SAN FRANCISCO -- At this point, after six consecutive losses in which they’ve scored a total of six runs, Giants manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged the offensive struggles may have worked their way into his hitters’ heads.
"We just can’t string together a few hits," Bochy said. "It’s tough for these guys, believe me. I think they’re pressing a little bit. … Just for the life of me, I can’t tell you why, but we’re having a hard time putting together some good at-bats."
The latest result was a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night in which their lone run came on Michael Morse’s second-inning homer. Buster Posey had three singles, including two leading off innings that ended with Posey standing on second. The Giants struck out 13 times, including 11 against left-hander Francisco Liriano, who entered with a 2-7 record and a 4.18 ERA.
It left reporters with few new questions and Bochy with few new answers to explain what has seemingly become a team-wide slump, save for one or two players showing signs of life on a given night. Morse’s homer was just his second since June 6, and he struck out in his next three at-bats. Gregor Blanco had a one-out double in the first inning but struck out twice and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the eighth.
"That’s been one of the problems here is we don’t have two or three guys hot," Bochy said. "Buster had a good night, but you’ve got to string together a few hits unless you’re hitting the long ball. … We’ve got to get some guys seeing the ball well and get their confidence back."
Bochy said the 13 strikeouts on Tuesday were an indication to him that the hitters may be trying to do too much and thus chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Posey said he could not say for sure whether any hitters are pressing. Morse said the slump is "a little stretch we’re going through," but offered some insight into his own struggles -- he said lately he has been "giving in too easily" with two strikes, swinging at pitches out of the zone, and needs to get back to the better approach he had early in the season.
Morse said he’s confident that things are "going to click" for the Giants. "We’re going to run, and we wont’ even remember this," he said. If so, it would behoove the Giants to do so sooner than later. The Dodgers beat the Braves on Tuesdsay night, 8-4, to increase the N.L. West lead to a season-high three games, and as Bochy pointed out before the game, the margin of error gets smaller as you get into August.
The Giants have lost the first five games of this six-game homestand, in which they’ve hit .173 as a team. Bochy credited Liriano with being particularly effective with his offspeed pitches Tuesday, and Liriano does have a history that’s better than his current record.
"But I think part of it is a few guys have lost some confidence and that kinda compounds the damage," Bochy said. "We’ve got to get that swagger back."
* Tim Hudson was 7-2 with a 1.81 ERA on June 12. He’s now 8-8, having lost six of his last eight starts, despite allowing more than three runs in just three of them. Hudson’s undoing Tuesday night was two home runs by the Pirates, one by Josh Harrison leading off the game and a two-run shot by Travis Snider in the second inning.
Hudson said the 3-2 fastball that Harrison drove the other way just over the bricks in right field was a "decent pitch … a little more up than I wanted. Off the bat I thought it was at most going to be off the wall and it just kept going." He said the cutter to Snider "didn’t quite have the finish I wanted it to."
After that, Hudson allowed just two more hits and completed seven innings throwing 114 pitches. It was his second consecutive outing with that pitch count, a season-high, which is a notable trend for a 39-year-old pitcher. Hudson, though, said he feels good physically -- "as good as a 39-year-old can feel at this point of the season."
"My job is to go out and pitch until Boch takes the ball from me," he said. "I have felt pretty good, though, late in the game. Some of my better innings probably have been my last three or four of a game, where I’ve gotten my pitch count up a little bit. So that is encouraging."
Hudson’s take on the six game losing streak, and the Giants’ 6-21 record in their last 27 games at AT&T Park: "Obviously it’s a bit frustrating. But we’re going out and doing the best we can, we’re just losing some tough games. It’s obviously been a little tough at home as of late, but we need to turn it around, and hopefully it’ll start tomorrow."
* One positive note for the Giants was the first career start for catcher Andrew Susac, the Roseville native and Jesuit High grad. Susac has worked with most of the Giants’ staff in previous spring trainings -- but not Hudson, who nonetheless said he thought Susac "did a great job."
"He mixed it up, he received really well," Hudson said. "I thought we had a pretty good game plan coming in, we sat down and went over a lot of things before the game. I was pleasantly surprised with him."
Bochy also said he "thought the kid behind the plate, he did a good job catching." Susac said he and Hudson "got on the same page as quick as we could" before the game, and, "From the get-go, it seemed like we had a pretty good thing going." Susac did a nice job of blocking pitches in the dirt and said Hudson rarely shook him off, except for several situations with runners in scoring position. "I’m learning as I go, too," he said.
Next order of business for Susac: Getting some team-specific catching gear. He was still wearing generic black gear Tuesday night. "I like the all black," he joked. "But yeah, I’ve contacted Nike. Hopefully we can get some colorful gear in here."
That’s not the only adjustment for Susac since getting called up over the weekend. Posey said he was talking to the rookie about the difference between Triple-A and major-league stadiums during night games, and how much easier it is to see in the latter because of the better lighting.
"Oh god, it’s like a day game," Susac said. "I don’t know if it’s the height of the lights or the quality of them, but one of the two, you can actually see seams on the ball toward the eighth inning."
* Bochy didn’t have an Angel Pagan update after the game, but the Giants are hoping to know soon when Pagan might be able to start a rehab assignment. Brandon Belt could be back by this weekend. Ostensibly that will help the Giants offensively, but they can’t be waiting around.
They have one chance to salvage a game on this homestand in the series finale against the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon. Tim Lincecum (9-7, 3.96) opposes Pittsburgh right-hander Charlie Morton (5-10, 3.65). First pitch at 12:45 p.m.