SAN FRANCISCO: The Giants found a new method to their misery Friday night (Saturday in Manila) at AT&T Park. Just when they appeared poised to break out of their funk, they broke out a triple play.
Brandon Crawford’s line drive to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the eighth was turned into the rare three-out parlay in a 4-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.
After snaring Crawford’s liner, Zimmerman ran to the first base bag for the second out against advancing runner Buster Posey, then threw to third base to nail Denard Span, who had broken for home on Crawford’s shot.
Promising rally obliterated. It was the latest and most mortifying development in the Giants’ ongoing tailspin. If the triple play wasn’t depressing enough, their lead in the National League West was reduced to a single game as well. The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-7 in Los Angeles.
Losers of 11 of 13 since the All-Star break, the Giants are showing no signs of snapping out of their deep, depressing rut. The eighth inning rally looked to be a perfect chance for a stirring breakthrough. After seven suffocating innings from Washington starter Max Scherzer, San Francisco got into the Nationals’ shaky bullpen in the eighth trailing and quickly put the tying runs on base when Span beat out a bunt single against lefthander Oliver Perez and Angel Pagan followed with a single to left.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker went to right-hander Blake Treinen, who promptly walked pinch-hitter Posey, and Baker then went to the mound again, opting for another lefty, Sammy Solis, to pitch to Crawford. Crawford fouled off the first pitch he saw, then hit his bullet right at Zimmerman.
Starter Jeff Samardzija, despite a better early showing than he’d had in his first two post-break outings, withered as the game progressed and was victimized by four extra-base hits that turned into four runs in the middle innings, sealing his fate.
Of course, Giants pitchers are working with very little margin for error these days. Samardzija (9-7) was staked to an early 1-0 lead in the second inning, but a golden chance to expand on it was squandered in the third, and once Scherzer settled into a groove, better opportunities would not come along against him.
Things could change Saturday, when the Giants welcome back Hunter Pence to the starting lineup after a 48-game absence. Trade acquisition Eduardo Nunez will also makes his first start, and perhaps that will stir some badly needed offense as well. Nunez had a long flight to San Francisco from Baltimore, where his former team, the Minnesota Twins had been playing, and he didn’t arrive until shortly before game time and missed batting practice.
Nunez’s debut with the Giants was inauspicious. He pinch-hit with two outs and runners at second and third in the ninth and struck out against reliever Shawn Kelley.
Then again, the Giants thought they’d get a boost with Joe Panik’s return to the lineup, and so far, that hasn’t happened. Panik is 0 for 6 in his two games back from a concussion, and hitting third, he had a chance to snap the offensive vapor lock in the third inning when he came to bat with runners at second and third with one out after Span had singled and Angel Pagan doubled.
But Panik popped out to third base, and Crawford followed with a groundout to first base as the Giants’ best chance to get to Scherzer dissolved.
Scherzer (11-6) looked like he might be vulnerable when the Giants broke through in the second on a Conor Gillaspie double to left and a subsequent RBI single by Gregor Blanco. But once he slipped through the Giants’ rally in the third, he was pretty much untouchable. He allowed just a Gillaspie single in the fourth and a Blanco two-out walk in the seventh over the next four innings before exiting the game.
—Pence was at the ballpark Friday and took batting practice. He told reporters his legs feel great and he’s ready to go. That’s good news for a Giants team that not only needs his physical presence in right field and the middle of the lineup, but his spiritual presence as well.
“We have to get better here, really in all facets of the game,” said manager Bruce Bochy Friday. “But a guy like that, he does a lot for a ballclub and he means a lot to us. The intangibles are really huge with him.”
—It remains to be seen where Nunez bats in the lineup even though he’ll start at third base. Bochy was still playing it close to the vest.
Yeah, I’ve put some thought into this, but I’m going to talk to some players before I go through the media,” he said.
—The Giants optioned outfielder Jarrett Parker to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for Nunez on the roster.