Bruce Bochy loses his cool about as often as it rains. And to be sure, when compared with the temper tantrums and postgame rants so common in clubhouses during June swoons and alarming July slides, his reaction Thursday afternoon to the Giants’ ongoing skid was more of a controlled, calculated scolding.
Meeting with reporters in his office instead of the usual interview room down the hallway, the longtime manager leaned back in his chair, then unloaded. He spoke softly and deliberately – this is Bochy, remember – and used terms like “awful baseball” and “disappointing” and having “too much talent for this.” With his frequent hand gestures stressing his points, he seemed particularly miffed about his team’s sloppy 7-2 loss to St. Louis that ended the 10-game homestand with a 2-8 thud.
“I always like to say, ‘Wash this off,’ but at the same time, there’s a time to get upset and angry and say, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” Bochy said. “That’s where we’re at. We had a chance to take the series, and we didn’t. The mistakes. Threw a couple of double-play balls away. Bum (Madison Bumgarner) wasn’t quite on.”
Bumgarner, who allowed five runs and lasted six innings in his previous outing, gave up five runs and was gone after five innings Thursday. He walked leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter and surrendered a home run to Jhonny Peralta before the fans had even settled into their seats, then got into trouble again in the fourth, though not without some help.
After Yadier Molina singled, Mark Ellis reached first on a soft grounder to first baseman Adam Duvall. Instead of striding over and stepping on the bag, Duvall turned toward second and airmailed a throw into the outfield. Jon Jay promptly doubled down the left-field line, Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez followed with a single, and before Bumgarner struck out Carpenter and Matt Adams, the Cards were up 5-1.
But there was plenty more of that awful baseball Bochy referenced, including another throw that sailed into the outfield – this one by reliever Yusmeiro Petit – and the Giants’ inability to score runs. They loaded the bases in the fifth on infield singles by Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence and a walk to Joe Panik, setting the scene for Buster Posey.
Instead, it was that kind of day, that kind of homestand: Posey missed two 98-mph fastballs, then worked the count to 2-2, only to foul-tip another Martinez scorcher into Molina’s glove.
And poor Duvall. He was recalled from Triple-A Fresno for his big-league debut only a week ago. Though he partly atoned for his error by singling in the sixth and advancing Tyler Colvin, who scored on Brandon Crawford’s RBI single, he was summoned into Bochy’s office after the game and optioned out to make room for Brandon Belt.
The news isn’t all doom and gloom then, right? Belt, who rejoins the team today in San Diego after missing almost two months following thumb surgery, provides an immediate lift with his defense at first. His hot start at the plate hasn’t been forgotten, either. One fan yelled longingly, “When’s Belt coming back?” after Duvall threw away the double-play ball.
The 10-game stretch also featured a no-hitter and eight shutout innings by Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner who still excites the crowd here like no one else. Unfortunately for the Giants, Lincecum was the only starter to record a victory in a homestand against the San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds and Cardinals. Bumgarner absorbed two defeats. Tim Hudson wasn’t as sharp as he has been. Closer Sergio Romo blew three of five save opportunities and was demoted.
And not far from anyone’s mind is the season-long absence of veteran second baseman Marco Scutaro (back) and the more recent absence of center fielder Angel Pagan (back), the Giants’ leadoff hitter who was invaluable the first two months of the season. Pagan, who received a second injection to reduce inflammation of a bulging disc, hopes to return next week. But if the treatment again fails and surgery becomes an option, the Giants will be in a world of hurt.
Bochy’s scolding before his team boarded the bus was part pep talk, too. The Giants owned a 91/2-game lead over the division-rival Dodgers on June 8, and at least for the near future, appear to be stuck with each other. There doesn’t appear to be an obvious or quick fix, say, a Pence or Scutaro available to be poached.
“No, no, this is our group,” Bochy said, when asked if he anticipated any dramatic personnel changes. “They know that. We told them that. This is a good group, a talented group, and we’ve showed that. That’s why today was so disappointing. We put ourselves in the situation where the margin of error is not there anymore. We have got to play good baseball. We have a lot of time to get this right.”
Call The Bee’s Ailene Voisin, (916) 321-1208.