SAN DIEGO – The Giants were only outhit 11-9 on Sunday. They received sparkling plays from Gorkys Hernandez in left field and Buster Posey at first base.
But their utter lack of power made all the difference yet again.
The Padres received three-run home runs from Hector Sanchez and Cory Spangenberg against strike-pumping Jeff Samardzija while trotting their way to a 7-1 victory at Petco Park. The Giants dropped two of three to open the unofficial second half. And now they return home for what should be the friendliest portion on the calendar all season.
The Giants will set down their bags while playing 18 of their next 23 games at home, plus two road games at Oakland. They’ll only have one occasion to get on a plane once between now and Aug. 10, for a three-game series at Dodger Stadium.
This was the soft landing in their schedule that the Giants eyed in April, when they hit the early skids and Madison Bumgarner flew off his dirt bike. If only they could inch closer to .500 by mid-July, the orange boxes were all lined up in their favor. They could have Bumgarner back and be ready to make their move.
Well, they have Bumgarner back. They have to be encouraged by his seven inning, 102-pitch return on Saturday.
The rest of it? Eh, not so much. And besides, what kind of hope is there in a long homestand? The Giants are 17-24 at AT&T Park. Their pitchers either haven’t benefited from or taken advantage of their supposed home-field edge. The Giants will need a significant turnaround to avoid their first losing home record in a season since 2008.
“In any given season when you don’t have that confidence or that home park advantage, which we don’t now for some reason, then that takes its toll,” Giants executive vice president Brian Sabean said during the All-Star break. “No matter what your record is or where you are in the standings, in any given year, you’re expected to win at home. That’s just the nature of sports.”
The Giants might be at a huge disadvantage in the power department – they’ve hit the fewest homers in the major leagues, and the Padres showed just how quickly they could put six runs on the board Sunday – but that discrepancy should be nullified to some extent at AT&T Park.
It hasn’t been. Ty Blach is their only starting pitcher with under a 4.00 ERA at home. And that just won’t work when the Giants offense is bringing up the rear at home in both on-base percentage (.290) and slugging percentage (.345).
The Giants have been outhomered 36-24 at China Basin. Their opponents have a .713 OPS to their anemic .635 mark.
In their last game there a week ago, against the Miami Marlins just prior to the All-Star break, the Giants scored eight runs in a loss – an output that has resulted in a loss just 15 times in 17 seasons at AT&T Park.
It’s emblematic that they will turn to Matt Moore on Monday when they begin a 10-game homestand with a series against the Cleveland Indians. Moore is by all accounts healthy, and should be in an upward trajectory this season as he finds a familiarity with the Giants and catcher Buster Posey. Instead, his 6.04 ERA is the worst among all full-time major league starters.
“We’ve got to get him back on a roll and back to who he was last year,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “The biggest thing with Matty is simplifying things. Concentrate on throwing quality strikes and not get caught up in mechanics too much.”
Bochy said he and the staff have looked into whether Moore tipped his pitches, and they don’t believe it has been an issue this season. There is no reason the 28-year-old cannot turn it around, he said.
“Everybody has their hiccups, individually and as a team,” Bochy said. “That’s the humbling part of this game. That’s why you’ve got to keep on pushing. That’s what separates the average player from the good players – the ability to handle it.”
Moore’s issue is often tied to a counterintuitive weakness against left-handed hitters, coupled with far too many leadoff walks.
In that respect, Samardzija’s route to another silent postgame clubhouse might be preferable. At least he’s forcing opponents to put the ball in play to beat him.
He struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter in six innings to continue an unreal run over his last 14 starts in which he has recorded 100 strikeouts and walked just four batters.
But no pitcher has been savaged more by the Giants’ major league worst outfield defense. And then there is the contact that only people toting beers and floppy hats have a chance at catching. Samardzija has allowed 10 home runs over his last seven starts, and a team-high 20 this season.
Samardzija has pumped strikes all season as if he is more concerned with a tidy time of game than his ERA. Can you blame him? This Giants season has become better fodder for hate watchers than “The Millionaire Matchmaker.” The sooner it’s over, the better.
So Samardzija continued to challenge hitters at a rate not seen since Christy Mathewson. Giving up three-run home runs on 0-2 counts? That’s collateral damage, and the Padres did plenty of it.
Sanchez, who hit his walk-off home run Saturday from the right side, added a three-run shot from the left side in the first inning against Samardzija.
That one could be forgiven. It came on a pitch that wasn’t even in the strike zone. The 1-0 splitter was nearer to the ankles than the knees, but the former Giants catcher doesn’t seem to miss anything against his former team. Three of Sanchez’s five home runs this season have come against the Giants.
Then came the 0-2 pitch down the middle to Spangenberg, which resulted in another three-run shot in the third inning. It was the exact kind of mistake – a combination of bad approach and poor execution – that Giants manager Bruce Bochy spent several minutes bemoaning in his pregame meeting with reporters.
As Spangenberg rounded the bases, Bochy appeared ready to flip his top as he stood in the dugout.
It was rumored that the Astros were collecting information on Samardzija as a potential trade acquisition. At least their scout could get an early start on his fish taco combo platter.
As if the Giants weren’t operating at enough of a power deficiency, they had to scratch the one player on pace to hit more than 20 this season. Brandon Belt sprained his left wrist on a checked swing Saturday and was too sore to play Sunday. Belt, who has 16 homers and is on pace to hit 28, was taken out of the original lineup and Posey moved from catcher to first base.
The Giants had to string singles and doubles while trying to keep up with the Padres. They’ve had to take that approach all season. It didn’t work. A guy on a bicycle won’t win the Indy 500 this year, either.
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