The first half San Francisco didn’t want to see any more kept going for two extra innings.
“You should win the game when something like that happens.”
But, the Giants did not win.
The dismal first half stretched into the 11th when Brandon Crawford made his first error since May 29. George Kontos made a two-strike mistake to pinch-hitter A.J. Ellis, who blasted it to left field for a winning two-run homer. Giancarlo Stanton added another to the same spot, and the Marlins (41-46) completed a sweep, 10-8, sending the Giants (34-56) into the break the way they spent much of the first half — coming off a loss.
The runs were there, but some pitching mistakes — particularly in two-strike counts — mounted too high. That is the way the entire first half went for the Giants: the ball can’t seem to fall where the team needs, and when one corner falls into rhythm something always falls out. Said Bochy:
“You put your finger in the dyke and another one springs open. … When we get pitching, we don’t hit enough — get runs, and we don’t have the pitching.”
The Giants were 57-33 at the end of 2016’s first half. In 2017, a team with much of the same core is 34-56. The talent is there, but when one man zigs, the other zags, said Hunter Pence:
“A lot of players that have good years last year might have tough ones this year, and vise versa.”
That mold applies to Sunday starter Johnny Cueto, who admitted that he’s still catching up after his truncated Spring Training, spared to take care of his ailing father. Of his rough first half he said:
“I don’t know, the difference is that I lost spring training, but at the same time I’m glad I missed it because my dad is alive.”
Cueto has flipped into a parallel universe from where he was a year ago, when he was named the starter of the 2016 All-Star Game. Contrast that 2.47 ERA, four-complete game (two-shutout) first half with this year’s 4.26 ERA start. Cueto’s been consistent, but not himself, said Bochy:
“He hasn’t been particularly sharp, he’s just making more mistakes than we’re accustomed to. … He hasn’t been himself for the most part.”
Cueto got the nod Sunday after missing his last start in Detroit with an ear infection, and kept a lid on the Miami offense. But the Marlins were successful in the catch-up game, answering Crawford’s two-run blast in the second with a pair of RBI doubles from Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna. Stanton hit his first of two home runs for the go-ahead run in the fifth. Nick Hundley responded, tying the game 3-3 with an opposite field solo blast — the second one by a righty over the Willie Mays Wall this week.
Hunter Strickland scrambled to plug the leak but the Marlins tacked on two more.
Matt Cain came out of the bullpen and shut down a scoring threat in the eighth, keeping the game in reach. His surprise relief appearance came about because he was a fresh, right arm in a time of need. It could also foreshadow Cain’s next task as the second half, and Madison Bumgarner‘s healthy return, approaches.
Second half preview/notes
Austin Slater came up limping running to first base in Friday’s loss. An MRI showed that the 24-year-old suffered a torn adductor and could miss as much as three months, at worst the rest of the season. Bochy asserted that surgery is not necessary, expecting Slater to rehab his way back.
Slater has been a bright spot for the lackluster Giants, working around a .300 average until a hip injury slowed him down a bit. Still, Slater made plays in the dark hole that is left field. He looked primed to be the first homegrown talent in years to plant his roots there this season, and provided fans an early glimpse at the young talent that could prop this team back on top one day.
Seeing the Giants’ future is more than reason enough to keep watching this team fight through the second half, but a handful of prospects succumbed to the same fate.
Christian Arroyo was hit in the hand with a pitch with the Triple-A Sacramento RiverCats and, in his first game back, got hit again on the same hand, this time fracturing it. He’ll miss two months.
After finally getting his first big-league hit, Ryder Jones suffered similar injuries. The rookie took a pitch to the hand and was placed on the 10-day disabled list with no timetable for his return.
The rotation will have to be moved around. Cueto will get the start Friday in San Diego and Bumgarner will make his much-anticipated return as soon as Saturday — he makes his next start with San Jose Monday, where he will throw 90 pitches.
Buster Posey will head back to Miami with the Marlins to play in the All-Star Game. The rest of his teammates will take a much-needed break. They travel to San Diego for a three game series on July 14.