The Giants tried to find a silver lining in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss in the performance of Jake Peavy, who threw seven strong innings in his second start since returning from the disabled list. Their sputtering offense, however, took some of the sheen off.
New York Mets All-Star Jacob deGrom held the Giants to two hits over eight scoreless innings, and the Giants came within a Hunter Pence RBI single in the ninth inning of being shut out for the second time this series. As it is, they have scored three or fewer runs in six consecutive games, and recorded their only win in that span by throwing a shutout behind Matt Cain on Tuesday night.
Overall, the Giants have lost 11 of their last 16 games and 23 of 36, compiling the second-worst record in the majors since May 30. The highest-scoring offense in the N.L. in May and fourth-highest in June, the Giants have hit a dry stretch recently that manager Bruce Bochy said he does not see continuing.
“I think this is too good an offense not to put runs on the board consistently, I really do,” Bochy said. “Once we get full strength, I think this is a team you’ll see that earlier did swing the bat well. We were putting up some big numbers, and I think we’ll get back to that point.”
That lineup in May did have Nori Aoki in the leadoff spot, Buster Posey in the middle and – for part of the month – Hunter Pence for a brief time between DL stints. Aoki is now on the DL with a fractured fibula. Pence just returned Tuesday from wrist tendinitis. Posey has missed the last two games with hamstring tightness, but said he plans to be in the lineup when the Giants begin a series against the Phillies on Friday.
Overall, Bochy said he thinks Thursday’s off-day will give his hitters a chance to “catch their breath.” Bochy again brought up the Giants’ recent travel schedule Wednesday that has included two instances in the past month where they flew from the East Coast after a night game and played a night game at home the next day.
“Not to make excuses,” Bochy said, “but I really think this club is going to bounce back, this offense is going to get going.”
That was a tall order Wednesday against deGrom, the long-locked, hard-throwing right-hander who lowered his ERA to 2.14 with his performance against the Giants. Pence led off the second inning for the Giants with a double, but deGrom came back to strike out the next three hitters. Perhaps their best scoring chance came the following inning, but was erased by a base-running mistake.
With two on and one out, Joe Panik hit a ball softly to left field that dropped in front of the Mets’ Eric Campbell. Justin Maxwell, however, got a late jump from second base after stopping to make sure the ball fell in front of Campbell, and was thrown out at third. Instead of having the bases loaded and one out, the Giants were left with two on and two outs, and Matt Duffy flew out to deep right-center to end the inning.
“That’s a turning point,” Bochy said. “That’s a chance, especially going against a guy like deGrom, you’re not going to get (many of) those chances there. Just made a mistake there, and it made the difference.”
Maxwell said he hesitated too much trying to read the play.
“It was just one of those in-between ones,” Maxwell said. “I got halfway and I was just – the ball started getting lower, and I shuffled back toward second thinking he was going to try to make a play there. I should’ve just held my ground.”
The Giants did not put another runner into scoring position until the ninth, when Pence’s single off Bobby Parnell saved them from a second shutout loss in three days. It was too little to get Peavy off the hook for a loss, despite his allowing two runs – one earned – in seven innings. That followed Tuesday night’s game in which Matt Cain, also newly back from the disabled list, threw six scoreless innings in the Giants’ lone win of the series.
“Cain had a huge outing last night, Peavy has pitched well in both his outings since he’s come back,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “It’s definitely encouraging. We just need to put up some runs for them, and I think we can turn it around a little bit.”
* Bochy has a decision to make regarding his starter for the All-Star game next week in Cincinnati. If Max Scherzer pitches Sunday, and is therefore ineligible to make the start, Bochy will have several candidates to choose from – one of whom made a compelling audition at AT&T Park on Wednesday.
Bochy said deGrom was “really good,” which was a very tempered assessment. On his 99th and final pitch of the game, deGrom threw a 96 mph fastball past Gregor Blanco for a swinging third strike. It was his third double-digit strikeout game this year and the seventh of his career.
“You get a guy up here throwing that hard with command, with his other pitches, that’s why he’s on the All-Star team,” Bochy said. “You’re going against a guy like this, you gotta play perfect ball, and we didn’t do it.”
* The Mets broke a scoreless tie in the sixth with an unearned run. With a runner on first, Daniel Murphy hit a sharp grounder to the right of Crawford, who made a backhand play and tried to throw from his knees to second base. Crawford’s throw sailed wide of second baseman Panik and down the right-field line, allowing Ruben Tejada to score all the way from first base.
Simply stopping the ball was a remarkable play, and Crawford said the throw afterward was instinctual. “I don’t know if I’d do any different next time,” Crawford said. “I’m just trying to make a play.”
* Pence went 2-for-4 with a double in his second game back from a month-long absence, and missed a home run in the sixth inning a couple feet foul down the left-field line. For having not seen major-league pitching in a month, Bochy said he is “very encouraged” by Pence’s at-bats the last two days.
“When he was on the DL, he spent so much time in the cage working as much as he could to make sure he was ready when he came off,” Bochy said. “It’s a credit to him, his work ethic. Really happy with the fact that we didn’t send him down (to rehab).”
* After an off-day Thursday, the Giants welcome in the Phillies for a three-game series. The pitching probables:
Friday: LHP Madison Bumgarner (8-5, 3.34) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (5-6, 3.02)
Saturday: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (6-6, 4.10) vs. RHP David Buchanan (2015 debut)
Sunday: RHP Chris Heston (8-5, 3.51) vs. RHP Chad Billingsley (1-2, 6.67)