• Help is on the way for Giants; is it enough?

    Madison Bumgarner No.40 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Cincinnati Reds in the top of the first inning at AT&T Park on Thursday in San Francisco, California. AFP PHOTO

    Madison Bumgarner No.40 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Cincinnati Reds in the top of the first inning at AT&T Park on Thursday in San Francisco, California. AFP PHOTO

    SAN FRANCISCO: The Giants eked out a 2-1 loss to the Reds on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

    They’ve been eking a lot lately. As in freaking eking.

    Get this, since the All-Star break when they were the bee’s knees, whatever that means, they have lost nine games. On the good side, they have won two. They have not won a series. They couldn’t even win a series against Cincinnati. Just lost two of three at home to the sad Reds, whose record is 40-61. The Reds already are out of contention, are playing in permanent garbage time except when they play the Giants who — forgive my directness — are playing like garbage themselves.

    Not long-term garbage. Definitely, short-term garbage. I’d put them in the gray recycle bin as opposed to the brown designated-for-the-dump bin.

    A couple of things did the Giants in Wednesday. Start with the second thing. With the game tied at one in the seventh, Madison Bumgarner gave up a first-pitch, leadoff home run to Jay Bruce, which put the Reds ahead for good.

    Bumgarner said, “Just didn’t make a good pitch to him. I know that’s a spot he can handle, especially early in the inning before you get loosened back up again and feel good about your arm speed. The way he’s going now, he’s not going to miss those. He’s not going to foul them off.”

    He didn’t.

    No criticism of Bumgarner. Bad pitch. One of those things. Bumgarner allowed one earned run in eight innings, struck out nine. He’s the pitcher in the major leagues you want in the do-or-die game.

    Bruce Bochy seemed more upset about Bumgarner taking the loss than Bumgarner did. Bochy seemed morally offended his great pitcher pitched great and look what happened.

    What happened was Angel Pagan. Pardon me for criticizing Pagan, who has been a worthwhile Giant. More than worthwhile. It’s just that Pagan made an error in the top of the fifth. Costly error, as they say. Break-the-bank error. With a runner on first, Eugenio Suarez hit a liner to Pagan. A worthwhile impulse crossed the relevant synapses in his brain, “Catch ball.” And try to catch ball he did.

    But he didn’t catch ball. It skipped off his outstretched glove. The lead runner ran to third and scored on a sacrifice fly, and the game was tied, and that set the stage for Bruce’s game-winning homer later on.

    In the postgame confab, I asked Bochy if Pagan lost the ball in the sun. Trying to find an excuse for the guy. Bochy, an honest man, harrumphed a little bit and said he had not spoken to Pagan about that play. “The ball was hit hard,” Bochy said. “It was a tough play. I don’t know.”

    I wanted to ask Pagan about the play. Get his version. I waited for him in the postgame locker room. Waited through Bumgarner’s press meeting. Waited after that. When I went to Stanford, we would wait 15 minutes for full professors if they were late. I gave Pagan more than that. I gave him 20 minutes. Didn’t show up. And then I left.

    He’s no full professor. Plus I had writing to do in a timely fashion. Lacking an explanation from him, I’m saying he should have caught the ball, which was not high enough to interact with the sun.

    The Giants postgame notes had this nugget about Pagan: “Committed his fifth error of the season … the last time he had five or more errors in a season was 2012.”

    One other thing from Bochy’s postgame media gathering. He said, “If Williamson’s ball gets in, it’s a different game. We may have first and third there with Buster up. The shortstop made a great play.”

    Translation: In the bottom of the ninth with the Giants down 2-1 and Pagan on first with a single — he can hit — Mac Williamson hit a screeching grounder to Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, who dashed left, gloved the ball and made a backhand flip to second for the force on Pagan. The next two batters made outs. Game over.

    Bochy was saying, if Cozart didn’t catch the ball and if the ball went into the outfield for a hit, the Giants might have won if the planets aligned.

    My mom used to tell me, “If your grandmother had testicles, she’d be your grandfather.”

    That’s all you need to know about “if.” The final word on the word “if.” Poor Bochy, the best manager in the business, is temporarily at the If Level.

    But wait. The cavalry is coming. Oh, yes it is. Feel the distant rumble. Hear the bugle blow. See the cavalry charge on snorting steeds. The cavalry is Joe Panik, Hunter Pence and Matt Duffy. Charge, you brave men.

    They have been injured — no fault of theirs — and the Giants are playing without two of their infielders and without their intrepid right fielder, the heart of the outfit. Bochy said Panik could be ready by the weekend. Pence, whose legs need a little more pep, shortly after that. Duffy, not so soon.

    So the cavalry is coming and that will help the Giants hit. But there’s this. In their death march since the All-Star break, Giants pitchers have thrown 24 home-run balls. Nineteen of those homers you credit — if that’s the right word — to the starting pitchers.

    This note courtesy of the Giants postgame notes: “The Giants gave up eight home runs during this series, the most the Giants have ever allowed in a single three-game series at AT&T Park.”

    The cavalry isn’t going to help with the homers unless Pence develops a knuckler. Bumgarner gave up only five hits, but the big hit was a home run.

    The Washington Nationals are coming to AT&T Park for four games. The Nationals are better than the Cincinnati Reds. The Nationals lead the NL East. The Nationals are very good.




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