by Dr Lefty
What a difference five games makes, huh? The Giants came out of Atlanta with a lot of stuff clicking: They’d won five series in a row, culminating with a somewhat shocking sweep of the high-flying Braves. Their offense, so anemic in the early going this season, was humming, relatively speaking, and they were scoring runs and getting those elusive hits with runners in scoring position. Yes, the defense had been sloppy and needed tightening up, but between the great work of the three starters in Atlanta and the hitters, it didn’t seem to matter much.
Then the Giants traveled from Atlanta to Philadelphia, Jeff Samardzija took the hill, and everything went to hell.
How bad has it been?
In some ways, not as bad as we probably think. In some ways, maybe worse. The news coverage this week has focused on the inordinate number of strikeouts (69!) the Giants’ hitters tallied during this five-game skid. But the starting pitchers have also been dreadful. It’s broken down like this:
Samardzija, 4 IP, 5 ER
Holland, 5 IP, 3 ER
Stratton, 4.2 IP, 5 ER
Blach, 4.1 IP, 5 ER
Suarez, 4 IP, 5 ER
Total: 23 ER in just 22 innings. That’s really, really, really BAD. And it’s had the unsurprising effect of stretching the bullpen to its breaking point. Even the practically untouchable Tony Watson got tagged with a three-run homer yesterday.
Because the starting pitchers have been so bad, it feels like the Giants have been hopelessly out of every game, but that’s not really true. Blach had an early 3-0 lead. Suarez gave up a first-inning two-spot, and held the line for a couple innings until Austin Jackson’s two-out RBI single brought them into a fleeting tie. (That, along with the amazing welcome the Pittsburgh fans gave to Andrew McCutchen, was the only highlight of the day.)
Thank you. A moment I will never forget 🙏 https://t.co/moHmef7u8L
— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) May 12, 2018
Stratton was still only trailing 3-1 with two outs in the fifth when he unraveled, walked the bases loaded, and was allowed to blow the game open. The final scores have been ugly, with the Giants on the wrong end of “11” three times in five games (beats “15,” which they did twice in their last homestand). This has been a weird season. The Giants have mostly been either blown out or winning. There have been a few low-scoring losses (and wins), but generally speaking, the run differential stat keeps getting blown to pieces.
A silver lining–really!
The silver lining is not actually about the Giants themselves. It’s hard to find anything to like about this team this week, unless you’re really taken with Alen Hanson’s productivity, with Posey continuing to hit over .300 but barely having more RBIs (14) than Alen Hanson (11), or with Moronta having a couple decent outings in a row. That’s all I got.
No, the silver lining is that no one else in the NL West has won a game since Tuesday. The Diamondbacks and Rockies have lost three in a row, and the Dodgers and Padres have lost two in a row (the Dodgers’ losses are at home to the Reds, so imagine how their fans are feeling).
This week hasn't been all bad. The Giants have played basically the worst baseball imaginable for the past five days and lost very little ground in the NL West: pic.twitter.com/4qmjqtrzhd
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 12, 2018
Now, you can look at how badly the Giants are playing, and let’s not sugarcoat things: It’s been BAD, but they haven’t buried themselves in the standings this week. And it’s a long season. We’ve already seen a couple twists and turns, and we’re likely to see a few more.
Time for the Shark to step up
One little bright spot in Samardzija’s otherwise terrible outing in Philly was that his velocity finally reappeared. Hopefully he’s been working on better command. In any case, it’s time for the big guy who makes the big bucks to be the stopper and the leader of the staff. Bum and Cueto are still weeks away from returning; in the case of Cueto, it’s many weeks. The Giants can’t expect Stratton (18 major league starts), Blach (35) or Suarez (4) to set the tone. It needs to be Samardzija, and why not tonight?
Giants at Pirates, PNC Park, 4:05 p.m.
Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 6.62 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (4-2, 4.12 ERA)
I’ll miss the game, as we’ll be flying home from Maui, so the Pittsburgh Party Posse needs to bring it home for the team. Lefty out.