While the Giants let a handful of scoring chances go for naught in their 5-3 loss to the Phillies on Friday night, the botched squeeze play in the sixth inning may have drawn the most attention.
With Gregor Blanco on third, Brandon Crawford put down a bunt right back to pitcher Cole Hamels, who caught Blanco too far off third base and tagged him out in a rundown.
Manager Bruce Bochy said after the game the play was a safety squeeze, and that, “both ends, we didn’t execute.” Crawford’s bunt was too easily handled by Hamels, but Blanco also did not get a good read on the bunt.
Blanco on Saturday morning explained his read on the play: “I think I did what I was supposed to do,” he said. “It was a safety squeeze and my thought was OK, be aggressive for the first two steps, and if it’s to the pitcher, come back. That’s what I did.
“If you see the ball bunted, if you see the ball on the ground, take a hard two steps toward home plate, and if it’s to the pitcher, come back (to third). But it was (bunted) so hard that I didn’t have time to come back.”
Blanco said Bochy talked to him about the play late Friday night and stressed the need to make sure the ball gets past the pitcher before breaking for the plate. Blanco said he tried to do so, but it’s a fine line with the timing: If he hesitates too long and the ball does get past the pitcher, there’s a chance a corner infielder might field it and have time to throw him out at the plate.
“It’s one of those plays, it was really hard, man,” Blanco said. “It just turned a good way for the Phillies.”
Quite a few things seemed to go the way of the Phillies last night, including several base-running mistakes by the Giants, and Bochy said this morning he was confident the latter was an anomaly.
“You’re going to have some strange games,” Bochy said, “and that was last night.”
Here’s the Giants’ lineup for today’s second game of the series, in which they face right-hander Kyle Kendrick:
And the Phillies’ lineup against Hudson:
The good news is that, at 150 1/3 innings this season, Hudson appears to still be strong despite his age and the fact he’s coming off 2013’s season-ending injury. It does seem that the Giants have been mindful of his pitch counts - he has thrown over 90 pitches only three times in his last 10 starts. It helps that Hudson is very efficient when he’s on.
“We’ve had some days off, we’re getting some more days off, so they’re getting a break,” Bochy said of the starters and Hudson in particular. “Taking a look at his pitches and (the fact) he got a little break earlier in the season, went to the All-Star Game but didn’t pitch, I think he’ll be all right.”
Bochy’s response was along the same lines as the one he has given about Bumgarner. “I can’t tell you why that’s the case,” he said. “I mean, it’s fair to say this is more of a pitcher’s park, but still (Posey has) had a lot of success here.
“I think it’s just one of those years where we’ve had some things here at home that are hard to explain, whether it’s individual players or us as a team.”
The Giants have lost 23 of their last 31 games at home - a .258 winning percentage that is the worst in the majors since June 9 - and haven’t won consecutive games at AT&T Park since they won five in a row between May 27 and June 8.
It’s something that Bochy said must change if the Giants are to make a playoff push over their last 41 games. The manager was asked today if the Giants, who have fallen to 5½ games out of first place in the division and begin today a half-game behind Pittsburgh for the second wild-card spot, have talked about wild-card scenarios at all in the clubhouse.
“No, you know, it’s not a mention of anything except just go out there and go as hard as we can and see what happens,” Bochy said. “You don’t look at the standings. If we don’t pick up our play and play better here at home, it’s not going to matter what happens with the other clubs.”
While Hudson has kept Rollins (.230 average in 87 at-bats) and Utley (.257 in 70 at-bats) mostly in check, Howard has a .328 average in 67 at-bats against him with seven homers, 17 RBIs and 12 walks (six intentional).