If you’re looking at the Giants’ offensive numbers this season and wondering if you need to get your vision checked, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
After San Francisco dropped its second straight contest against the American League Central-leading Minnesota Twins by a score of 3-2, manager Bruce Bochy expressed frustration at the fact so many of his team’s key players are producing well below their career averages.
On Saturday, the Giants followed up their seventh shutout loss of the season with another flat offensive effort, one punctuated by a combined 0-for-8, six-strikeout performance from the team’s No. 5 and No. 6 hitters, Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence.
On a day in which first baseman Brandon Belt tried to spark an offensive explosion with a first inning splash hit into McCovey Cove, Belt’s teammates failed to respond as San Francisco dropped a season-high 14 games below .500.
“I think you look at the track record, the numbers, I don’t care what you say,” Bochy said. “The back of a baseball card. There’s a dramatic difference right now for some of these guys with where they normally are. Just look at last year, their on base, slugging and where they’re at now, that’s part of our issue and that’s why we’re where we’re at. Until it gets a little bit closer to where they should be, we’re going to continue to struggle. I’ve got to be honest here, getting two runs, we can’t lean on pitching that much. We’ve got to pick it up here offensively.”
Against Puerto-Rican right-hander Jose Berrios, the Giants left runners in scoring position in the first and third innings and failed to push a runner up to second base once they did force Minnesota to call on its bullpen in the bottom of the sixth.
San Francisco’s collective .233 batting average ranks 28th out of 30 Major League teams, and as the club fell 16 games behind the first place Colorado Rockies on Saturday, Bochy said he’s still waiting for the every day players the team has relied on over the past few seasons to find their stride.
“I wish I could put my finger on it, but it’s not going to happen until our guys who normally do what they are good at, they come around and drive in these runs, it’s going to be tough to put runs on the board,” Bochy said. “You still believe that they will, but right now, it’s a challenge for us. It’s unfortunate because we’ve had a lot of quality starts, we just can’t score enough runs for these guys.”
Sixty four games into the season, the Giants’ right fielder, Pence, is hitting 48 points below his career average, their starting first baseman, Brandon Belt, is hitting 28 points below his career average, and the team has received an average of one hit in every five at-bats from the long list of players it has used in left field.
“I’ve got to get better,” Pence said after Saturday’s loss. “Hitting is one of those things that you go through some tough stretches and you’ve got to keep working. I’m doing that every day, coming in prepared and keep competing, trying to get better.”
Despite their offensive troubles, the Giants still managed to outhit the Twins on Saturday as starter Jeff Samardzija tossed six innings of four-hit ball.
Samardzija made two critical mistakes, one to Twins’ first baseman Kennys Vargas and one to second baseman Brian Dozier, that resulted in home runs, but Bochy was hesitant to criticize a pitcher who still gave his team plenty of opportunities to secure a victory.
“I’m not putting this on Jeff, come on,” Bochy said. “Occasionally you’re going to give up three runs, maybe four but you know, you got to pick these pitchers up sometimes.”
After allowing the home run to Dozier in the fifth inning, Samardzija issued just his second walk since April 28 to left fielder Robbie Grossman, interrupting a stretch of remarkable efficiency.
Even though Samardzija took his eighth loss of the season Saturday, he said that for the first time in his career, he’s in command of all five pitches in his arsenal.
“I just think all five pitches are working so I think over the past couple years, at any given point in the year, I’ve probably had three of them working, and then I’ve been trying to find another one or two of them,” Samardzija said. “But having the curveball and the splitter be there for me I can attack the zone. I don’t have to be as fine because only one pitch is going over the plate for a strike.”
Vargas tagged a fourth inning fastball for a 471-foot solo shot that tied the game 1-1 on what became the third longest home run hit in the Major Leagues this season, but that wasn’t the mistake that ate at him. Instead, it was the fifth inning slider Samardzija threw to Dozier after falling behind in the count 1-0, because that was the pitch that pushed the Twins over the top.
“Those couple pitches are a big part of the game, so although you liked how you feel out there and you’re okay with the results, you’d like to keep definitely that Dozier ball in the park and make him get a couple of hits to score those runs,” Samardzija said. “But we were attacking the zone and we were down 1-0 on him and tried to throw a good slider for a strike and he put a good bat on it.”
- The Giants will face Twins’ left-hander Nik Turley on Sunday in Turley’s MLB debut. Turley has spent 10 seasons in the Minor Leagues, and played for the Giants’ AAA and A affiliates in 2015.
- Bochy said he’ll likely rest some of his left-handed bats on Sunday, including Belt, who hit the ball hard in all three of his at-bats on Saturday. Belt smoked a deep fly ball to the warning track in right center field in the bottom of the seventh inning, and after the game, both Belt and Bochy said they thought he’d supplied the Giants with a game-tying home run when the ball left the bat.
- Giants’ third baseman Eduardo Nunez’s 11-game hit streak came to an end Saturday as he finished 0-for-3 with a walk. Nunez fell one game shy of tying his career-high with a 12-game hit streak, but did reach base safely for the 25th consecutive game.
- Rookie left fielder Austin Slater recorded two of the Giants’ six hits, and reached base three times as he was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the second inning.
- Giants’ relievers Derek Law and Hunter Strickland combined to throw three scoreless innings on Saturday.