Flawed NL Wild Card hopefuls make for an intriguing, hard-to-predict stretch run

By Morris Phillips

The Giants can’t seem to keep up, but the foes they’re chasing can’t seem run away.

As the weeks dwindle in the 2019 season, that reality may be the flawed Giants biggest asset. Within the crowded field of NL Wild Card hopefuls, no team can seem to separate themselves from the pack.

And no team’s stretch run to postseason immortality seems more unlikely than the Giants, but in a race this unpredictable, maybe a fit exists.

Among the top seven teams–all within 3 1/2 games of each other–at least five are fooling themselves. The Giants are thinking they can overcome a losing record at home. The Phillies think they can overcome a losing record over the last two-and-a-half months. And the Nationals are attempting to overcome a 19-31 start to their season.

The Mets were 40-51 on July 12th. The Brewers can’t trust their starting rotation. The Cardinals keep seizing and fumbling momentum. And the Diamondbacks traded Zach Greinke.

Those aren’t strategies to to gain momentum. But for two of those clubs, a playoff berth is in the offing. But which two?

The Mets are the hottest in the pack, having won 15 of 16 prior to Sunday. But they have the most difficult schedule over the season’s final 44 games: nine games against the Braves, and series against the division-leading Dodgers and Indians.

The Brewers’ schedule is loaded with tough matchups: nine games with the Cardinals, seven with the Cubs and two-game sets with the first-place Astros and Twins. Their schedule eases considerably in the season’s final two weeks, but can they last that long? ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian suggested an overhaul of Milwaukee’s rotation and their bullpen might be needed to get this club to surge.

The Nationals are on the verge of getting injured Max Scherzer back into their rotation. But their schedule won’t wait for the occasion, they have seven games with the Braves, five with the Phillies and series against the Mets, Indians, Twins, Cubs and Brewers. They have the best opportunity statistically with their narrow lead on all six competitors, but Juan Soto’s ankle injury could change things in a hurry.

The Cardinals lost eight of 10 to playoff contenders, but rebounded nicely with a sweep of the Pirates over the weekend. They got Matt Carpenter and Marcel Ozuna back from injuries this week as well. But nothing about this club says extended win streak and that may be their biggest issue.

The Diamondbacks won Monday, beating the Rockies 8-6 in Denver. That means they’re likely to lose on Tuesday, bringing them back to .500 for the eighth time since July 21. No team is more closely aligned with mediocrity and their rotation is unquestionably thin without Greinke.

The Phillies have dropped six of eight, and they spent their off-day Monday pondering whether to place Jake Arrieta on the injured list. Whether they do or don’t, injuries have defined their season. Personnel issues that severe aren’t usually the precursor to a playoff worthy run.

And the Giants? Something must be resolved with their starting rotation, currently populated with rookies every three out of five days. Connor Menez, Shaun Anderson or Tyler Beede haven’t won a start since July 12.

Giant Collapse: S.F. falls to 1-6 in August after 4-1 loss to the Nationals

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO — You’ve gotta win to be in it. Right now, the Giants are a step removed from winning.

They’re struggling just to compete after a third, consecutive sleepy loss to the Nationals at Oracle Park, and they’re barely in it, seeing their foothold in the wild card race slip away.

After a torrid 19-6 July, the Giants have lost six of seven in August. What’s worse, they’ve looked lifeless in front of the home fans that have waited all season to see some fireworks.  In all three games against Washington, the Giants fell behind 4-0. The closest semblance to a rally came Tuesday night, and it stalled two runs short.

“We had some of that mojo going but we’ve lost a little bit of it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “How we get it back is a big thing. Right now, we are just not clicking.”

The Giants appeared to give themselves a boost by keeping their roster together for a stretch run at a playoff berth, a nod to all the upward movement achieved in July. A week later, besides keeping Madison Bumgarner, most would be hard pressed to recount all the moves. On Wednesday, more memorable was that the Nats took flight on the strength of a three-run homer from Gerardo Parra, who was released by the Giants in May after hitting .198 over 30 games.

Since joining the Nationals, Parra has hit .287 and his home run that increased their lead to 4-0 was his sixth since he was released.

“I say every time, thank you to the San Francisco Giants for giving me the opportunity to play the first month,” Parra said.

Parra’s home run left starting pitcher Shaun Anderson cooked once again. The rookie hurler hasn’t won since June 28, a span of seven starts. While the Giants won four of those starts, Anderson has trended downward, seeing his ERA balloon to 5.33. Anderson’s struggles mirror those of the Giants’ rookie starting pitchers, who haven’t won an assignment since Tyler Beede on July 14.

Offensively, the Giants produced three singles and three doubles, which added up to one, ninth inning run knocked home by Brandon Crawford. Similar to Monday’s matchup, the Giants appeared to have an edge facing Joe Ross, who is trying to establish himself at the big league level after injuries cost him almost all of 2018. But Ross had the upper hand, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out five in six innings of work.

The Giants benefitted from a wild card race that saw no one run away from the pack in July. But with their recent stretch of losses, the Giants are seeing the pack run away from them. Now four games behind the Phillies, the Giants have two other teams–the streaking Mets and Diamondbacks–between them and the second wild card spot. What’s more troubling, the next four games against the Phillies will be their final games against wild card contenders not in the NL West.

On Thursday, Madison Bumgarner will take the mound in a match up with Aaron Nola of Philadelphia.

NOTES: Steven Duggar left Wednesday’s game after reinjuring his shoulder making a diving catch. He’ll get an MRI with the hope he can avoid a return trip to the injured list.

San Francisco Giants podcast with Morris Phillips: Mets-Giants go extra innings three times in series

sfgate.com photo: San Francisco Giants’ Mike Yastrzemski, right, is congratulated by third base coach Ron Wotus (23) after hitting a solo home run against the New York Mets during the 12th inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, July 21, 2019.

#2 The game on Sunday went 12 innings, which gives you an idea how the Mets and Giants battled tooth and nail to win this series

#3 The Giants have been getting these series in the last month’s worth. They take three out four from the Mets and are just 2 1/2 games back in the NL Wild Card standings

#4 Giant outfielder Kevin Pillar got fed up with the strike calls when he got punched out by plate umpire Mark Rippenger. He argued with Rippenger, but got ran. It was Pillar’s first ejection for this season.

#5 The Giants open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Monday night. Starting pitchers for the Cubs, Alec Mills (0-0, 4.50 ERA), and for the Giants, Shaun Anderson (3-2, 4.87 ERA).

San Francisco Giants podcasts are heard right here at http://www.sportsradioservice.com each Sunday

San Francisco Giants podcast with Michael Duca and Daniel Dullum: If Smith and Bumgarner go, so will any chance for a wild card go for SF

Photo credit: @NBCSGiants

On the Giants podcast with Michael and Daniel:

#1 The Giants are 5 1/2 games out from a wild card spot as the second half starts tonight. Critics says forget those odds, the team hasn’t had enough offense to get back. What does Michael say to those critics?

#2 If the Giants are sellers and unload starter Madison Bumgarner and closer Will Smith, that would pretty much crush any chance the team has at the postseason.

#3 Buster Posey has — like last season — been off limits for any trade deals and most likely that will be the case this July too. Posey has had several concussions and his hitting has been below where it normally is at this time of year. How much does Posey’s past injuries play even though he’s untouchable?

#4 If the Giants deal Bumgarner and Smith, how much will their departures impact the Giants for years to come?

#5 The Giants open up a three-game series in Milwaukee tonight and a six-game road trip. Milwaukee has always been a tough customer. The Giants will be starting Shaun Anderson (3-2, 4.23 ERA), and for the Brewers, Chase Anderson (4-2, 4.32 ERA).

Michael Duca and Daniel Dullum does the Giants podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

San Francisco Giants podcast with Michael Duca: Giants’ climb to get out of the cellar a long way off

Photo credit: mccoveychronicles.com

On the Giants podcast with Michael:

#1 The San Francisco Giants’ loss last night represented their fifth loss in six games and they have not been out of the NL West cellar since May.

#2 They faced some solid pitching from the Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Alex Young (1-0, 1.80 ERA) who pitched five innings against the Giants for three hits and five strikeouts holding the Giants to just one run.

#3 Michael talks about putting on a finger on what’s wrong with the Giants hitters. Everyone in the lineup on Thursday night are hitting below .300.

#4 The Giants starter Tyler Beede pitched 5 1/3 for four hits, two earned runs and three strikeouts — a good outing, but the relievers gave up three more runs in the 5-1 loss.

#5 Starting pitchers for Friday night at Oracle Park. For the Diamondbacks, Merrill Kelly (7-7, 3.93 ERA), and for the San Francisco Giants, Shaun Anderson (2-2, 3.94 ERA).

Catch Michael for the Giants podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

San Francisco Giants podcast with Michael Duca: Giants getting key pitching in recent wins

Photo credit: @SFGiants

On the Giants podcast with Michael:

#1 Shaun Anderson looks like a keeper he pitched an effective game against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night, going six innings, four hits, two runs, six strikeouts and three walks.

#2 Giants closer Will Smith brought his A game with the bags juiced in the top of the ninth. He got his 16th save in 16 tries.

#3 The Padres had a short time lead in the top of the fifth 2-1 until the bottom of the fifth when the Giants scored twice and Padres manager Andy Green said that they had a shot at winning the game, but just didn’t have enough to get over the hump.

#4 When the Padres acquired star third baseman Manny Machado, the Padres thought they had their road paved to postseason, but now the Padres are two below .500 and in fifth place just a place above the Giants.

#5 Friday the 14th, the Milwaukee Brewers and Giants open a three-game series with the Brewers sending out starter Zach Davies (7-0 ERA 2.41) against Giants starter Drew Pomeranz (1-6, 7.16 ERA).

Michael Duca does the Giants podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Anderson, Pillar lead Giants to 4-2 win over the Padres

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO — In a close game, the Giants aren’t so bad.

Keeping it close was good enough to squeeze past the Padres, 4-2 on Wednesday night, and capture the two-game set at Oracle Park. A quality start from Shaun Anderson, timely hitting and Will Smith closing the door were the highlights of the evening.  Now the Giants need to work on that formula increasing in frequency.

In 2019, the Giants have enjoyed one and two-run ballgames, winning 19 of 33. It’s the other 33 ballgames decided by three runs or more that have doomed them, winning just nine of 33. If you’re the Giants, you’re more likely to get blown out than blow someone out, and therein lies the problem for the last-place club.

That and winning home games (the Giants are 13-20 at home)… just not an issue on Wednesday. The Giants made the key plays, offensively and defensively, and the Padres, losers of 11 of 16, threw the ball away, and couldn’t manage a key hit.

Anderson led the transformation by pitching six, solid innings and picking up the win. His key frame was the first, when he coaxed a double play ball off the bat of Franmil Reyes to end the inning and keep the game scoreless when the Padres threatened to get the jump off a bases loaded, one out situation.

“Huge pitch. That’s the ballgame,” said manager Bruce Bochy with the benefit of hindsight. “Big turning point in the  game. What a job (Anderson) did, throwing six, solid innings.”

Kevin Pillar got the Giants on the board in the second on a solo shot, then trailing 2-1 in the fifth, the Padres gave the struggling Giants’ offense a boost, courtesy of a pair of miscues. Throwing errors by rookies Josh Naylor and Fernando Tatis contributed to the Giants taking the lead.

Winning close games demands a closer, and Will Smith handled that, converting for the 16th time in 16 chances. Smith escaped a bases loaded situation by getting Manuel Margot to pop out to end it.

“We put ourselves in a position to win,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “It just wasn’t enough to get over the hump.”

The Padres and Giants opened the season in San Diego with the home team winning three of four, while showing off their big, off-season acquisition, Manny Machado. That advantageous start had the Padres dreaming of the postseason. But Wednesday’s loss dropped them two games below .500 for the first time all season.

The Giants’ modest win streak marks the first time since early April they’ve captured consecutive, home games.

Anderson goes seven in Giants’ 8-2 win over O’s

Photo credit: @NBCSGiants

By Jeremy Kahn

BALTIMORE — Shaun Anderson did something in this game for the San Francisco Giants pitching staff that was last accomplished in the month of April.

Anderson went seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits, walking two and striking out four, as the Giants evened up the three-game series with a 7-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles before a crowd of 19,352 at Camden Yards.

Jump start us to a great series, said Anderson.

Madison Bumgarner was the last Giants pitcher to go at least seven innings in a game that took place on April 13 in a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park.

The 40 consecutive games without a pitcher going seven innings was the longest streak in the major leagues this season, and the longest by a Giants in the last 100 years.

As for Anderson, this was a special game for the rookie, as he picked up his first major league win and threw a career-high in pitches with 105 (72 strikes).

I liked his stuff, and that is why he went out for the seventh, said Bruce Bochy.

Anderson looked sharp early, as he retired the first six batters before allowing a leadoff single to Rio Ruiz to begin the bottom of the third inning.

The Giants got on the board in the top of the first inning, as Mike Yastrzemski manufactured a walk off of starter David Hess and after a Buster Posey walk and following a Pablo Sandoval groundout, Brandon Belt drove in both Yastrzemski and Posey to give the Giants a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

Belt extended his hitting streak up to nine games, as he picked up that two-run single in the top of the first inning and followed it up with his two-run double in the top of the fifth inning. The four runs batted in were a season-high, and his most in a game since getting four on June 30, 2017 against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

Posey stretched the lead out to 3-0 in the top of the third inning, as he hit a laser off the top of the out-of-town scoreboard for a home run. Originally, first base umpire Chris Segal said that the ball was in play and Posey played it out, as he slid into second base for what appeared to be a double; however, Crew Chief Kerwin Danley at second base overruled Segal and signaled home run.

It was the third home run of the season for Posey, whose last home run came on May 5 against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark.

That was the first interleague home run for Posey since June 30, 2016 against the Oakland As at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Posey also scored three runs in a game for the first time since May 30, 2017 against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

David Hess went just four innings for the Orioles, as he allowed seven runs on six hits, walked three and struck out four and his record fell to 1-7 on the season.

The Posey home run allowed by Hess was the major-league leading 19th home run allowed by Hess this season.

Renato Nunez hit his second home run in as many days, as he hit a solo blast off of Anderson to get the Orioles on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning.

The Giants were not going to let this one get away, as they broke the game wide open in the top of the fifth inning, when they scored four runs to take a commanding 7-1 lead.

Kevin Pillar led off the inning with a double, then scored on a Joe Panik single. After a Yastrzemski single and a Posey walk to load the bases, Sandoval popped out for the first out of the inning; however, Belt drove in his third and fourth runs of the afternoon, when he doubled to right field.

Longoria then made it 7-1, as he hit a sacrifice fly that easily scored Posey from third base.

On that play, Posey was forced to leave the game with a sore right hamstring.

NOTES: Panik snapped a 0-for-9 skein, as he singled in the top of the fifth inning that scored Pillar and over his last 28 games, he has reached in 25.

Pillar picked up two hits on the afternoon, as he doubled both times and it was the 15th time in his career that he picked two doubles in the same game. This was the third time that Pillar did it against the Orioles.

This was the third time this season that Nunez hit home runs in back-to-back games. Nunez also hit home runs in four consecutive games from May 22-25.

In Fridays 9-6 win, the Orioles allowed five runs in the first inning and then answered with six runs in the bottom half of the inning. This was the first time in Orioles history (since 1954) that they and their opponents each scored five or more runs in the first inning. It last happened in a game on July 6, 2012, when the New York Yankees faced off against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, a 10-8 Yankees victory.

UP NEXT: Jeff Samardzija heads to the mound on Sunday afternoon, as the Giants look for the series win. This will be the first start for Samardzija against the Orioles since the 2015 season when he was with the Chicago White Sox, and he is 0-1 in three starts in his career versus the Orioles.

Gabriel Ynoa will take the ball for the Orioles in the series finale, as he looks for his first win of the season. This will be Ynoas first career start against the Giants.

San Francisco Giants podcast with Morris Phillips: Bochy says it’s the worst season he’s seen in awhile

@BruceBochy file photo: San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy says this has been the worst season in awhile for the struggling Giants, who are on a five-game losing streak.

On the San Francisco Giants podcast with Morris Phillips:

#1 Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for the San Francisco Giants. The basics: no hitting and no pitching. Manager Bruce Bochy says its the worst season he’s seen in awhile.

#2 Up and down the lineup, they’re just not getting the hitting or run support from Joe Panik .245, Steve Duggar .242, Buster Posey .252,Brandon Belt .229, Evan Longoria .225, and Brandon Crawford .200.

#3 The Giants have also been lacking in their pitching help. For example, starters Drew Pomeranz, Andrew Suarez, and Shaun Anderson have pitched 11 2/3 innings and allowed 20 runs

#4 One item that has been discussed is local businesses have struggled near the ballpark. Merchants have said business has been down by half or worse and some say no one is coming into their business.

#5 Giants have a much-needed day off before heading to Florida. Starting for SF, Jeff Samardzija (2-3, 3.27 ERA) vs. the Marlins Trevor Richards (1-5, 4.14 ERA).

Morris does the Giants podcasts each Monday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

San Francisco Giants podcast with Michael Duca: Belt, Posey expected back in the lineup tonight in Arizona

Photo credit: @mercnews

On the Giants podcast with Michael:

#1 Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he kept first baseman Brandon Belt out of the lineup due to his inflamed knee Bochy says Belt is listed as day-to-day.

#2 Belt has had two knee surgeries. He went 0-3 with a walk on Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays. Did his 0-for-3 have something to do with his knee being inflamed?

#3 The bobblehead for Pablo Sandoval reads “Let Pablo pitch” but someday the bobblehead for Giants pitcher Shaun Anderson will read “Let Shaun hit” because two hits in his first MLB game and some solid hitting would make only teammate Madison Bumgarner proud.

#4 Buster Posey is expected to be in the lineup on Friday night to open up the series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was out with a concussion for seven days. How cautious will the Giants and Posey be about his return?

#5 Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto is doing a 40-pitch bullpen session as he catches up with the team in Arizona. Bochy said he’s not sure if Cueto will be back this season after having Tommy John surgery, but he wants to see how and where Cueto is at in these bullpen sessions.

Join Miguel for the Giants podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com