But, after another blown lead and a 5-2, 12-inning defeat at the hands of the San Diego Padres (11-16) in Sunday’s rubber match, the mild-mannered All-Star closer changed his tune:
“We better start panicking, because if we don’t get our act together, there’s too many good teams out there that’s ready to go after us. This energy level needs to get going. We need to pick up our play, throw quality strikes. We need to figure it out.”
That pretty much explains the mood in the San Francisco clubhouse after their 3-4 home stand, their second consecutive blown lead that plopped them back into last place: panic, urgency.
The feeling was warranted given the events that had just unfolded. The Giants (9-17) had a 2-0 lead heading into the ninth inning and were looking good to grab their first series win since April 10-12 — the team’s first home series of the season — on the back of an astounding performance from their rookie starter.
George Kontos (L, 0-2, 6.30 ERA) intended to stifle Wil Myers in the 12th, but a heater at the hands leaked into mistake zone. Myers blasted it for his second three-run jack (7) of the series to secure San Diego’s comeback. Said Kontos:
“I just didn’t execute that pitch inside to him. He’s had a hot series, and a mistake to a guy like that he’s gonna put a good swing on it and he’s a tough out. He definitely made me pay for it, unfortunately.”
The Giants have reached a point where the much maligned bullpen must shoulder the blame for the team’s anemic offense. The Giants scraped together a lead on a Ty Blach sacrifice fly, making little from a Joe Panik hit-by-pitch and Gorkys Hernandez double. Michael Morse added a whole second run with an RBI double off the bricks scoring Hunter Pence from second.
It wasn’t enough, and rarely is it, said manager Bruce Bochy:
“We couldn’t tack on, like I said that’s become the problem. We couldn’t add on, so occasionally our guys are going to make mistakes, they’re going to nicked for a double or home run. Put a game away and that takes that away.”
So, who’s at fault?
“More than anything it’s up to our core players. Our guys have to find their swings and get clicking here. They’re the ones that do the damage.”
Brandon Belt struck out four times Sunday, giving him a team-worst 29 — enough for seventh-most in the National League. Buster Posey managed three hits, all singles — just three of his last 22 hits have gone for extra bases. He has just three RBI this season.
Brandon Crawford, who was moved from the bereavement leave list to the 10-day disabled list with a groin strain, was sorely missed at shortstop but his bat has run cold, as well.
For a team that averages 3.4 runs per game — the second-fewest in the majors — almost every bat needs to be clicking. Two runs seems healthy for a strong pitching team, but magnifies the bullpen’s mistakes. Melancon said he would take the blame “100 percent” for this loss, but said:
“You miss one pitch in those situations and it’s not good.”
Some tack-on runs could have given Blach (ND, 0-1, 2.55 ERA) a much-deserved win. Said Bochy:
“It’s really a shame he didn’t get a win with the great effort we got from him. We couldn’t find a way to get a win for him.”
In two starts now, Blach has been outstanding. Sunday afternoon, he shut the Padres out for 7 innings. He gave up three hits total, two of them came form opposing pitcher Clayton Richard (ND, 2-3, 4.29 ERA). Blach said he’s just hitting his targets:
“I think just being able to locate my fastball and changeup has been big for me, being able to work both sides of the plate has worked for me.”
Part of that success stems from a strong trust in Posey. He knows not to shake him, especially against the Padres:
“He understands the hitter so well, especially in this division, he knows these hitters in and out.”
Blach drew a flurry of ground balls and struck out just one batter. Pence did a nice job keeping those that escaped the infield contained, playing Richard’s drive off the Levi’s Landing perfectly to prevent a double.
Blach is running on an eight-run scoreless streak, his ERA as a starter now sits 1.56.
Melancon wanted to give him that win:
“He was outstanding. He comes prepared every day, he works his tail off, he knows what he’s doing, he has a plan and he goes out there and executes it. He’s the brightest spot right now.”
There are bright spots, at least, to this black hole of a Giants team. Sparks like Christian Arroyo and Morse provide some hope to a team that, on paper, is capable of a winning season.
April is over and freak-out mode has kicked in, said Kontos:
“We got to get our acts together and we got to get it together quick.”
Bochy mirrored his team’s exacerbated tone when he walked up to address the media, pounding his palms a bit as he sat:
“Yeah April has not been a good month, I don’t know what else to tell you. … Luckily it’s April, and hopefully we have some time to get this going and get this fixed. Like I said before, it’s gotta happen. We just can’t sit around and keep saying that there’s a lot of baseball left and they’re not doing that. They’re coming out and playing hard. It’s definitely got to pick up our play on offense and defense or pitching.”
“I think that it’s only April thing is passed, we just have to start playing better baseball all around.”
The Giants head to Los Angeles for a three-game series against the Dodgers (13-12). Johnny Cueto (3-1, 5.10 ERA) will face off with Kershaw (4-1, 2.29 ERA). A three-game set in La-La Land kicks off San Francisco’s longest road trip of the season, a nine-game, three-city trip that includes stops in Cincinnati and New York for games against the Reds (10-13) and Mets (10-13).