Cubs Provide Help, Giants Win: Post ASG slide ends with 4-2 win over Chicago

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Things get so bad that sometimes… you need a little help.

The Giants’ seven-game losing streak exposed a club that needs to pitch, hit and defend a lot better to win games. In a stretch this poor, a team with holes can get exposed.

A 4-2 over the Cubs to snap the skid on Thursday didn’t find the Giants miraculously better, but definitely more fortunate after riding a three-run third inning that was fueled by Cubs’ mistakes and decisions.

Patrick Wisdom fanned on an infield pop and gave Mike Yastrzemski a life on second base to start the rally. Yermin Mercedes in the at-bat of the evening–11 pitches, six fouled off–delivered a two-run single after Wilmer Flores was hit by a pitch, a call that was lobbied for by the Cubs. Thairo Estrada knocked in Flores when shortstop Nico Hoerner couldn’t turn Estrada’s well-place grounder into an out.

Alex Wood took a 3-0 lead at that point, and did something with it, pitching into the seventh while allowing just two hits. Wisdom, in an atonement swing, knocked Wood out of the game with a two-run homer that narrowed the Giants’ lead to 4-2. Wood retired 15 in a row at one point, a streak that ended in the sixth when he walked Nelson Velazquez. Wood flirtation with a no-no lasted into the seventh, and was aided by Yastrzemski’s highlight, leaping catch in the right field alley in the sixth.

“The biggest difference in today’s game was we played crisp defense and made some very difficult plays,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’re going to be fine if we play strong defense behind our pitchers. That’s probably the most important thing we can do.”

Justin Steele took the loss for the Cubs. Steele was lifted in the fourth after allowing Austin Slater’s RBI double that gave the Giants a 4-0 lead.

The series continues Friday with Marcus Stroman facing Alex Cobb.

Bludgeoned By The Brewers: Giants led early, then go cold offensively in 3-2 loss to Milwaukee

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Well that Gabe Kapler-inspired time of possession in baseball thing didn’t lean toward the hosts on Thursday.

The Brewers played with base traffic all night, bundling 13 hits and four walks, but just two runs until the 10th when they got an infield single from Jonathan Davis to push across the winning run. The Giants led 2-0 early, but got just one hit after the fifth inning as the visitors pitching proved as good as advertised.

The Brewers increased their lead in the NL Central to three games with the win and the Cardinals’ loss to the Dodgers. The Giants fell to 45-43 which is 13 games off the pace of the Dodgers.

The Giants scored twice in the third, first on a passed ball charged to catcher Victor Caratini, which was followed by Joc Pederson’s RBI single. Outside of that burst, Milwaukee starter Corbin Burnes pitched in character, striking out 10, scattering all four Giants hits and keeping his club within reach.

The Brewers rallied with single runs in the fourth and sixth. Andrew McCutchen’s sacrfice fly chased home the first run, Wily Adames’ base hit scoring Rowdy Tellez tied the game in the sixth.

Carlos Rodon found himself in another tight ballgame and couldn’t win it, lowering his ERA to 2.66 but gaining a no-decision. Rodon allowed the first Milwaukee run and departed before John Brebbia gave up the second run in the sixth.

The teams are back at it on Friday with starters Alex Wood and Brandon Woodruff scheduled at 7:15pm.

Rally Wreckers: Giants do the same stuff in latest loss, 3-2 to the visiting Tigers

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–If the Giants were to find a way not to win a third, consecutive series, this wasn’t the way.

More of the same. When the Giants’ offense fails to get the key hit, and knock in some runs, they often lose. Wednesday afternoon’s loss to the Tigers, 3-2, was just another example in a less than lengthy stretch of games.

“I think it’s as simple as getting one more big at-bat,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’ve talked about that for a while now.”

The Giants rallied in the third–leading 1-0, then loading the bases with one out–but came up empty. In the seventh–now trailing 3-1–the Giants had the same, advantageous setup, but scored just once, on Mike Yastrzemski’s fielder’s choice ground ball. A run in each inning, and the hosts are likely winners, and building on a 41-33 record. Instead, they’re stuck in a 3-6 stretch against beatable opponents.

The Giants finished 2 of 9 with runners in scoring position, intriguing, in that the two successes were from guys that could pick it up and change things. Evan Longoria homered in the first inning, and his infield single loaded the bases in the third. Lamonte Wade Jr. returned to action–after missing 61 of the first 73 games–and singled in the seventh. Wade was put in a tough spot, hitting against a tough lefty Gregory Soto in the ninth, when the Giants normally would have pinch-hit, but at that point in the game on Wednesday, Kapler had expended all his hitting options.

Alex Wood–who started, and gave up the decisive two-run homer to Detroit’s Eric Haase in the sixth–best expressed the agony of his own shortcomings and the teams saying “these are the days that are just extremely frustrating. I felt really good. I thought it was the best my slider’s been in a long time, if not (this entire season). So to have that (home run) happen at the end really sucked, to be honest. Just really frustrating.”

“It starts with our staff. Webby and ‘Los have put up their lines. The rest of us have to step our s— up,” Wood said, applauding his staff mates Logan Webb and Carlos Rodón. “Start having the lines match up with how we’re feeling and putting up some zeroes and finishing some starts with zero or one run on the board. A lot of those one-run games are on us.”

There’s some truth to Wood saying this is not all on the offense. And, once again, this is a team with a winning record and a clear-path to the newly, expanded playoffs. But off a 107-win campaign, something missing or somethings are missing. To Wood’s point, the Giants ERA of 3.99 puts them just above the league average. Last season, their staff had a National League top-three ERA virtually the entire season. Defensively, the Giants have committed 41 errors, also a league average number, but reflective of how poor the defense has been, the Giants defensive efficiency, as defined by baseball-reference.com is in the bottom four in all of baseball. What’s that last bit really mean? The Giants could suffer even worse defensively going forward, so far, they’ve made defensive mistakes, but in a lot of cases, not suffered run scored against them.

The Giants open a three-game set with the White Sox on Friday at Oracle Park. Lance Lynn of Chicago and Alex Cobb will get the starting assignments.

Bullpen Blues: Relief effort spoils another strong outing by Rodon in 4-3 Giants loss to the Braves

By Morris Phillips

Nothing typifies the Giants these days like a close game. They play a lot of them–36 of 68 so far this season–and they’re used to being in close games, winning close games.

Just hasn’t quite been their thing yet this season, and definitely not on this road trip. The Giants fell to 17-19 in games decided by two runs or less on Wednesday, allowing a three-run, bottom of the ninth rally by the host Braves in a 4-3 loss.

Jake McGee was given an opportunity to reignite his closer duties, and he belied his recent successes and got hit hard. The 35-year old gave up a leadoff home run to Darby Swanson, two more hits and was relieved by Trevor Rogers who allowed the game-winning base hit to Adam Duvall. Camilio Doval wasn’t available, he pitched in nine of the previous 12 games and was given a night to rest.

“We want to win every game, but at the end of the day, these are going to happen,” said McGee, who hadn’t allowed a run since May 10, a stretch of 10 appearances. “That’s why they’ve been really hot lately and they’ve been swinging the bat well. So you’ve just got to tip your cap sometimes.”

The Giants also tipped their cap on Monday when Camilo Doval failed to get through the ninth in a 2-1 loss. Last season’s 107-win campaign included a 31-17 record in one-run games, and the Giants locked in big moments offensively. This year, the record in two-run games is another reminder that the team’s offense has struggled. The bullpen–in spots–as well. But the subject arises in a series–not yet completed–where a team’s two best starters sprinkle magic dust for seven innings, only to see their work squandered in the game’s final inning.

“I’m not one to say one loss was better or worse than others. It’s just not my style,” said Kapler, who just doesn’t show raw emotion in postgame pressers.

Rodon was on point, capping a three-start stretch in which he allowed one run in 21 innings. He struck out 10, and walked one in his first appearance against the Braves. Matt Olson’s seventh inning, RBI double broke up Rodon’s scoreless stretch.

Darin Ruf and Mike Yastrzemski homered to back Rodon, and Tommy LaStella’s RBI single in the ninth provided insurance, giving the Giants a 3-1 lead.

And the news wasn’t bad off the diamond, as Brandon Crawford found out he suffered no structural damage to his knee, and he’s a candidate to start Thursday’s series finale.

Luis Gonzales would have been a viable, pinch-hit option on Wednesday after being declared out with back tightness, but that wasn’t all that he needed. The Braves followed right-handed starter Charlie Morton with two left-handed relievers, leaving Kapler with better options. Kapler said Gonzales should be okay, his back issues are considered serious.

Alex Wood and Atlanta’s Kyle Wright are the announced starters for the series finale at 12:20pm EST.

Shut Out On South Beach: Giants can’t solve Alcantara in 3-0 loss to the Marlins

By Morris Phillips

The Marlins with their sub .500 records overall and at home haven’t moved the meter thus far in 2022, but the Miami pitching has. Pablo Lopez and Sandy Alcantara are the headliners with near-100 mph four-seam fastballs, and Alcantara got his chance to make an impression on the reigning NL West champion Giants on Thursday.

Let’s just say mission accomplished.

The 26-year old right hander was electric, throwing 111 pitches with the best of those coming late, in a 3-0 shutout win over the Giants. Alcantara allowed three hits, walked two, struck out eight and kept the Giants off balance by starting 17 of the 25 batters he faced with strikes, and inducing 24 swings and misses. Knowing they were entering a battle, Giants’ hitters got the majority of Alcantara’s pitches out early with several, lengthy at-bats. But the response was simple: as the game wore on, Alcantara became highly efficient, dispatching Giants’ hitters quickly and quietly.

“If it were up to me, I would have stayed until the ninth, but I respect the manager’s decision,” Alcantara said through an interpreter.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly lifted his ace after seven innings, but rightfully termed the process of Alcantara finishing better than he starts by saying, “he finally got that groove that we talk about where it’s like he’s going 75 mph on the highway.”

So ingrained is the process, Mattingly actually delivered the previous quote after Alcantara’s previous start in Atlanta in which he struck out a career-best 14 in eight innings of work.

The timing of Alcantara’s start couldn’t have been better for the Marlins, who played two games in Denver against the Rockies on Thursday before returning home. The Giants, who got an early start in Philadelphia to conclude their series with the Phillies looked like the far more sluggish team as the hosts got RBI hits from Jacob Stallings (second inning), Jesus Aguilar and Miguel Rojas (both in the sixth) to create breathing room for Alcantara.

The Giants dropped their second straight after a pair of wins in Philadelphia. Their lineup was thin with Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria dealing with bumps and bruises along with Darin Ruf away on the bereavement list following the death of his father. The Giants are also missing Lamonte Wade Jr., Brandon Belt and Austin Slater, who took batting practice and could make his way into the lineup on Friday night.

The poorly-situationed Alex Wood didn’t pitch poorly for the Giants. Wood worked into the sixth inning, allowing two runs on four hits. Wood has dropped three, consecutive starts and his record is 3-5.

“Any time you face a guy like Sandy, he’s pretty good, so there’s no going to be a whole lot of room for error,” Wood said afterwards.

The announced pitchers for the second game of the series are the Giants’ Alex Cobb and Miami’s Elieser Hernandez.

Giants Good Again in 2022, Just Not In the Manner They Were Good in 2021

by Morris Phillips

Expanded playoffs, universal designated hitters, shrinking batting averages and greater reliance on relief pitchers. Seemingly, all of baseball’s newest machinations favor the Giants and their preferred methods of competing.

Currently the Giants are bundled with three other NL clubs (Dodgers, Mets, Brewers) at the top of the standings in the first season in which six teams will qualify for postseason play in both leagues. No more roll of the dice in a Wild Card game means no one goes home after an initial, bad playoff game. When you’ve got a great shot to be in, it’s even better if you can’t all of a sudden be out.

Throughout baseball, batting averages are down, as is scoring. Trying to buck that trend are the Giants with their .248 team batting average, well above the .235 number that this season is considered average among the 30 teams. The Giants also are averaging 5.11 runs per game, which trails only the Dodgers. But those key metrics don’t mean that individual sluggers on the team haven’t had their struggles. Benefitting the Giants of course, is their philosophy to seek game-altering extra-base hits and homers at the expense of on-base percentage and playing the old-school, station-to-station game.

Given that, the Giants still draw their walks (ranking second with 144 free passes), utilize the sacrifice fly (they rank first with 20), and steal bases consistently, if not frequently with 21 steals and only six caught stealing situations. Those numbers weigh heavier given that the Giants aren’t a record-breaking, home run-hitting club this season with only 40 hit so far.

What they do is hit more than their opponent by a nice margin augmented by their league-low 26 home runs allowed. And when those home runs are hit, it’s usually in a close, low-scoring game. That combination, as it was in 2021, is a real weapon for the Giants: they win close games.

A major piece of that formula is the team’s bullpen which is currently loaded with standouts from closer Camilo Doval with seven saves to Taylor Rogers, John Brebbia and Jarlin Garcia as the key, setup options. With so many returners from last season in the team’s bullpen, comparisons are easy. And so far, this year’s group’s been that much better than last’s.

The Giants have won 8 of 11 leading into Friday night’s meeting with the Padres. In the coming weeks the Giants will see the Padres, Mets and the Dodgers, teams they need to measure themselves against in preparation for a possible, postseason appearance.

On Friday, Jakob Junis gets the starting nod in a matchup with San Diego’s Sean Manaea.

Giants, Webb run out of steam and blow their lead in a 5-3 loss to the Rockies

By Morris Phillips

As often happens, the decision to lift an effective, but laboring starting pitcher can be agonizing.

The decision to remove Logan Webb in the eighth inning on Wednesday was a no-win for the Giants and manager Gabe Kapler. Literally.

Trailing 3-2 to the Giants, and facing the likelihood of a record, 13th consecutive loss to their division rivals, the host Rockies rallied with three runs to gain a critical 5-3 win.

Connor Joe drew a leadoff walk against Webb, ending his streak of 16 consecutive, retired hitters, and that opened the door for Colorado. With Webb at 100 pitches, Kapler decided to remove his starter for reliever Jose Alvarez.

“After the second, which I thought was the more challenging inning, (Webb) was as good as we saw last year,” Kapler said. “This is a very, very challenging place to pitch into the eighth inning. I thought it was one of the better performances in recent memory for Logan.”

It also wasn’t the spot to lean heavily on his ace, thought Kapler. This early in the season, and with an effective bullpen cast ready to go. A two-run lead also provided Alvarez, who hadn’t given up a home run in more than 56 innings of work, a nice cushion.

But Charlie Blackmon sacrificed Joe to second, Yonathan Daza followed with an RBI single and C.J. Cron gave the Rockies a two-run lead with his long home run off Alvarez.

“We’d done a nice job up until that point with Cron,” Kapler said. “He hasn’t taken his best swings against us, which I think is a positive for our pitching staff. It’s really tough to fall behind him. He then is able to sit on a pitch like he did right there, and look, he’s one of the better right-handed hitters in baseball.”

Tyler Kinley retired the Giants in the eighth, and Daniel Bard recovered from a blown save on Monday to get the visitors out in the ninth, ending an agonizing slide for the Rockies, who were also trying to avoid a fourth straight loss overall.

The Giants concluded their road swing with a 3-3 record through Denver and St. Louis. They open a homestand on Friday night against the Padres.

Mike Yastrzemski had an RBI single on Wednesday and Austin Slater and Darin Ruf contributed run scoring, sacrifice flies. Ruf put the Giants in front in the fourth, and Webb cruised into the eighth. But it wasn’t enough to earn the Giants a sweep.

Sean Manaea gets the start for San Diego on Friday, and Jakob Junis goes for the Giants as they continue to utilize a bullpen strategy in the absence of injured starter Anthony DeSclafani.

Yaz Strikes Late: Big home run in the ninth gets Giants past the Rockies, 7-6

By Morris Phillips

Game deciding home runs look great and feel even better. Ask Mike Yastrzemski.

That felt really good,” said Yastrzemski of his ninth inning blast that broke a 6-6 tie in Denver on Monday night. “Just really trying to get a pitch to drive and elevate, and I got one.”

The Giants had an awful weekend in St. Louis, losing Saturday and Sunday without putting forth much resistance. The Rockies had an awful week, bringing their fast start to the season to a grinding halt. On Monday, both teams were desperate to change their storylines.

For the Rockies to be the club to rebound closer Daniel Bard would have needed a better executed pitch against Yastrzemski. It wasn’t and Bard was saddled with a blown save for the second, straight day after allowing two late runs to the Royals on Sunday.

“It was a breaking ball, probably middle-in, and probably not down enough,” Black said. “It looked to be middle-down, on the inside part of the plate and he kind of golfed it.”

Golf or baseball, Yaz looked good rounding the bases, part of his personal resurgence after he was infrequently in the lineup in last year’s postseason.

Neither starting pitcher lasted long on Monday, and the Rockies’ Antonio Senzatela departed with an injury in the second inning. Alex Wood didn’t survive a rough, fifth inning that saw the Rockies cut into the Giants 4-1 lead. That stuff happens at Coors Field, leaving the game decision up to both bullpen and whatever hitters can supply late-game dramatics. Yastrzemski, preceded by Curt Casali, who homered twice in the game, were the guys for San Francisco.

Casali homered in the third and the fifth innings to give the Giants their 4-1 lead. It marked just the third multi-homer game of his career that’s been built on catching and defense.

“It’s one of those stretches where I just feel good at the plate right now,” Casali said. “I work hard on defense, and that’s always a constant for me, and sprinkle in some offense here and there. It’s nice to drive in some runs and score some runs. It’s fun, that’s all I can say.”

John Brebbia and Camilo Doval closed the door for the Giants in the eighth and ninth after Tyler Rogers allowed a pair of game-tying runs in the seventh.

Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt had rough nights going hitless with a combined five strikeouts. Joc Pederson was 0 for 3 in the three spot in the batting order, and Tommy La Stella was hitless in his only at-bat before being lifted for a pinch-hitter. It was La Stella’s anticipated, season debut after injuries shelved him out of spring training.

Alex Cobb and Colorado’s Chad Kuhl are the announced starters for Tuesday’s game two of the three-game set.

Here Comes the Trade Deadline: Giants will be buyers, albeit smart buyers

By Morris Phillips

The Dodgers have the shiniest rings, the flashiest talent and superior depth, and money, always good at the trade deadline.

The Padres have a deep roster, Fernando Tatis Jr. and a wheeler-dealer mentality that trumps any seen previously at the big league level.

The Giants? They have a two-game lead in the NL West, the most remaining home games, and a pragmatic approach that’s almost guaranteed to underwhelm most trade deadline evaluators.

How will the Giants make this work?

As best they can, given their obvious restraints.

Team president Farhan Zaidi has made a bunch of progress in his nearly two years at the helm. The Giants farm system is healthy, the salary structure has clear definition, and this summer–when numerous, big ticket contracts come off the books–is the critical period for the organization to strike in the free agent market.

But the team wants to win now, and capitalize on its stature of being ahead of schedule, and ahead of the pack with MLB’s best won-loss record through 99 games. The schedule will be a factor in the decision making: only six of the remaining 63 games are against the Dodgers. Instead the Giants will see San Diego and Colorado 10 times, and Arizona nine. They’ll also see Milwaukee seven times, and the Braves and Mets six times each. Their home heavy schedule is considerably softer than say the Dodgers, who are on the road for 12 of the next 17, and nine straight within the last three weeks of the season.

The Giants won’t do as much as the Dodgers or Padres. The Dodgers want another starter–Trevor Bauer may not pitch again this season–and that won’t be cheap. The Padres are weighing big options as well. The Giants will settle for an extra bullpen arm, or an under-the-radar starting pitcher as long as neither cost them a Joey Bart or Marco Luciano, who are being groomed to be future, homegrown stars.

Positionally, the Giants will rely on their trainers to get Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford healthy. With those four in the mix, the Giants will be loaded with lineup options around the diamond. Any new names added to that mix would have to be overwhelming, and likely replace on the names already in the fold.

College roommates Yastrzemski and Gray meet again in Giants 6-3 win over the Reds

By Morris Phillips

Hey, a solo shot’s no big deal.

Sonny Gray and Mike Yastrzemski, college roommates at Vanderbilt a decade ago, didn’t have an opportunity to hash it out on Monday night. Yaz took Gray deep in the fifth inning to put the Giants up, 4-0, but by that point, the Reds couldn’t catch the ball, and the Giants were in full swing, doing their traveling home run show thing.

In other words, bigger issues were at hand then reminiscing about old conversations in college.

“I don’t think it fazed him,” Yastrzemski said of Gray’s reaction to the home run among friends. “We always talked about it and he said if I hit a homer in a game off him, it had to be a solo shot. So I don’t think he’s too mad about it. It’s something I hope we’ll eventually look back and give each other grief about and have fun with it.”

Just not on Monday. What was more pressing were the Reds’ recent struggles that have them losing lopsided contests, while the Giants have been surging, just what’s been needed to keep the club in first place with the Padres and Dodgers breathing down their necks.

After the 6-3 Giants win at Great American Ballpark, Gray was dead serious while reliving his inability to keep the hard-hitting Giants from going deep while needing to explain his defenses shortcomings behind him. For the record, Gray allowed two home runs while the Reds committed two damaging errors.

“A pitcher’s job is to continue to try to make pitches, make competitive pitches and continue to try to force soft contact,” Gray admitted. “There were some plays that maybe could have been made that weren’t. It was just sloppy. Like I said, it started with me.”

Gray surrendered a walk and two singles in a busy first inning that didn’t go wrong until Jonathan India couldn’t field Brandon Crawford’s ground ball cleanly, and compounded his mistake with an errant throw allowing Buster Posey to score the game’s first run.

In the fourth, Wilmer Flores went opposite field off Gray to put the Giants up 3-0, but the blast was preceded by Eugenio Suarez’ fielding error that allowed Crawford to reach. Yastrzemski’s homer came an inning later, the culmination of Gray’s outing that wasn’t good enough above or below the surface.

The Giants flew above the minutiae with the homers, now numbering 39 away from Oracle Park, which leads the majors in home runs hit by a club on the road. That the total didn’t stall at the cozy, riverfront ballpark made a statement. The Giants hit ’em, and combined with stingy defense and pitching, a winning formula has emerged.

So far, it’s a formula that’s kept the more talented Dodgers and Padres in the rear view. All three clubs won Monday, and the Giants maintained their division lead, a half game better than San Diego, and two games ahead of the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, the Reds are 6-6 in their last 12 games, but they’ve allowed at least six runs in each of the losses, none of which have been by fewer than three runs, including 9-2 and 9-0 routs. The Reds have gone more than a month with a losing record, having last been over .500 on April 21.

Logan Webb enjoyed his best start if the season, cruising through six, scoreless innings by keeping Reds’ hitters off balance with a nice mix of sinkers, sliders and fastballs delivered at an aggressive pace. Webb was tight-lipped about the strategy after the game, with the exception of extolling his quick pace. He also clarified his abrupt exit, saying his shoulder soreness concerned manager Gabe Kapler enough that he lifted his pitcher despite the fact he still had plenty in his tank.

Kapler said the Giants will conduct tests on Webb’s shoulder in the coming days, but he didn’t seem concerned that his pitcher could miss time.

The Giants continue their four-game set in Cincinnati on Tuesday with Anthony DeSclafani facing the struggling Luis Castillo, saddled with a 1-5 record and 7.71 ERA.