 28 games, but he hasn’t hit a home run outside of a five-homer-in-six-games stretch in late May. Longoria’s gotten fewer at-bats within games as well in June, that could continue when Lamonte Wade Jr. returns.

Darin Ruf, Brandon Crawford, Austin Slater, Belt and Longoria are all hitting below the .239 mark, and are the biggest candidates to pick up their offense. Wade enters this mix as well when he returns in the coming weeks. So far, Wade’s appeared in only ten games.

Twelve of the 28 games remaining before the All-Star break are against the Braves, Brewers and Padres and critical to playoff momentum and seeding. Starting this postseason, the top wild card holds home-field advantage in a short, opening round series. The other 16 games are against teams the Giants internally will be happy to see with the first six of 19 games against Arizona topping the list. The Giants also see the currently under .500 quartet: Reds, Pirates, Tigers and White Sox.

The schedule’s balanced: 15 of the 28 games remaining are at home, 13 on the road, but the Giants have winning records home and away.

The Giants have announced Carlos Rodon as their Friday night starter against the Pirates, who will be pressed to field a formidable lineup against him. The Pirates ranked 6th worst in strikeouts (562 through 62 games) and have a paltry .220 team batting average. Rodon just went more than a month without a victory before he shut down the Dodgers for six innings in his last start.

Bumgarner-like Relief: Kansas City bullpen shuts down the Giants in 3-2 win to avoid a sweep

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–In 2014, Madison Bumgarner threw five innings of scoreless relief to propel the Giants to a victory in Kansas City in Game 7 of the World Series. You may have heard about it.

On Wednesday, the Royals provided their answer–on a much, smaller stage–with five innings of scoreless relief from four relievers to lead Kansas City past the Giants, 3-2. The win snapped the Giants five-game win streak, and sends the host club on the road to Pittsburgh in hopes of continuing their improved play.

“One of the things we know leads to big things for us (is) a couple of walks, a double, a base hit, and all of a sudden we’ve scored three runs in an inning,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think that’s been one of our calling cards over the course of the last few years. It’s not always going to be in the cards.”

With the Giants attempting to go 10 games over .500 for the first time in 2022–and the struggling Royals trying to avoid a 13th loss in their last 17 games–things appeared to be going to form as early as the fourth inning when Brandon Belt homered, and Curt Casali added a run-scoring sacrifice fly to tie the game at two. That brought the game to a stage where four relievers for the Royals, and five for the Giants would attempt to avoid a decisive mistake in a game that saw just one more run scored.

Royals manager Mike Matheny liked his chances after the fifth when Amir Garrett successfully relieved starter Jonathan Heasley, who was taxed, throwing 92 pitches in just the first four innings.

“Amir coming in and kind of forcing their hand in those situations, what are they going to do,” Matheny said. “The (Giants have) shown early that they’re going to go to their bench. We need him to come in and throw strikes, pound the zone, get his lefties out. He ended up getting us through that inning.”

Taylor Clarke followed, getting four outs and avoiding trouble by stranding a pair of Giants. Then Jose Cuas came on in the seventh and got three outs that would eventually translate to his first major league win after toiling in the minor leagues for six seasons. Neither Clarke or Cuas were likely to shut down a hot club given their track records, but they got it done. For Cuas, the experience was unforgettable.

“It’s more than I’ve ever dreamed of,” Cuas said. “I can’t really tell you I’ve dreamed of this moment because I didn’t get this far in my dream. It’s amazing. I’m soaking every second of it I can and every day for me is just a dream come true.”

The reward for Cuas: a dousing of ketchup, shaving cream and other substances in the visiting clubhouse by teammates enthused by the rookie’s first mark in the big leagues. Cuas didn’t mention that aspect in recounting his dream.

Cuas’ outing turned victorious in the eighth when the Royals broke through against John Brebbia with a run-scoring, sacrifice fly from Whit Merrifield. The go-ahead run was set up by Andrew Benintendi’s pinch-hit double to start the inning.

For the Giants, the good news was limited to Belt’s return after missing 30 games with injury and a bout with COVID. The bad news started with Brandon Crawford’s first inning fielding error that opened the door for two Royals’ runs to start the game. Crawford was playing in his 1,500 game with the Giants.

“We depend on Craw for his ability on defense and expect it every time out,” Kapler said of the botched play. “I think that ball just kind of jumped up on him a little bit. It’s part of the game. it happens.”

After a 6-3 home stand the Giants travel to Pittsburgh where they will see Pirates’ starter Zach Thompson on Friday night. The Giants have not announced a starter for that game as of yet.

That’s Amaury’s News and Commentary podcast: White Sox surprised Yanks Donaldson got just a one day suspension; Cardinals Molina out for bereavement after pitching Sunday

New York Yankees Josh Donaldson (left) and manager Aaron Boone (right) talk during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guarantee Rate Field in Chicago on Sun May 22, 2022 (AP News)

On That’s Amaury News and Commentary podcast:

#1 MLB suspended New York Yankees Josh Donaldson one game for making a Jackie Robinson reference to Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson on Saturday. Donaldson after the game in New York made the Jackie Robinson reference and said he meant no disrespect but White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz was surprised that he only got one day.

#2 The Jackie Robinson reference was an undertone a dog whistle to Anderson who is black and Donaldson is white player. Donaldson said that he was joking around in the past with Anderson about the Robinson reference when Anderson said he feels like today’s Jackie Robinson.

#3 Amaury, Sunday the St Louis Cardinals pitcher Yadier Molina who pitched in relief giving up two home runs and four runs after the Cardinals swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in four games at PNC Park. The Cardinals have placed Molina on the bereavement list the reason for the bereavement was not disclosed.

#4 The San Francisco Giants are coming off losing a three game sweep against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park. The Giants also lost first baseman Brandon Belt to the 10 day IL for an inflamed right knee. Giants manager Gabe Kapler said the team is still in good shape.

#5 The Oakland A’s have lost seven of their last ten games and have lost two of three to the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend including Sunday’s 4-1 loss. A’s pitcher Cole Irvin lost the contest and the A’s are not getting any run support.

Amaury Pi Gonzalez is the lead Spanish play by play announcer for the Oakland A’s on flagship station Le Grande KIQI 1010 San Francisco and does News and Commentary at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cold Snap: Giants shut down, lose 1-0 ending 5-game win streak

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Just six pitches in, Chad Pinder put the Giants’ win streak on notice.

Pinder’s line drive, first inning home run off Sam Long not only made a statement, it soon became the statement. The A’s and starter Paul Blackburn made it stand up in the A’s 1-0 win that gained them a split of the two-game series.

The Giants failed to score, but they also missed an opportunity to gain first place in the NL West and take full advantage of a rare, second consecutive loss by the Dodgers. Instead the Giants’ limped through a meager evening of just three hits, along with seeing offensive leader Joc Pederson suffer a troubling groin injury.

Already without Mike Yastrzemski, Steven Duggar and Lamonte Wade Jr., Pederson’s potential absence thins their outfield considerably. But if that’s what a team off to a flying start must experience, then so be it.

“I don’t really want to miss any games, but those games are always more fun,” Pederson said. “I think I have to look at the bigger picture. You see our team and it’s a playoff-caliber, World Series-caliber team. So the game matters now but you don’t want to put yourself risk of an injury that might cause you not to be able to play down the road.”

Jakob Junis, the length man in support of opener Long, kept the Giants within range by pitching five, scoreless innings while allowing four hits and striking out six. Jake McGee, Tyler Rogers and Camillo Doval followed with scoreless innings to boost the hosts hopes for a tying run at some point. But that run never materialized.

Paul Blackburn picked up the win by limiting the Giants to three hits over his five innings of work. Blackburn induced Brandon Belt’s double play, ground ball with the bases loaded that ended the third inning.

The Giants’ other threat came in the fifth when Luis Gonzalez leadoff with a double. But the outfielder was left stranded as Thairo Estrada, Jason Vosler and Curt Casali recorded outs.

West Coast Chess: Brainy managers, twins highlight Padres 4-2 win over the Giants

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–A match-up of high-minded managers that won’t give an inch while trying to swipe a couple of runs isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but deploying competing, identical twins on a freezing cold night sure provides a unique edge.

That was the scene at Oracle Park on Monday as the Bob Melvin-led Padres pushed their way past the Giants and newly-minted Manager of the Year, Gabe Kapler, winning 4-2.

The NL West hopefuls, both trying to top each other while keeping the division favorite Dodgers within their sights, engaged in station-to-station baseball while searching for a breakthrough with San Diego’s Austin Nola the only slugger able to cut through the cold air with his solo blast in the fifth that gave the Padres a brief 2-1 lead.

The rest was a chess match, orchestrated by Melvin and Kapler and executed by the competing twins, Taylor and Tyler Rogers. In the seventh, Tyler allowed a tie-breaking run on two hits, and Taylor–recently acquired in a trade with the Twins–pitched a scoreless ninth and saved it for the visitors.

“We’re both trying to throw a lot of strikes,” Tyler said. “We both do throw a lot of strikes. We pitch different–I pitch different than everybody–but, really, if you look at it, we’re very similar pitchers.”

The twins were only fifth set to compete in a major league game and the first since Ozzie and Jose Canseco did it in 1990. The upcoming two games of the series won’t feature both as Tyler departed after the game to be with his wife, Jennifer, who is due to give birth in the coming days.

But the occasion was clearly energizing for both, and they’ll 16 more opportunities to compete this season after the trade brought them closer together.

“Normally we leave for the season and I don’t see him again for eight months,” Tyler said. “So I’m looking forward to seeing him throughout the year. Dinners are on him.”

More so than Tyler Rogers’ rough inning, the Giants saw their evening unravel with an 0 for 11 performance with runners in scoring position which wasted eight base hits, four walks and two doubles. San Diego’s Nick Martinez, making his first big league start since 2017, was the first to survive all the Giants’ traffic on the basepaths by pitching five innings while striking out six, walking one and scattering five of those Giants’ hits.

Alex Wood lasted just 4 1/3 innings in his first start, departing after he allowed Nola’s homer that put the Giants in a 2-1 hole.

The Padres and Giants pick it up again on Tuesday with Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb getting the starting pitching assignments.