Engaged Giants sweep short series against the suddenly, tumbling Rockies


San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik makes an off-balance throw trying to throw out Colorado Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon at first base during the fifth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in San Francisco. Blackmon was safe at first base on the play (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The Giants didn’t crawl any closer to 100 losses. Folks sitting in the right field arcade got to chase after a home run ball hit by the good guys. And Matt Moore didn’t surrender any extra-base hits.

For the thought-to-be forlorn Giants, today was a good day.

For the struggling Rockies, not so much.

“It’s easy to get in that shut down mode this time of the year when you’re out of it,” manager Bruce Bochy said after his Giants swept the Rockies with a 4-0 shutout. “I think if you look at these two games, that has not happened. These guys have stepped up and hit the field meaning business.”

Meaning business is a term used on a sliding scale for the 30th-out-of-30 Giants.  Still a 4-4 home stand against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies says the team’s engaged, and the individual players want a role in Giants baseball going forward.

In Moore’s case, Wednesday’s game was a definitive statement. Notified that the club would be picking up his 2018 option earlier this week, this was no time for the pitcher to go out and pick up his National League-worst 15th loss.

Instead, Moore was fantastic, throwing six shutout innings, allowing six singles while walking two, and striking out six. Not only was the outing Moore’s best of the year, it was his best in the face of his 0-2, 13.50 ERA against the Rockies, and his 5.39 ERA overall.

In other words, wholely satisfying as has his overall body of work been disappointing. Think the Giants embracing the embattled pitcher with that contract extension played a role in Wednesday’s about face? Here’s what Moore said:

“For Bobby and the front office to show that kind of confidence before they had to, without a doubt, it’s probably the best thing that’s happened all year.”

Offensively, the Giants weren’t the knockout that Moore was, but what they did–for the second straight day–totaled four runs, and four is the magic number.

In games the Giants score three runs or less, they’re a barely-alive 13-72. When they score four or more, they’re a totally-engaged 47-21.

Joe Panik led the way with three hits, including a first-inning triple that resulted in the Giants’ first run. He would later add a double and a single, but didn’t get a fifth at-bat and an opportunity to hit for the cycle.

Brandon Crawford homered in the third, a first pitch liner down the right field line off losing pitcher Tyler Chatwood.

Hunter Pence walked and later scored in the seventh, as three Rockies’ relievers failed to close the door after Chatwood departed. Pence finished 0 for 3, but like Panik saw a nice jump in his offensive numbers over the eight-game homestand.

The Rockies captured 10 of the first 11 games between the two clubs this season, but the Giants struck back with wins in six of the final eight contests. The Rockies’ season-to-date mirrors the 2016 Giants with the fast starts and an agonizingly poor finish. The Rockies started 47-26, but they’re 35-44 since, and their lead over the Brewers for the second, wild card spot is down to one game after both teams lost Wednesday. The similarities between the two seasons weren’t lost on Chatwood.

“I think we came in here and beat them two out of three at the very end of last year when they were in the wild card, so I think that’s what you kind of play for is to interrupt somebody’s run for the playoffs,” Chatwood said.



2018 Giants must figure out how to gain ground in the competitive NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks’ J.D. Martinez (28) is greeted at the plate by Daniel Descalso, left and Paul Goldschmidt after hitting a two-run home run against the San Francisco Giants during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The Giants are rumored to want to bring back a majority of their 25-man roster, a retooling project as opposed to a rebuilding effort to shape their 2018 squad.

Add a power source, the thinking goes, someone like Giancarlo Stanton, if not Stanton himself, and that big bat in the middle of the order takes the pressure off Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and others, giving the Giants a competent offense, one at least slightly better than the three-runs-or-less trainwreck of 2017.

But the Giants don’t just need to get better, they need to gain traction within the NL West, a division that’s gone to the Dodgers for a record fifth year in a row, and has two other 2017 postseason qualifiers with staying power in the Rockies and Diamondbacks.

So to recap, the team with the worst record in baseball this season, and the last half of the previous season, is supposed to catch its rivals by tweaking it’s roster.

How’s that supposed to work?

Start with pitching, and that’s where the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have set themselves apart, with both staffs ranked among the top three in baseball. The Dodgers and D’Backs have done it in the manner the Giants intended: with pitching that provides two or more dominant starts every time through the five-man rotation, and a bullpen that protects all leads.

The Giants will need to shave a run off their slightly-below MLB average team ERA (4.59) and come up with two more strikeouts every nine innings to get to where Los Angeles and Arizona are. They may attempt to do that with a bullpen and a starting staff that could return intact, that after the team announced Matt Moore’s option will be picked up despite his 14 losses, and ghastly performances versus NL West competition (1-7, Moore’s only win within the division came on April 10).

“I’ve really enjoyed the city and staff we work with every day, the ballpark and the division,” Moore said when asked if he was excited for the opportunity to return.

The Giants’ aim for 2017 was (prior to the 93 losses and counting) to win low scoring games with pitching and defense. Neither aspects were anywhere close to where they needed to be this season, resulting in the team’s proverbial margin for error being too slim.

Once again, how will that work? Don’t be surprised if the Giants answer by saying a healthy Will Smith, Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner minus the dirt bike will suffice.

Offensively, the Giants run counterintuitively to the vast majority of clubs in terms of offensive philosophy with their retention of clutch hitters who don’t necessarily hit the ball out of the park. Thus, the ESPN article a month ago suggesting the club rid itself of nearly its entire everyday lineup in search of hitters with a home run profile.

But the Giants may only tweak here, let’s for now say Stanton or Mike Moustakas (both having career years in home runs) and a plus defender in centerfield in, and Brandon Belt and a reserve outfielder out.

Is that enough bold change to make up the 23 home run gap between the Giants and 29th place Pittsburgh, or the 85 home run difference between the Giants and the Dodgers?

Probably not. For instance, Stanton is likely to finish second or third in the NL MVP race to Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt and/or Colorado’s Nolan Arenado despite hitting 55 home runs to date. Were Stanton to do something similar for the Giants in 2018, guess what? His contributions could still leave him behind Goldschmidt and Arenado. No slight to Stanton, that’s just reflective of how good the other two are, and how much promise they retain heading into next season.

Again, it’s hard to see how the Giants close the gap so dramatically in such a short period of time. But don’t be surprised if they try.

Moore of the same: Giants drop series finale as Matt Moore loses for the 14th time

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger follows through on a two-run home run against the San Francisco Giants during the fifth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO– It may have been the most telling at-bat of the Giants’ 22,000 some-odd at-bat, 2017 season. It certainly felt like the most telling at-bat of the season for pitcher Matt Moore.

Laboring near 100 pitches and trying gamely to survive the fifth inning, while allowing only two runs, both in the first–Moore fell behind rookie Clay Bellinger 2-0 with a runner aboard, and no outs. Bellinger, a lefty hitter with power, and a healthy grasp of the scouting report on the Giants’ starter, dug in. Anyone with knowledge of the pertinent situational stats could sense Bellinger’s bells ringing in anticipation of the pitch.

And sure enough, Moore’s fastball missed location, grabbing too much of the zone, up and middle, and Bellinger deposited it in McCovey Cove, on a rope. 

Simply, Bellinger’s in the midst of a rookie campaign for the ages, and couldn’t have hit the ball any harder. Moore’s having the worst season of his career, and couldn’t have had a more visibly pained reaction to the pitch.

Manager Dave Roberts, mindful of Moore’s strong outings against his club in 2016, liked what he saw from his offense leading up to Moore’s 80th pitch of the night, the one Bellinger crushed.

“Tonight, we had a plan. Stayed diligent to the plan. Got the pitch count up, hoping for a mistake,” Roberts said. “It was a big homer.”

Moore would go to face two more batters after Bellinger struck, throwing 91 pitches to record just 13 outs. Throughout, Giants’ television commentator Mike Krukow spoke of Moore’s lack of confidence in locating his pitches, reflected in the fact that only 60 percent found the strike zone on Wednesday.

“Winning cures everything, and we haven’t done a lot of that this year,” Moore said. “Say what you want, I only play every fifth day, so being able to put us in that kind of situation in the fifth inning, it feels like I let us down when we’ve had enough of that.”

Take nothing away from the 28-year old starter who was 17-4 for the Rays in 2013, but only 11-19 in two seasons with the Giants. He battled on Wednesday. But it was a losing battle. Soon the Giants must decide if they’ve seen enough from a guy saddled with a 14th loss of the season and a 5.39 ERA, or if they’re willing to bet $8 million that the contract-friendly lefty can regain his confidence in 2018.

Here’s some of the numbers that GM Bobby Evans must sift through that suggest Moore won’t return.

Eleven of Moore’s 29 starts have come against NL West competition, and he’s 1-6 with four no-decisions. His only win was on April 10 (Arizona) and he’s 0-2 against the Dodgers, allowing 17 earned runs in 21 innings.

Left-handed hitters have terrorized Moore, hitting .373 against him prior to Wednesday. Against the Dodgers, Corey Seager and Bellinger had three of the five hits Moore allowed. In the NL West, lefty sluggers Charlie Blackmon, Jake Lamb, Bellinger and Seager might be the ones most likely to hope Moore returns to the Giants in 2018.

Prior to 2017, lefties hit just .240 against Moore.

Of the 188 hits Moore has allowed in 167 innings of work, 77 have been extra-base hits. All five hits Moore allowed on Wednesday were for extra bases, including Bellinger’s splash job, the 26th home run he’s allowed.

“Growing up, you always see Barry Bonds do it,” Bellinger said of his big hit Wednesday being a splash. “To actually do it is pretty cool.”

Bellinger’s homer increased the Dodgers lead to 4-0 on a night Yu Darvish and a pair of relievers allowed the Giants five singles. Darvish, in his first ever appearance against the Giants, went seven innings, striking out five and walking none.

Since being acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline Darvish had lost three consecutive starts, and had been a confounding presence with his new club as a result. Apparently, only the malleable nature of the Giants’ offense kept Darvish’s turn in the rotation from being skipped.

The Giants endorsed the Dodgers’ decision to start Darvish by getting shutout for eight innings, getting two of their five singles, and their only run, after being down to their last of 27 outs. Spotty defense didn’t help things either, a fly ball inexplicably fell between Hunter Pence and Kelby Tomlinson in the second inning.



Giant’s incremental progress continues with a series-clinching win against the Brewers

San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Moore throws against the Milwaukee Brewers during a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Twenty-five guys headed to work at AT&T Park Wednesday morning in very unique circumstances. Those 25 Giants–had they the courage to look at a newspaper–would have surely noticed that they trailed the NL West-leading Dodgers by 40 games, a first for the rivalry that’s been waged on both coasts for over 125 years, and a first for the Giants in relation to any opponent in the divisional era (since 1969).

And the appropriate response to such a humbling juxtaposition, and the response put forth by the last-place Giants on the diamond on Wednesday afternoon?

Just win. Just win one game.

“For us to come in here and kind of ruin someone’s day in three days, it’s something for us moving forward that we can build on as a club,” winning pitcher Matt Moore said, invoking some extended meaning of the familiar idiom, “misery loves company.”

The 4-2 Giants’ win certainly brought misery to the Brewers, who have steadily been losing ground to the Cubs in the NL Central in recent weeks, even after winning six of seven right before visiting San Francisco and dropping two of three to the Giants.

With runs at a premium in the heavy air and overcast conditions, the Giants found a way to scratch out some runs–with four being the optimal number. The Brewers did not, held in check by Moore, who allowed an RBI double to Travis Shaw in the first inning, but nothing else through six plus innings of work.

Moore was nearly skipped in the rotation two weeks ago, the typical managerial response for a guy who’s carried the highest ERA in the league through a majority of his starts. But Moore lobbied, Bruce Bochy relented, and the pitcher has responded with three starts (two wins) far superior to the previous 14 (1-8, 6.22 ERA).

“I was expecting big results out of myself,” Moore said. “I put the work in for that. It didn’t quite turn out (but) I think I’m better off for it. I learned a lot.”

With Moore dueling Milwaukee starter Matt Garza, the Giants needed Jarrett Parker’s half swing, excuse-me double that scored Gorkys Hernandez and Denard Span in the seventh. That made it 3-1, and the San Francisco bullpen responded from there.

Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon pitched scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth, and Sam Dyson picked up his 12th save despite allowing Stephen Vogt’s pinch-hit home run in the ninth.

In seven games on the home stand, the Giants scored 35 runs, an average of five per game. That’s significant improvement for a club that’s scored fewer than four runs in 68 games (only 11 wins). When the Giants score at least four, they’re nearly Dodger-like, winning 41 of 60.

Also, the club’s shown marked improvement driving in runs in clutch situations, and 2016’s breakout, offensive force, Brandon Crawford has begin to hit at a .300 plus clip.

“It just so happens we had a lot of guys who had injuries or had off years,” Bochy said. “But I don’t want to talk about next year. I want to talk about how we finish up.”

The Giants open a three-game set against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix on Friday. Ty Blach gets the assignment in the opener in a matchup with 14-game winner Zach Greinke.



Cubs clutch again in their return to AT&T Park as defending World Champs

Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez, left, slides past San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey to score on an inside-the-park home run during the second inning of a baseball game, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–It’s been the better part of a year since the Cubs and Giants last met with the stakes at their highest. Neither team is anywhere near where they were in the 2016 NLDS, but the one difference between the two clubs is a big one.

The Cubs have hope for the remainder of this season. The Giants.. not so much.

On Monday, Cubs starter Jake Arrieta wasn’t much better than the scuffling Matt Moore. And the Giants power game wasn’t absent, in fact their four doubles and Ryder Jones’ first-ever, big league home run outpaced the Cubs’ homer and a triple.

But the Cubs made winning plays, and Arrieta got the big outs leading Chicago to a 5-3 win. And a win was all the Cubs needed to increase their narrow lead in the NL Central, and inch further away from just being the most noteworthy team hoovering around the .500 mark.

And where have we seen elements of the clutch Cubs and faltering Giants previously? Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon knew as soon as he arrived on Monday.

“First of all, no time elapsed. What was it, nine months ago?” Maddon said before the game, referring to the Cubs’ miraculous, four-run, ninth inning rally that took them past the Giants, 6-5, in Game 4 of last season’s NLDS. “It’s incredible how, we as humans, time just evaporates. The nine months evaporated. It was like we had just walked in yesterday.”

Maddon went on to say that win was the key to the Cubs erasing their century-long championship drought. The win on Monday might have some greater significance as well. The Cubs got stunned late by the Nationals on Sunday at Wrigley Field, and saw their lead over the Brewers remain precarious.

And then the Giants provided a path, uniquely off the outfield wall in Triples Alley.

After Jason Heyward singled with two outs in the second inning of a scoreless game, Javier Baez sent a shot into right center field that caromed offensively past Carlos Moncrief toward the right field foul line. That sent the speedy Baez into overdrive rounding second base, and given the green light from third base coach Gary Jones, all the way to home plate.

But Moncrief, the powerfully built rookie, recovered and unleashed a monster of a throw–over 300 feet–to the plate. With catcher Buster Posey applying a swipe tag, the sliding Baez was safe–barely.

“That’s Bo Jackson-arm stuff right there,” Maddon said.

A great play by both players and Posey with the tag, but the significance to each club? Like a night and day difference.

The Cubs’ highlight play of the game plated two runs, and those would become the margin of victory. The Giants’ big play–Moncrief’s monster of a throw–neither scored a run or produced an out.

Matt Moore surrendered Baez’ shot, and took the loss, his 12th of an increasingly rough season. Moore has won just once in his last 14 starts, and Bochy pointed to the pitcher’s epic struggles with left handed hitters, who are hitting .380 against him. On Monday, Moore allowed six of his eight hits to lefty batters.

“He’s really good at times,” Bochy said. “And then he makes mistakes.”

Arrieta continued to right his season, after a rough middle part in which he was beaten in consecutive road starts at Boston, Denver and St. Louis. California is more to the 31-year old’s liking where he’s 7-1 in his last nine starting assignments dating back to August 2015.

Arrieta admitted to not being at his best physically on Monday, but his approach proved correct.

“Gave up some hard hits, but afterwards I was able to spin the ball and get some guys out,” he said. “You want to pitch to contact in this ballpark.”

The Giants offer Ty Blach on Tuesday in a battle of lefties. Jose Quintana gets the start for the Cubs.




Bad home team, poor road team? Meeting of teams in a bad spot goes to the A’s

Oakland Athletics’ Ryon Healy follows a two-run home run off San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Moore in the third inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, in San Francisco. The home run was Healy’s 20th of the season. Oakland won the game 6-1. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By Morris Phillips

The Giants aren’t at home when they’re home.

Nothing demonstrates that issue more succinctly than a 6-1 home loss to the A’s, Major League Baseball’s second-worst road team with a 16-35 record away from the Coliseum, that’s in part due to the inexperience and lack of familiarity with various big league ballparks of the youth-laden Oakland roster.

Oh well to that.

A’s rookie Ryon Healy homered, and fellow rookie Daniel Gossett picked up the win in their AT&T Park debuts. And if home runs are involved, it’s likely the Giants’ opponents are hitting them and the Giants aren’t. That scenario’s surfaced in 55 games this season–last night included–in which the Giants have won just 17.

“I thought we’d come out swinging the bats tonight. We didn’t hit very many balls hard off of (Gossett),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He pitched a good game. I’ll give him credit.”

A season-high three Giants’ home runs on Tuesday in Oakland–including a five-run first inning–had Bochy and his club optimistic things were improving. But Wednesday was anything but, more like the first four games of the just completed trip, all losses. The lack of hard hit balls Bochy referenced is notable. His club has just two home runs in its last 11 home games, 26 in 52 home games overall. Meanwhile, Giants’ opponents apparently don’t need the fences pulled in. After Healy’s blast, they’ve launched 46 home runs.

Just numbers jumping across the page? Not when the team’s poor home record is taken into account. The Giants are 22-30 at home, the worst such mark in the National League.

Healy’s home run was his first in 24 games, snapping the lengthiest period between home runs in his brief career. But Wednesday provided a clear opportunity for a breakout, any manager with a lineup to compose, and a calculator could see that.

Giants starter Matt Moore had the highest ERA of any qualifying pitcher coming in (5.74) despite a very, encouraging start at Dodgers Stadium his last time out. But the seasong-long view of Moore’s numbers show his struggles with left-handed hitters, and his propensity to issue walks. But the statistical match with Healy jumps off the page: Moore has allowed a major-league worst 50 extra-base hits, and Healy rakes lefties, hitting .372 against them this season.

And the manifestation of all those numbers came in the batting practice fastball from Moore that Healy launched 15 rows into the left field bleachers. Leading 2-0 at the time, Healy’s blast stretched the A’s cushion to 4-0 in the third. Two of the four runs reached base courtesy of Matt Moore’s walks.

With both teams stuck in last place and in full-blown 2018 mode, the game played out as a testimonial of which team’s rebuilding plan had a foundation. Throughout, the future of the A’s appeared intriguing, while the Giants’ blueprint looked outdated.

Centerfielder Denard Span, already showing signs of a decline defensively, put himself in position to catch Matt Chapman’s shot of warning track distance in the first inning, but then watched it bounce off the wall and then back toward the infield.

Oakland’s Chad Pinder had a different experience with Hunter Pence’s bid for extra bases in the sixth. Ranging into the gap, Pinder made a nice over-the-shoulder catch that shut the door on the Giant’s comeback hopes from a 4-1 deficit.

The Bay Bridge Series concludes Thursday with Ty Blach matched against Oakland’s Kendall Graveman.




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.”


Bad to worse: Giants fall short in New York on the Mets’ final at-bat


By Morris Phillips

Bad to worse? For the Giants, yes.

An early lead squandered, a beatable opponent let off the hook, a pair of home runs wasted, and a ninth inning bullpen meltdown that’s all too familiar. That’s the list lowlighting the Giants’ 4-3 loss to the Mets, their fourth straight on an increasingly rough road trip.

That the Giants battled wasn’t surprising, blowout losses in Cincinnati over the weekend had manager Bruce Bochy checking his club for a pulse. But while the Giants competed at CitiField on Monday, their lack of offense again was their undoing. After Hunter Pence’s two-run homer opened the scoring in the top of the first, the Giants went the final eight innings with only one more run.

“We did some good things, we got the lead,” Bochy said. “We just couldn’t hold on.”

The meeting marked the rematch of last season’s NL Wild Card Game that went to the Giants, 3-0, when Conor Gillaspie homered late to break up a scoreless game. But this time both teams entered with poor, early season records and numerous, personnel issues.  Effort and attitude were issues for both clubs, but after Neil Walker, hitting .207, delivered the game-winning hit off Hunter Strickland, only the Mets could portray themselves in a better light.

“A lot of the young guys will look for body language, look for signs from guys.  When injuries happen or things happen like with Matt, they look for a deflated sign, and we don’t have that in here,” Walker said.


Dodgers survive Matt Moore, then strike in the tenth to earn a split with the Giants

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chase Utley, left, slides into home plate to score a run past the tag from San Francisco Giants catcher Nick Hundley, right, on a sacrifice fly by Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez during the tenth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Thursday, April 27, 2017. The Dodgers won 5-1. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The Giants squandered a shot in the ninth.  The Dodgers then put together a combination of shots in the tenth to win it.

In a game with almost no offense–after Corey Seager sent the eighth pitch of the game soaring–the Dodgers’ extra-inning finish had to be termed a flurry.    But their four-run outburst felt modest, propped up by a pair of bases-populating walks, then highlighted by run-scoring singles by Andrew Toles and Justin Turner.

Instead of offense, pitching and defense ruled most of the day.  And Giants’ starter Matt Moore pitched a gem, ironically after he tailor-fitted Seager with a waist-high fastball in the first inning. Moore would motor from there, allowing just two hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts.  After Moore departed, the battle of bullpens desperately seeking consistency commenced.  On Wednesday night, that same battle went to the Giants. On Thursday, the Dodgers’ bullpen bounced back.

“Moore was tough,” Seager said.  “He’s been tough on us the last couple of times we faced him.  So you’re doing whatever you can to scratch for runs, and then in the tenth, we kind of put it together.”

In the tenth, Cody Gearrin walked the first batter, Adrian Gonzalez.  That mistake prompted manager Bruce Bochy to summon his one lefty in the pen, Steven Okert to get the next hitter, who happened to be the .088-hitting Chase Utley.  But Utley reached on an infield chop, and Yasmani Grandal drew a walk to load the bases. Andrew Toles singled to give the Dodgers a lead, and Bochy went back to his pen.

Hunter Strickland coaxed a pop out of Kiki Hernandez, but Buster Posey, playing first base, couldn’t throw out Utley tagging from third.   Seager was intentionally walked, but Strickland gave up a RBI single to Turner, and walked Chris Taylor to force in the fourth run.   Again Bochy had to change pitchers, getting Neil Ramirez to record the third out.

Offensively,  the Giants sustained very little seven singles and no extra base hits. Only Christian Arroyo’s RBI single in seventh had any lasting impact. Slumping hitters were populated throughout the Giants’ lineup on Thursday, most notably Brandon Belt and Eduardo Nunez.

Dodgers’ phenom Julio Urias, the 20-year old starter, made his season debut and looked as if he were in mid-season form.

Giants win on Opening Day, get good news on Posey’s scary head injury


By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The 18th Opening Day along the shores of McCovey Cove had an ominous start and a satisfying conclusion, with a comical moment in between that stood as the pivotal play in the Giants’ 4-1 win over the Diamondbacks.

Just another example of the home team trying to make up for those anxious days when the park by San Francisco Bay opened in 2000 and Giants’ fans suffered through several, disappointng losses to the Dodgers.  This time, fans of the orange and black were treated to all the pomp and circumstance with a giant U.S. flag ceremony, the national anthem sung by the cast of the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” and a standing ovation for Barry Bonds, the franchise’s hero come home. Following that, the Giants thrilled the fans with their 14th win in a home opener at AT&T Park.

The ominous moment was a Tijuan Walker pitch that plunked Buster Posey in the first inning, and ended his afternoon on the field, as manager Bruce Bochy elected to lift his star player as a precautionary move.  Backup Nick Hundley came on to team with Matt Moore, who was in control, pitching eight innings, allowing just one run, to pick up the win.

“Were he not the catcher, he might have stayed in the game,” Bochy said of the incident in which Posey was alert, but wide-eyed, throughout.  Posey did leave the field under his own power after a thorough look over by trainer Ron Groeschner. Posey was scheduled to be evaluated soon after the conclusion of the game, but the team announced, that they don’t expect the All-Star catcher to return to the field for Tuesday’s game.

“It’s one of the worst sounds you can hear in baseball, the ball hitting the helmet,” Bochy said.  “It’s a scary moment.  There’s been a lot of damage to hitters hit in the head.”

Moore said afterwards that he retreated to the clubhouse a couple of times to check on Posey, saying that he felt his catcher was doing fine.  Other than that, Moore did his best to reduce all his teammates’ anxiety by taming the D’Backs, allowing just the one run on Yasmani Tomas’ solo shot in the fifth.