A virus raged through the Giants’ bat rack going into getaway day. Over the previous four games, an epidemic of ineptitude had infected the lumber, which had produced only 23 hits, three runs and a microbial average of .173.
Was it time to issue a quarantine?
Dr. Bruce Bochy, manager of the Giants, struggled for a remedy Wednesday afternoon. Should he order extra practice? Or would it be better to keep the bats out of the cage, to take some pressure off their human companions who had been imposing so much on themselves? How about video? Would it do any good to watch their struggles putting baseballs in play?
Before departing for Arizona at the close of a seven-game homestand at AT&T Park, Bochy swept aside medical suggestions. He favored instead a time-tested cure, one applicable to all walks of life, from Himalayan tour guides to men who swing baseball bats for a living. The beauty is in its simplicity.
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Over the course of 162 games, you’re going to have stretches like this. You just have to keep moving forward.
Giants second baseman Joe Panik
“More than anything, come out here every day and strap it on,” Bochy advised his hitters. “Don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what’s happened the last three or four days. You’ve got to look forward in this game. You’re going to have these moments. It’s important that you focus forward.”
By the fifth inning, the Giants had surpassed their run production of the previous four games. It took them eight more innings before they scored again, on a bases-loaded walk to Buster Posey in the 13th, to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 in a game San Francisco led 4-1 after seven. The Giants finished with 12 hits, all but two of them singles. Call it progress at a moment in the season when they got back to .500.
“That would have been a tough one to lose,” Bochy said.
Coming out of spring training, the Giants figured to score as many runs as needed this year. They had Silver Sluggers at shortstop and catcher, a third baseman who hit .295 last season, a fire starter returning from injury in right field, a proven .300 hitter at second base, a rally-igniting veteran import from Washington atop the order, and a highly valued millennial at first base whom management recently satisfied with a big, new, long-term contract.
It’s not as if the lineup was having as bad a season as Dungeness crab. Entering Wednesday, the Giants ranked fifth in the majors in runs with 162, and there is nothing toxic about that stat, which really is the only one that matters.
Second baseman Joe Panik, who contributed a hit and scored a run on the long, bright afternoon by the bay, assured Giants fans there is no reason to panic.
“Over the course of 162 games, you’re going to have stretches like this,” Panik said before the game. “You just have to keep moving forward. You get hot stretches and cold stretches. You keep working, and eventually you come out of it.
“It’s such a long season,” he continued. “We’re not even a quarter of the way through. Everything is magnified at this point, numbers-wise, and you can’t focus on it. You’ve got to focus on keeping it day to day.”
Where the Giants really have languished in the first six weeks of the season is in the number of runs they have allowed. The 167 they had given up entering Wednesday ranked 25th. The total was nearly twice that of the ungodly Chicago Cubs, the stingiest club in the sport with only 89 yielded.
162 Giants’ run total, fifth in the majors, entering Wednesday
While Wednesday’s hard-luck starter Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija have been solid at the top of the rotation, the exceptions have taken place at the fourth and fifth spots. Jake Peavy and Matt Cain are a combined 1-9, with shockingly high ERAs of 8.47 (Peavy) and 6.69 (Cain).
Both looked improved in their losses this week to the Blue Jays. Cain especially delivered cause for hope for Giants fans in the eight innings he pitched Tuesday, when he allowed six hits, struck out seven and walked none. He looked mostly good on 106 of his 107 pitches, the problem being a home run ball he grooved to Troy Tulowitzki.
“He had good focus,” Bochy said. “I think he got in a good rhythm and that confidence just grew. You could tell. He wanted the ball.”
As for the bats, maybe they’ll feel better when Angel Pagan (hamstring) comes off the disabled list and Bochy slots him back into that ninth position in the order, behind the pitcher.
Just 36 games into the season, Bochy didn’t sound too worried about his offense.
“I think we have a few guys that just haven’t found their stride, yet,” he said.
Like so many before them, the Giants go to Arizona looking to regain their health against the Diamondbacks, who swept a four-game series in San Francisco last month. It was enough to make the Giants sick.