By Michelle Dingley
The Giants’ four-game series against Atlanta was brutal.
On Monday, Madison Bumgarner pitched 7 innings and gave up just 2 runs. Javier Lopez pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. Brian Wilson came in with a 4-2 lead and gave up 3 runs, losing the game with a walk-off single to rookie sensation Freddie Freeman.
On Tuesday, a makeshift Giants lineup managed to keep the game 1-1 into the 11th. The bullpen pitched 7 scoreless innings before Javier Lopez gave up a walk-off single to Martin Prado.
On Wednesday, Matt Cain pitched beautifully after a weak start. The bullpen and defense almost blew a six-run lead in the ninth. They stuck it out, winning 7-5.
On Thursday, Tim Lincecum’s only mistake in 7 innings was a solo shot off the bat of Chipper Jones. The Giants offense was completely shut down by pitcher Mike Minor. The Giants lost by a final score of 1-0.
The Giants left Atlanta banged up and bruised, and not just because they dropped three of four. Pablo Sandoval left Monday’s game after fouling a ball off his foot. He started the following day even though he was not 100%. Nate Schierholtz also fouled a ball off his foot on Monday and had x-rays the following day. Luckily, there was no major damage, and he was back in the lineup on Wednesday, playing through the pain. Jeff Keppinger hurt his wrist in a collision with first baseman Freddie Freeman on Monday. He saw a hand specialist who said that he risks career-ending surgery if he injures it again before it heals. Keppinger is day-to-day. Aaron Rowand hurt a muscle in his rib cage, and he was unavailable on Tuesday. Sergio Romo was sent to the DL with elbow inflammation. Carlos Beltran finally made the DL with his nagging wrist injury. Brian Wilson thought that he might need Tommy John surgery again, which would shelve him for the rest of the season and probably all of next season. Wilson previously had the procedure in 2003. Luckily, he was diagnosed with elbow inflammation and just needs a few days’ rest. Jonathan Sanchez sprained his ankle fielding a bunt on Tuesday and had to leave the game. The next day, he was off crutches but limping. Sanchez thinks he may be able to make his next start as scheduled. On Wednesday, Eli Whiteside hurt himself on a face-plant while trying to steal second. He left the game three innings later with dizziness and blurry vision. He is now on the seven-day DL.
With our bench and our bullpen more depleted every day, we are stuck using backups. Runzler was brought up from Triple-A to take Romo’s roster spot. If Sanchez is unable to pitch on Sunday, Runzler may start instead. In place of Beltran, Miguel Tejada was activated. He had not yet started his rehab assignment after recovering from an abdominal strain suffered on July 18. The Giants were so short-handed that they called him up to the bigs instead. Hector Sanchez was recalled from Fresno in place of Whiteside. He was up with the big-league club in mid-July but didn’t see significant playing time.
Because it seems like everyone on our team has spent time on the DL or has played injured, it’s hard to put all the blame for these hard losses on our offense. Then again, much of the responsibility falls on our silent bats. There is plenty of blame to go around for our pathetic performances during the four-game series. Game 1 goes to Brian Wilson, who single-handedly turned a win into a loss. It’s getting to the point where the only people who fear the Beard are Giants fans.
In game 2, the only run the Braves scored in regulation was due to a misplay by the Panda, who was making a rare start at first. He broke in to field a bunt, leaving no one covering first. The runner eventually scored. The defense from our other first basemen was great in that game. Huff, making his second start of the year in left field, made a spectacular catch. Belt, in his first career start in right, also made a great play in the outfield. Considering the number of injuries endured in that game, it was almost a miracle the Giants kept the game close at all. The blame for this loss goes mostly to the injury bug, which produced the cobbled-together lineup.
Game 3 was our one decent game. Cain was magnificent after struggling in the first. He left the game after throwing 114 pitches, giving up just one unearned run in 8 innings. Entering the bottom of the ninth, the Giants were up 7-1. Dan Runzler gave up one run on two singles, a walk and wild pitch before being replaced by Jeremy Affeldt. Orlando Cabrera dropped a ball hit right at him, scoring another run. Prado then doubled in two runs, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of All-Star Brian McCann. Affeldt struck him out, giving the Giants a 7-5 win. Had the Giants lost, it would have been due to shoddy defense and weak relief pitching.
We wasted a wonderful outing from Tim Lincecum in game 4. The Giants were unable to get a runner past second base. They weren’t facing a Cy Young-caliber pitcher. Mike Minor has a 4.26 ERA, and opponents are hitting .290 against him. The Giants could only muster four hits and a walk against him over 6 innings. Our starters shouldn’t have to pitch a shutout every game to earn a win. They can’t expect many runs, but we have to score at least one for them. Lincecum left one pitch up and over the plate, and for that, he gets the loss. The hitters have to get the blame for this one. Cody Ross led the game off with a double, and the next three batters couldn’t even move him over. Ross went 2-for-4, and Schierholtz went 2-for-3, but no one else showed up for the game.
The Giants entered the series against the Braves battered and broken, and they left Atlanta in even worse shape. The Giants dropped yet another series. They are 1-6 against Atlanta this year after being swept in San Francisco earlier in the season. The Giants dropped to 6 games back in the wild card race. They lost even more players to injuries. The healthy ones look tired. Once the team falls behind, they start playing worse. Maybe they get distracted, thinking about how hard it will be to overcome the deficit. Maybe they are worried about the Diamondbacks tacking onto their lead in the NL West. Maybe their aches and pains are catching up to them. Whatever is happening, it is systemic, affecting our hitting, defense and pitching, particularly the bullpen. It’s much easier said than done, but we need to be better. We don’t look like defending World Champions. We don’t even look like a .500 team. We look like we have given up, like we don’t care. I know that is not the case. These guys are competitors. They live for this game. They want so badly to repeat. They don’t want to be labeled a flash in the pan, a fluke. Above all, they want to win.
There is no obvious solution here. If there was, Bruce Bochy would have found it by now. No combination of players has helped us significantly. We have few, if any, hot hands to play. We barely have any healthy players at all. We just have to keep muddling through, hoping that we can pull it together, and crossing our fingers that the D-backs fall apart.