Entries in Hunter Strickland (1)


Giants: Little things and big defeats

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — They’re not going to win the division. That’s for sure. Maybe the Giants still will make the postseason, get in as a wild card, and even that’s problematic.

But definitely the way they are playing, just poorly enough to lose, they won’t overtake the Dodgers — who gleefully overtook the tumbling Giants in the National League West days ago.

It’s not that the Giants are a bad team. The Atlanta Braves are a bad team. No, the Braves are a terrible team. The San Diego Padres are a bad team. They are 22 games below .500. And that’s after sweeping a three-game series from the Giants. For a second time this season.

The Giants are a good team playing badly. Or once were a good team playing badly, very badly as defined by a classical, baseball reference.

When they hit they don’t pitch, as they did and didn't on Tuesday night, San Francisco entering the ninth with a 4-1 lead and ingloriously losing to the Padres 6-4 on a home run by, not Nate Colbert or Tony Gwynn even, but Ryan Schimpf. The 27th blown save of the season. Oh, where are you now, Robb Nen?

When the Giants pitch they don’t hit, as they did and didn't on Wednesday in the sunshine and gloom (the mood, not the weather) at AT&T Park, San Francisco getting only four singles and thus getting whipped by the Pads, 3-1.

So the little bit of optimism created when the Giants had a sweep of their own, taking three in a row at Arizona over the weekend, has been trashed, smashed and tossed into McCovey Cove. So much for progress.

The Dodgers, who beat the Yankees for the second time in their three-game series at the Stadium, now are five in front of San Francisco. The billionaires at Chavez Ravine smirk.

In the post-game session Wednesday, Bruce Bochy, the Giants' manager, was asked if he had sleepless nights, to which he answered in the affirmative, adding, “I wish I could do more. Every manager or head coach does. It’s always on your mind.”

Some would say Bochy could have done more on Tuesday night if Brandon Belt hadn’t been out because he was ailing. Buster Posey was playing first, and there was a ball off Posey’s mitt, which became an infield single when reliever Hunter Strickland conceded he was slow to cover the base.

The little things, and the big defeats.

On Wednesday, the Giants' bullpen couldn’t be faulted. Neither could starter Madison Bumgarner. You allow only three runs, you’ll normally win. Not, however, when the season is coming apart at the seams.

San Diego starter Luis Perdomo mystified the Giants' batters. The first four men in the order, Denard Span, Angel Pagan, Posey and Brandon Crawford, had two walks and no hits among them. Only because Belt and Joe Panik managed back-to-back singles in the second, after a Crawford walk, did the Giants avoid a shutout.

“He had a good sinker,” Bochy, a former catcher, said of Perdomo, who didn’t look like someone who came into the game with a 7-9 record and 5.89 earned run average. Ah, but the Giants looked very much like the team that has collapsed (20-35 since July 10) in notable fashion.

Bumgarner, gracious as always post-game, stood there attired like a hunter (not Strickland) and was asked what needs to be corrected: pitching, hitting, whatever.

“I don’t know,” he answered quietly. “So far, the second half’s been a club I’ve never seen before.”

A club that Giants fans have seen too much of, one that's causing them to wonder what might have transpired if San Francisco, not the Cubs, got 100 mph closer Aroldis Chapman (or who the Giants would have been forced to trade to acquire him).

Bumgarner was unable to pick up his 100th career victory, a total that’s inevitable.

“There’s a lot of pressure this time of year,” reminded Baumgarner, reflecting on the chase for the playoffs and not his personal goals or difficulties. “It’s more of a mind-set this time of the year.”

Bochy could only agree.

“This was a big series,” he conceded about the three games, three defeats, against San Diego. “They’re all big.”

A little more than two weeks are left in a season that began so well, a season — an even year — in which the Giants were picked to be champions. How did we go wrong? How did the Giants?