SAN FRANCISCO – There is nothing more dispiriting than a lack of hustle.
But there is no joy to be found in watching a player like Hunter Pence continually hustle and continually come up a step short.
It has happened far too frequently this season. It happened twice more in right field at critical junctures in the Giants’ 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night.
Pence did not make it to the end. He has been playing with chronic hamstring tightness most of this season, and there is a certain hazard for a 34-year-old in taking three rough tumbles in the span of one evening.
It began in the second inning, when Pence sprinted back for Daniel Descalso’s drive and it skipped off the tip of his glove for an RBI triple. Then Pence tumbled in the grass and couldn’t catch Descalso’s sinking line drive in the seventh, which touched off a two-run inning as Arizona erased a one-run deficit.
Pence’s hustle did net the Giants something, though. He beat pitcher Robbie Ray to first base after hitting a chopped single down the first base line as a run scored in the sixth. Pence appeared to favor his wrist as he tripped over first base and landed in the dirt.
Whether it was the spill at first base or the unsuccessful sprints in right field, Pence walked with a hitch after failing to catch Descalso’s single in the seventh. He exited in the eighth and was replaced by Gorkys Hernandez, whom Bruce Bochy had just listed as unlikely to play again this season because of a sprained wrist.
Although there is no questioning his effort, Pence has not been the right-handed lineup presence and defensive asset that the Giants had come to rely upon in a pair of World Series-winning seasons.
Against a left-hander like Ray, their inadequacy is laid bare. Bochy simply doesn’t have the personnel to put together a right-handed lineup with any teeth. He started Orlando Calixte in place of Denard Span in center field, Kelby Tomlinson in place of Pablo Sandoval at third base and put Buster Posey at first base to get Nick Hundley’s bat in the lineup.
Bochy hardly could sit Hundley. The Giants’ backup catcher has hit more right-handed home runs at AT&T Park (four) than anyone else this season. Unless you count the Padres’ Wil Myers (five), that is.
Predictably, Ray had his way most of the night while striking out 10 in seven innings. Joe Panik and Pence hit back-to-back doubles in the first inning. The Giants didn’t score again until the sixth, when Jeff Samardzija hit a leadoff single, Panik hit a one-out single and Pence beat out his tapper that hugged the first base line. Samardzija scored when Ray fumbled the feed from first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
It has been a difficult and soul-sucking season for everyone in the Giants clubhouse, and one unfortunate consequence is that all the failure has made Pence’s relentless optimism harsh on the ear.
Yet it would’ve been a greater shame if Pence had allowed the season to change him. He still rides a scooter to the ballpark, he still says all the right things to reporters and he still smiles and says hello when he passes you on the way to the cage.
He hasn’t stopped hustling, even as he keeps coming up short.
Pence was coming off a difficult series against the Dodgers in which he twice allowed pop-ups to fall between himself and the second baseman.
Prior to the game, Bochy said it’s possible that Hernandez won’t play again this season because of a sprained left wrist that had gotten worse in recent days.
Regardless of whether he plays again or not, it’s been an interesting season for the 30-year-old backup.
If not for the Giants’ total flop in the outfield this season, along with their tumble from contention, Hernandez probably wouldn’t have made it through May on the roster.
He was hitting .160 as late as May 27. Even his defensive abilities appeared to slip. He wasn’t contributing anything of value, and the only reason that the Giants kept designating other players for assignment is because they didn’t have anyone besides Denard Span whom they could stick in center field beyond an emergency assignment.
Hernandez didn’t exactly have a breakout second half, and he hasn’t hit a home run all season. But he was able to rebound better than almost any Giant from a disappointing start.
The right-handed hitter batted .338 with an .820 OPS over a 57-game stretch from early June through the end of August. At times, he was the most dependable hitter in the lineup.
And perhaps his success at the plate allowed him to let his defensive abilities shine brighter. Hernandez’s leaping, home run robbery Sept. 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals will stand as the one play worth remembering from an outfield defense that has hovered somewhere between embarrassment and ineptitude.
There’s no sense trying to figure out the Giants’ outfield composition in 2018 – they figure to make center field a top priority, and it’s anyone’s guess how much Hunter Pence and Span will be allowed to play – but Hernandez probably showed enough in the second half to merit a spot on the team as a reserve. He is a pre-arbitration player who won’t cost much more than the major league minimum salary. And no matter whom the Giants acquire to play center, they’ll need a competent defensive backup at the position. That’s not a role they will want to give to center field prospect Steven Duggar, who should get everyday playing time in the minors as the Giants seek to groom him for a potential everyday role in the future.
The Giants claimed shortstop Engelb Vielma off waivers from the Minnesota Twins and added him to the 40-man roster. To clear space, the club transferred Michael Morse (concussion) from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.
Vielma, a 23-year-old switch hitter from Venezuela, has a skill set that bears a striking resemblance to former Giants infielder Ehire Adrianza – a player that the Giants lost on a waiver claim (first to the Brewers, then to the Twins) earlier this year.
Vielma is a dependable glove man who hit .229 with zero home runs in 415 at-bats split between the Twins- Double-A and Triple-A affiliates this season.
Vielma pronounces his first name EN-jell. The B is silent.
All Credit Goes To This Website: Source link