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6:40PM

Giants offense may be as good as they hoped

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — Only one game, but what a game. A game that might lead to a trend and, at the least, stopped a three-game losing streak. A game in which the offense that the Giants hoped they had, an offense the Giants needed, was alive and well.

This Giants lineup is supposed to be good, perhaps outstanding. Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford already were there. Then they added Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, and the days of losing 2-1 or 3-2 — or, worse, 1-0 — were supposed to be over.

Technically, they were, but in the previous three games before Saturday the Giants scored, in order, three runs, three runs and one run, a total of seven. And they lost all three.

But finally, everything clicked. Balls were flying into the corners. Players were flying around the bases.

Brandon Crawford had a home run, double, single and four runs batted in. The other Brandon, Belt, had two hits and an RBI. McCutchen had two doubles and a single. Miguel Gomez, the fill-in second baseman (and in the ninth inning, an outfielder), had two hits and two runs scored.

And most importantly, the Giants had a 9-4 win over the Rockies at AT&T Park, where the wind was reminiscent of Candlestick Park and the victory reminiscent of those World Series years.

“It takes time,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy of the team's hitting. “These guys are good, but this is what we were expecting. They’re good hitters.”

In the early part of this ’18 season, Belt has been an excellent hitter. He has 10 home runs. He’s hitting .308. He has 26 RBI.

“I thought this is where I could be,” said Belt, 30, in his eighth season with San Francisco. “But until now, it hasn’t been the case. I feel comfortable at bat.”

Belt worked on his swing during spring training. He’s always been a patient hitter, as that record 21-pitch at bat against the Angels showed recently. Now he’s more aggressive.

Surely having Buster Posey (.307 after two hits Saturday) ahead of him in the lineup and Even Longoria after him (although Longoria so far has to match what people were hoping) has aided Belt.

You look at the Dodgers, Joc Pederson, Yasmani Grandal, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig and once again Justin Turner, and you find power and consistency, what seemingly the Giants lacked and a reason L.A. finished 40 games ahead of San Francisco a year ago.

But now, the Giants have some punch.

“We’re better this year,” said Bochy, “and we’re not there yet. We haven’t hit our stride.”

Crawford, the All-Star shortstop, is hitting his — and hitting the ball. He was 3-for-5 Saturday with a home run and four RBI.

Nothing is permanent in sport. A kicker may change his steps on field goals, a golfer the angle of his swing. Unintentionally, of course. Crawford said he got advice from teammates, including Pablo Sandoval, and raised his bat ever so slightly. His batting average has been raised more than slightly, to .302.

“And our bullpen has been really good,” said Bochy, knowing full well in the end that pitching wins games. On Saturday, Will Smith, back after a year following Tommy John surgery, Pierce Johnson, Sam Dyson and Tony Watson didn’t give up a run after they followed starter Chris Stratton, who went five innings and gained the victory.

After Sunday, the Giants go on the road. They’ll be around the .500 mark. Madison Bumgarner is throwing again. Jeff Samardzija appears to have regained his touch. 

Maybe there’s a summer of success on the horizon.

9:20AM

S.F. Examiner: Giants go from bad to worst

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

Bruce Bochy was alone at his desk, studying numbers that could only reinforce what he knew, what we knew — the Giants are a team in trouble. The scintilla of optimism that burst forth Saturday night like the reflection off the championship rings that had been awarded, and the victory that at last was achieved after eight straight defeats, had disappeared.

They’re not very good, these 2015 Giants, the defending World Series champions. They may in fact be very bad. The 5-1 victory by Arizona on Sunday set up what even Bochy, at his postgame news conference, agreed would be a critical few games against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Read the full story here.

© 2015 The San Francisco Examiner 

9:33PM

Giants’ frustration turns into victory

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — The manager felt exactly like the fans. Frustrated, disappointed, maybe if he would confide, defeated. The Giants, the World Series Champion Giants, had spent four hours Tuesday night “squandering a 6-0 lead,” as Bruce Bochy so accurately phrased it.

Now a bit before noon Wednesday, a weary Bochy was meeting his obligations and the media. “That,” he said to the journalists about the night before, “was one of our worst games.”

One of their worst games in one of their worst recent seasons. It’s one thing not to repeat. It’s another to plummet, to bumble in the field, to fail at the plate, to be embarrassed.

Baseball, it’s been said, is designed to test a man, to find how he can react when times are going poorly, because as we’ve seen from the celebrations and the acclaim, we know how he will react when everything’s going well.

How does he play the mental game, often the most difficult of all? Does he solider on? Does he start contemplating the end of the schedule?

What we found out a few hours after Bochy’s remarks was what Bochy said he already knew. The Giants still have their pride, and their professionalism.

The Giants loaded the bases in the seventh on three walks with nobody out. Only one of those runners scored. The Giants trailed, 3-2, and you surmised they would lose another. They didn’t, getting two runs in the bottom of the eighth to beat the Colorado Rockies, 4-3.

The feeling in the clubhouse was more of relief than elation. More of reassurance than satisfaction.

“If we had lost this game,” conceded Bochy, “after the way we did (Tuesday) night it would have been really bad, really frustrating. This would have been a hard game to take.”

Especially with a 10-game road trip against the Dodgers, Mets and Yankees starting Thursday. Especially with a home crowd, one of those empty-seat sellouts, the 240th in a row, screaming as if the Giants were in first place, not in last.

“The fans are still behind us,” said Brandon Belt.

The Giants on Wednesday at AT&T Park got what they had been missing, effective pitching and timely hitting in the same game. The mark of a lousy team is to lose a game 9-8 and then the next day lose one, say, 3-2. Which, after a seventh inning when they had the bases loaded and scored only one run — on a sacrifice fly — appeared likely.

But not only did San Francisco win, it also won a home stand (2-2 against Arizona, 2-1 against Colorado) for the first time since May. The Giants also received fine pitching again from Yusmeiro Petit. On Friday, he was one out from a perfect game. On Wednesday, he retired the first nine batters he faced in order — meaning only one base runner in 13 innings — but then he wobbled in the sixth and came out.

Still, three runs allowed in 14 2/3 innings is the stuff of a guy who might very well be a starter next season. He’s hoping as much, as he explained through a translator. So is management.

“He’s a really smart pitcher,” said Bochy.

Petit is 29, and it took him a long while to get to the bigs, but perhaps his time has come. In 5 2/3 innings Wednesday, Petit struck out seven.

“We’re playing hard,” said Bochy. “I never doubted that. We don’t have a choice. This is what we’re paid to do.”

They just haven’t done it very well much of the year. Only two statistics are truly important: runs scored and runs allowed. The Giants for weeks now haven’t been able to get people around the bases and across home plate. They did Wednesday because Marco Scutaro, six weeks from his 38th birthday, refused to rest, and because Belt drove a pitch to the opposite field, left.

With the bases loaded in the eighth — in part due to a perfect sacrifice bunt by pinch hitter Eire Adrianza — and one out, Scutaro singled home the run that tied the game, 3-3. Belt followed with a single that would prove to win the game.

“Marco doesn’t like days off,” said Bochy. “He wanted to win this game.”

And so he and Belt, along with Angel Pagan and Brandon Crawford, won it.

“This could take us into next year,” said Belt.

Where it takes them immediately is to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers, supplanting the Giants as the best team in National League West, are waiting.

“There will be a lot of people down there,” Bochy said, referring to expected sellout crowds. “It will be good for our young players to be on a stage like that. We’re going to go down there and try to win some ballgames.”

Something they haven’t done very often — Wednesday being a fine exception.