Bay Area baseball: A look at the week for the A's and Giants
There are only so many ways to describe the depth of the Giants’ woes this season.
Here is one. After getting blown out in an 8-0 loss at Coors Field on Sunday, the Giants are 6-13 – and that matches their worst record through 19 games in franchise history. The 1983 team was the last to stumble so badly out of the gate.
At least that ’83 team had Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper in the dugout to keep things loose.
Simply put, the Giants are a mess. They have the worst record in the National League. They already stand seven games back in the N.L. West after getting swept in three games here at Coors Field. They have lost six of seven to the upstart Rockies, who appear to have more talent in the lineup, more energy in their legs and more healthy bodies on their roster despite the multitude of dirt bike trails here in the high plains.
And now, some plain talk from Giants manager Bruce Bochy:
“Right now, there’s nothing clicking, let’s be honest,” Bochy said. “It’s a rough start. We’re not very good right now. But we’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there. This is when you find a way to get through it, and they will.”
The Giants arrived for Friday’s series opener here to the news that left-hander Madison Bumgarner, the bedrock of their rotation and most durable performer on the club, had seriously injured his throwing shoulder in a dirt bike accident. Nothing could overcome that disappointment, but at least a victory or two here would’ve tasted like an ice cream sundae after a divorce.
“I mean, Bum wasn’t pitching in this series anyway, but we just got it handed to us,” Buster Posey said. “There’s no other way around it. They outplayed us.”
Now the Giants go home to tangle with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first time this season, but the four-game rivalry series is hardly the anticipated N.L. West power struggle. The Dodgers pitching staff is getting waxed of late, too, and the Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks already have created a bit of separation atop the division.
Yes, it is early. Those words are falling easily out of the mouths of players in a hushed Giants clubhouse. But Bochy would prefer not to hear them.
“What you have to be careful of is to let any complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be OK.’ I don’t want to hear that, either,” Bochy said. “We’ve got to come out with a sense of urgency. All these games are important. Every day you come here and plan on coming out of it.
“I felt that way today. It didn’t go our way. I’ll feel that way tomorrow.”
Tomorrow has to be better than all their yesterdays since last year’s All-Star break. They are 36-55 since then, which would project out to a 64-98 season.
Bochy shook up his lineup Sunday in part to put paddles to his offense but mostly to address a decimated outfield that took another hit Saturday night when Denard Span sprained his shoulder while colliding with the center field fence.
Bochy put Eduardo Nunez in the leadoff spot and moved first baseman Brandon Belt to left field for the first time this season. Belt finished the game in right field when Bochy decided two innings of a blowout game wasn’t a great idea for Hunter Pence’s bruised knee.
The batting order shakeup didn’t work. A roster shakeup is likely coming next. Veteran center fielder Drew Stubbs is not the kind of player who can rescue a season, but it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t be an upgrade on Gorkys Hernandez, who made another error in center field. And with Chris Marrero’s spring training flame extinguished, Michael Morse could be a Giant again soon.
But those are not the roster fixes that will help the Giants turn around a season that has veered onto the soft shoulder and is threatening to spin totally off the road. They have to pitch better, and Bumgarner’s left arm is in a sling.
The Giants already entered with the worst rotation ERA in the major leagues (4.69), and it went up to 5.02 by the time Jeff Samardzija exited in the sixth inning.
“It’s surprising, yeah, as talented as these guys are,” said Posey, who started at first base on Sunday. “But they’ll get on a roll. The flipside is that our offense hasn’t performed well, either. It seems it’s never just one thing. These things seem to culminate and pile up when we aren’t playing well. We’ve just got to play better ball.”
Samardzija was charged with seven runs in 5 1/3 innings, but he pitched better than his line score. It was a 3-0 game entering the sixth, and two of the runs against Samardzija had scored on a Gerardo Parra home run that barely snuck over the right-field scoreboard.
The Rockies’ five-run sixth began when Nolan Arenado hit a comebacker that Samardzija managed to kick to a vacant part of the infield for an infield single. Then came a walk, and a one-out single by Parra that Hernandez misplayed for an error. Trevor Story singled to score two runs, and left-hander Steven Okert cashed in his inherited runner.
“His split didn’t have a lot of movement,” Bochy said of Samardzija. “He did make some two-strike mistakes. I don’t want these guys to feel pressure because we’re not scoring runs.”
The Giants offense made some hard contact against left-hander Kyle Freeland, but once again, they got started too late. Freeland retired the first 11 batters he faced to continue a trend of slow starts for the Giants lineup. It’s a trend that concerned Bochy even in spring training.
“Somehow we’ve got to change that,” he said. “We shook up the lineup, like you saw. There’s only so much you can do. These are our guys.”
Right now, the Rockies’ guys look better. They outscored the Giants 28-8 and swept them in a home series of at least three games for the first time since 2002.
“(Freeland) had good sinking action on his fastball and we were beating it into the ground,” Bochy said. “They pitch well in the bullpen, and obviously they swing the bat. This (division) is going to be a fight. These teams are much better, and San Diego took a series against us, too.”
Could the Dodgers and Giants really be fighting for the right to see who finishes ahead of the Padres in the N.L. West?
Well, maybe not. It’s early.