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.

Mets Wallop Giants: Losing skid grows to five games in 13-3 loss

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Gabe Kapler chose to remain positive in the face of the Giants’ four-game losing skid and mounting personnel issues.

But then the Giants did little to change the narrative Monday night, falling to the visiting Mets 13-3.

What’s clear? The Giants are further off their desired A game than anyone indicated, and given their difficult schedule a quick turnaround might not be possible. Their immediate goal may not be desirable, but avoiding an 0-6 homestand is foremost right now. That, and staying positive.

Starter Alex Cobb kept it positive, which wasn’t easy after he got burned for six runs and ten hits, some of which were downright frustrating in that they came on softly hit balls that could have easily been outs. Still Cobb departed after six innings trailing 6-2.

“All we really have to focus on is executing pitches, and then the results happen,” Cobb said. “I felt like I was executing some pitches tonight, and the results weren’t quite there.”

Cobb couldn’t quibble over Pete Alonso’s two-out, three-run homer in the third that put the Mets in the driver’s seat up 5-2. But other than that his pitches were fairly effective.

The Giants did strike first when Brandon Crawford homered in the second with Evan Longoria aboard. But they wouldn’t score again until the ninth on Tommy La Stella’s RBI single. In between those two occasions, the Giants went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position spoiling any push for a comeback.

The Giants have been outscored 33-12 in their last four games illustrating how little has gone right. But a deeper disappointment maybe their overall performance against winning clubs. The team has dropped 14 of 21 to teams with winning records.

“There are some challenges right now. We’re not making as many plays as we can,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

On Tuesday, former Athletic Chris Bassitt pitches for the Mets in a match-up with San Francisco ace Logan Webb, seeking his sixth win of the season.

Rockies Roughed Up… Again: Giants complete sweep with 7-1 win over Colorado

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–For the Giants, beating the Colorado Rockies isn’t routine, but there is a routine to it.

A tenth consecutive win over their division rivals featured ten hits for the Giants, extending an incredible streak to–you can’t make this up–ten games of ten hits or more. Not only did the Giants sweep the three-game set, winning 7-1 on Wednesday afternoon, they slugged their way throughout leaving themselves elated and the visitors dejected.

“When we’re together and we’re near healthy, and with new contributions, we’re a deep offensive club,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

“We all knew this is us, but it’s nice to have confirmation that this is the way we should be playing,” said starting pitcher Alex Cobb, who pitched into the sixth inning and allowed just three hits.

The win allowed the hosts to complete the rarity of five, consecutive losses followed by five, straight victories. The streak coincides with the returns of Brandon Belt, LaMonte Wade Jr., and on Wednesday, the season debut of Evan Longoria. The streak also timed up with the appearance of the Rockies, who are having a rough time achieving anything positive these days. Colorado won just one time on their completed road swing to Phoenix and San Francisco, scoring 13 runs total and failing to hit a home run.

“We got outpitched, we got outhit,” manager Bud Black said. “We’ve got to clean up a couple of things defensively.

“But we’ll bounce back, we’ve got a good group. The guys are frustrated, but you know, it’s part of the long season.”

The Giants took advantage of pitcher Chad Kuhl the second time through the batting order with three runs in the fourth, and two more in the fifth. Joey Bart abandoned his struggles with the bat, contributing an RBI single in the fourth. And a suddenly quiet Brandon Crawford hit loudly in the fifth with a two-run shot.

Kuhl hurt himself by issuing a walk to Mike Yastrzemski, then throwing the ball away on a pick off attempt. Crawford’s run-scoring, ground ball out followed. After Bart knocked in Thairo Estrada, Belt capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly plating Crawford.

Longoria’s debut wasn’t pretty, he struck out three times and went hitless in five at-bats. But Rockies’ third baseman Ryan McMahon inadvertently included Longoria in the parade, by booting his ground ball in the eighth, which keyed a two-run rally that put the Giants comfortably ahead.

A day off for travel precedes the Giants’ series opener in St. Louis on Friday night. Logan Webb gets the start in a match-up with the Cardinal’s Steven Matz.

Hitting Woes Persist: Cardinals shutdown Giants 7-1 in series opener

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Since Gabe Kapler assumed the manager’s position, the Giants haven’t lost five, consecutive games.

That streak is jeopardy.

After a third straight game of scoring just one run, and losing 7-1, the Giants have lost four in a row, and six of seven. Their absence-laden lineup hasn’t cut it, forcing the pitching staff into a do-or-die situation in regards to surrendering one or two runs. Right now, the doomsdayers are circling, leaving the team to beg for patience.

“We hit some balls hard right at people,” Mike Yastrzemski said. “We’ve had some unlucky breaks, and we’re still in a mode where we’re waiting for some people to get back. It’s too early for there to be anything to worry about.”

The visiting Cardinals scored one in the third inning–on Yadier Molina’s home run–two in the fifth, and for in the seventh.

Miles Mikolas, a 33-year old starter with an unusual career arc, pitched into the sixth inning to gain the win. Mikolas has been a major leaguer since 2012 but he’s thrown more than 931 pitches in just two of those 11 seasons, winning 18 games in 2018, only to lose 14 games in 2019. Mikolas didn’t pitch at the big league level at all in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2020. Since signing a four-year, $68 million dollar deal prior to 2019, he’s won just 11 games, but one of those 11 came Thursday.

Mikolas scattered seven hits and three walks across his 6 1/3 innings, which energized the Giants’ crowd at points only to see them leave 10 runners stranded over the length of the ballgame.

“We’re getting guys on, now we’ve got to find a way to get ’em in,” Brandon Crawford said.

The Giants rolled out nine arms to handle a ballgame in the absence of a traditional starter but saw Jose Alvarez and Jake McGee struggle as the pair allowed five of St. Louis’ seven runs. The Giants bullpen remains a bright spot in the early season with a gaggle of low ERA’s and quality relief efforts, but that doesn’t include McGee, who has allowed eight runs in 8 1/3 innings work.

Molina is in his 19th and presumed, final season and he’s still injecting the occasional, long ball. The iconic catcher has hit 20 home runs just twice in his career, but his 171 homers show he’s capable.

“I feel back to normal,” Molina said. “I started seeing the ball pretty good, I started making better at-bats. That’s what I can do. Hopefully I can keep doing what I’m doing right now, just having great at-bats and the results will come.”

The Giants turn to Alex Cobb in game two on Friday night. Jordan Hicks gets the start for the Cardinals.

Dodgers Swat the Giants: 9-1 win part of LA’s emphatic early-season statement

By Morris Phillips

The Giants were in a competitive ballgame Wednesday night, and then they were not. Simple as that.

In consecutive innings the Dodgers got a Mookie Betts home run, a two-run triple from Freddie Freeman, and another homer from Max Muncy and the Giants were trounced 9-1 at Dodger Stadium. In the brief, two-game set, the Giants scored just two runs, a continuation of their rough times that started on their previous, home stand.

Alex Wood breezed through the Dodgers lineup the first time through, but by the end of his stint in the sixth inning, his former club figured him out, scoring three times on four hits to lead 3-1.

Freeman’s breathless run around the bases was the centerpiece to Los Angeles’ four-run seventh that turned the game into a rout. Muncy’s home run with Will Smith aboard capped the Dodgers’ outburst in the eighth.

“I think collectively it was the best game we’ve played,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Just a well-played offensive game.”

The Giants have dropped five of six, and are finally showing the stress of all their personnel issues, although they did see Mike Yastrzemski return to the lineup on Wednesday. Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella and Lamonte Wade Jr. are all expected to return within the next seven days.

“When we get leadoff runners on consistently, we’re going to score runs,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Obviously didn’t happen in this game. They beat us throughout the night.”

The Giants return home for Thursday’s opener against the Cardinals, a four-game set that will take them through the weekend.

Giants Are Good, But What About Their Competitors?

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–When your ballclub’s won 111 of their last 168 regular season contests, you don’t lose sleep at night. But just how comfortably do you sleep?

Starting with the hated, rival Dodgers, the Giants clearly have company at the top. The Padres are in the mix as well making the NL West arguably the toughest division in baseball. Both teams dipped into their wallets to beef up their lineups with San Diego adding slugger Luke Voit, and the Dodgers acquiring Freddie Freeman.

The Giants prioritize bringing back their division-winning lineup from 2021, and they did so with the exception of letting Kevin Gausman walk in free agency and seeing iconic catcher Buster Posey abruptly retire.

The result? The Giants aren’t widely considered to be the club to repeat atop the NL West putting them squarely in the position to prove themselves once again.

Internally, the Giants aren’t necessarily at odds with how prognosticators see them. President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi would likely admit his 2021 club arrived a year or two ahead of schedule. In keeping with that mentality, the off-season was not as eventful as eager fans would have preferred. The team’s big acquisition was both below the radar and measured. White Sox starter Carlos Rodon was given a two-year deal likely as safety measure acknowledging the hurler’s recent injury history.

Instead of splashy, the Giants appear content to roll out their youthful talents like LaMonte Wade Jr., Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos. From a pitching perspective, the Giants are prepared to weather growing pains from closer Camilo Doval in an attempt to see what top-end talents they can unearth from within. It’s a wise approach, and one Zaidi and his staff have doubled down on after their early successes.

Consequently, 107 more wins isn’t the goal, but consistent play in part featuring the younger Giants led by starter Logan Webb is. That won’t scare the Dodgers, Padres, Mets or the World Champion Braves. But the Giants hope it’s enough to command their attention.

If the Giants perform, the trade deadline could be interesting. They have the wherewithal to make additions to boost their program in August and September.

Longo Takes Scherzer Out And It Stands Up!: Giants take Game 3 of epic, LA-SF showdown

San Francisco Giant hitter Evan Longoria swings for the game’s only run in the top of the fifth inning for the Giants second win of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles on Mon Oct 11, 2021 (AP New photo)

By Morris Phillips

On an unusually windy night in Los Angeles, pitching ruled the evening in Game 3 of the NLDS. Heaters, thrown by numerous pitchers, darted, dashed and overwhelmed hitters, especially up in the strike zone. Those that were hit all came to rest near the warning track in a subdued Dodger Stadium.

Only one man on either team stood up: Evan Longoria.

“I didn’t want to get beat by another fastball,” Longoria said of his fifth inning confrontation with the incomparable Max Scherzer.

He didn’t. Scherzer threw an 0-2 fastball that grabbed too much of the plate, and Longoria launched it… 407 feet into the left field bleachers. Incredibly, that one run stood up in a 1-0 Giants’ win that has them one victory from taking the series with Game 4 in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and a potential, winner-take-all Game 5 in San Francisco on Thursday. There were 20 strikeouts in the game (14 suffered by San Francisco hitters), only one extra-base hit (Longoria’s) and after the Giants’ third baseman gave the Giants the lead, they never saw the base paths again: the last 15 Giants’ hitters were retired, most without a fuss.

So what had to happen for the NL West champions, did. Giants’ pitchers–starter Alex Wood and relievers Tyler Rogers, Jake McGee and 24-year old Camilo Doval–ruled the evening, shutting down the Dodgers for nine innings, despite some base traffic, and quite a few anxious moments.

Scherzer, who was previously foiled by the Giants in the 2012 World Series, was great again. The surefire Hall of Famer went seven, striking out ten, and walking one, but he couldn’t corral Longoria in the fifth. That one pitch unraveled his whole evening.

“He’s just a professional hitter who has done it very successfully for a very long time,” manager Gabe Kapler said of Longoria.

In the manner that Kapler has employed all season, his team switched roles and convention on the fly. Closer McGee, who had 31 saves this season, but was only pitching for the second time in a month on Monday due to an oblique injury, came on in the seventh in a big spot. With two runners on, McGee struck out Austin Barnes on three pitches, and got Mookie Betts to line out to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who climbed an imaginary wire to make the catch.

Doval, the closer of the moment, then came on to shut the door in the eight and ninth, needing just 22 pitches to retire the side in each inning, and give the Giants the win.

Bucking convention? Sure, but it all made sense, really. McGee was the NL Reliever of the Month in July, and Doval–sensational in 14 1/3 scoreless innings with 20 strikeouts–was the NL Reliever of the Month in September. In a bullpen filled with high-leverage arms, Kapler sensed the shift, and followed his instinct. In both Giants’ wins in the series, Doval was the one to close it, despite only having 29 appearances–all this season–in his career.

Wood, the former Dodger who still participates in fantasy football leagues with his ex-teammates, wasn’t looking around for familiar faces on Monday. He too was fantastic, working through situations and lengthy innings that drove his pitch count up. He pitched into the fifth inning, allowing just two base hits and no walks.

Fly balls populated the outfield throughout as everyone in the park, and watching at home, learned to train their eyes on the sold-out bleachers, and watch the reaction of the fans seated there. Every time, with the exception of Longo’s blast, there was no reaction. The fans in the outfield–and their inactivity–told the story. The final blow from Gavin Lux off Doval may have been the most threating, but it too found a home… in center fielder Steven Duggar’s glove.

“I think any other night, the (Chris Taylor) ball and the Gavin Lux ball would have been home runs,” Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts said.

Home Run Outcome: Dodgers hit one more than the Giants in 3-2 win

By Morris Phillips

For a team with 50 wins under its belt at the season’s halfway point, the Giants are clearly acting like they still have something to prove.

And they came that close to proving it at Dodgers Stadium on Monday… as close as a hand safely avoiding a swipe tag at second base.

Unfortunately, Mike Tauchman’s decision to stretch his single into a double opening the ninth inning failed, according to replay officials in New York who reviewed the call of out on the field. Had Tauchman been ruled safe, the Giants would have been set up with a runner in scoring position with three, capable hitters on deck with no outs.

Instead, they were reminded of a slow start, and an unforgettable 0 for 13 night hitting with runners in scoring position.

“I felt like I kept the team in the game and we were in it until the last inning,” said Anthony DeSclafani, summarizing the Giants’ evening of trying to overcome an early 2-0 deficit, but unable to come up with a big hit at any juncture. “We had a lot of runners on base. We just weren’t able to cash in on those.”

DeSclafani allowed home runs to Mookie Betts and Max Muncy, the first two batters he faced, and the Giants were in an early hole, down 2-0. But they answered with solo shots of their own from LaMonte Wade Jr. and Brandon Crawford, only to have DeSclafani give up a third shot to Will Smith in the fourth that ultimately became the deciding run.

Allowing three home runs had to be frustrating for the Giants. Only Alex Wood–also against the Dodgers–had allowed three in a game this season, and the statistic is one of a list that have catapulted the Giants to the top the standings. Coming into Monday, the team had allowed just 79 in 77 games, well below the league average for allowing home runs, and a nice counterpoint to the club’s MLB leading 116 homers hit.

The Dodgers managed just five hits, and the two that didn’t leave the yard didn’t amount to much. They also struck out 10 times against DeSclafani and three relievers, but it was enough. Meanwhile, the Giants piled up the hits and walks (11 hits, two walks) but it didn’t get them anywhere. They stranded all their baserunners when one breakthrough would have made the difference.

“Our guys just made pitches when they needed to,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

The win was the Dodgers’ fourth straight following the no-hitter they suffered at the hands of the Cubs last week. They’re within 2 1/2 games of the Giants atop the NL West, but there’s plenty of baseball left. The two teams currently sporting the best records in baseball will meet 11 more times, including Tuesday night, and the stakes will be high. But with half a season remaining, both clubs know they have to pace themselves.

“We did a good job of not adding any extra pressure” Betts said. “We haven’t got hot yet, but we’ve done a good job of staying steady.”

The Giants offer All-Star starting pitcher candidate Kevin Gausman on Tuesday in a star-studded pairing with the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler at 7:00pm on ESPN.

Craw By Law: Giants, Crawford keep the D’Backs reeling in 5-2 win

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The Diamondbacks came to Oracle Park on Monday as a collective bundle of energy, singularly focused on ending a pair of once in a baseball life losing streaks: a 10-game slide approaching two weeks in length, and a 19-game slide on the road that dates back to April 25. Earlier on, they ran the bases and defended with the purpose needed to end their misery.

But the Giants had simpler motivation: stay in first place by taking advantage of a struggling opponent.

As the hits piled up–and Brandon Crawford delivered a big homer–the Giants’ desires won out.

Crawford homered in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie, and the Giants raced to a 5-2 win, their National League-best 19th win after a loss this season. The team’s leader in home runs and experience was almost a late scratch due to needing a day after a lengthy cross-country flight and no day off. But Crawford answered the bell, hitting fourth, and delivered.

“(Brandon) and I talked a little bit about the potential of a day off when we got back from this trip,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Maybe today, but then we agreed that perhaps we would try to push him for the next couple of games. He felt great about that, I felt good about it and his presence in the lineup was certainly needed tonight.”

“Without Brandon Crawford we aren’t where we are right now,” catcher Curt Casali said in part referencing a struggling lineup for the home team that had a number of guys scuffling after a weekend in Washington D.C. where the Giants were shutout twice and scored just three runs in four games.

Alex Wood pitched six innings, long enough to be the beneficiary of Crawford’s timely blast, and well worth it as the former Dodger won for the first time since May 16 in his fifth try at picking up a sixth win on the season. Wood had some shaky moments, but settled in, retiring seven of the final eight hitters he faced.

The D’Backs made some plays early, and almost were awarded a 2-1 lead, but a replay showing that a ball originally ruled a past ball actually hit Nick Ahmed’s trail foot in the batter’s box. That gave Ahmed first base, but denied Carson Kelly a free pass from third base to score. Tim Locastro, the next hitter, grounded out to third base to end the inning.

In the seventh, with Arizona trailing 3-2, Ketel Marte had an opportunity to knock in a run or two with a pair of baserunners aboard, but the D’Backs’ leading hitter popped out to shortstop while facing Giants’ reliever Dominic Leone.

But as the game wore on the D’Backs reverted to form, now approaching a major league record for consecutive road losses held by the ’63 New York Mets at 22.

“We’re in a grind right now,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “I don’t know where it’s at, what’s been happening or the reasons, but we’re working hard to figure that out.”

The Giants maintained their one-game lead on the Dodgers, who won at home against the Phillies on Monday night. But instead of focusing on the monster in their rear view, the Giants seem locked in on keeping Arizona reeling.

On Monday night, that objective was mission accomplished.

Neither the Giants or D’Backs have announced a starter for Tuesday night’s 6:45pm scheduled start.

Hard-hitting Giants get the jump on the Cubs in 7-2 win

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Half full COVID restricted ballparks translate to fully-audible bat swing contact, and that couldn’t haven’t been more apparent at Oracle Park on Thursday night.

With balls being whipped around the park from the game’s initial pitch, fans were treated to an audible fireworks show from both teams. Joc Pedersen started it with a rocket that was caught spectacularly by Steven Duggar at the wall on the game’s first pitch. Kris Bryant got his lick in with a ringing double as the game’s second batter, and Pedersen doubled down with a 427-foot splash hit that had kayaks in the cove scrambling in the third.

But the night’s loudest smack belonged to the Giants’ Brandon Crawford swinging on a 3-0 pitch in the fifth that became a decisive three-run homer that propelled the Giants to a 7-2 win in the opener of a four-game series.

“We had the go-ahead run at second base against a hard-throwing lefty,” Crawford said. “It was three sliders in a row and then a fastball over the plate.”

“He knew he was going to get a fastball from Brothers and he was ready for it,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “The ball wasn’t carrying tonight and that ball was hit very well.”

In the absence of Evan Longoria, Mike Yastrzemski, Darin Ruf and Brandon Belt–all dealing with injuries–Crawford’s contribution was essential to getting past the Cubs, winners of 15 of 19 coming in, and far healthier than the host Giants. With the game tied 2-2 the Giants were getting their first look at the Chicago bullpen after starter Zach Davies departed with an elevated pitch count, and allowing the first three hitters in the inning to reach.

Reliever Rex Brothers fell behind Crawford 3-0, and wasn’t afforded a get-across pitch as the host’s leading home run hitter was granted the green light. Brothers’ first fastball provided the speed, and Crawford the heft, on the biggest pitch of the night.

The home run capped Crawford’s big night which started with an RBI single in the second and a bare-handed catch-and-throw in the third to retire Kris Bryant in the third.

The Giants have won five of six and improved to an NL-best 35-21 on the season.

Anthony DeSclafani may have allowed some loud contact early, but he was the winner in the end, pitching six innings, allowing four hits and two runs. DeSclafani also aided his cause with his first hit of the season, an RBI double that tied the game in the fourth. Ironically, the pitcher had gone 40 official at-bats without a hit and suffered a feeble strike out with the bases loaded to end the second inning.

The Giants get a second shot at the Cubs on Friday with familiar face Jake Arrieta pitching for Chicago and the Giants’ pitcher unannounced.