SF Giants Torture Report: Home Sweet Home

The San Francisco Giants just finished a 7-3 home stand and now head on the road for a 3-city, 10-game trip through the east. The Giants currently have a 16-15 record, and are 5 games back of first place Arizona and just a half game back from second place Colorado.

It was a weird and wild home stand that saw the Giants give up 15 runs twice, complete a 3-run come from behind rally in the bottom of the 9th, and there was also a Panda sighting on the mound at AT&T Park.. That’s 4 series wins in a row for the Giants for the first time since June 2016.

Every single player on the roster seemed to have a hand in helping the Giants to that 7-3 record. Austin Jackson picked up a couple of  run-scoring hits, Nick Hundley seemed to take a personal grudge out on the Padres and hammered the ball all over the yard, and who can forget the contribution from Mac Williamson against Washington to kick off the 10 games?

The Giants are starting to play like a team that hates to lose. Finally. No more getting comfortable with losing every day because the season already feels like it’s over. The Giants are back to playing winning baseball. At least for now, and I’m going to soak every bit of that up.

Keep the line moving

It’s been the mantra since Bruce Bochy took over. “Keep the line moving”. The Giants did just that over the last 10 games, going 26-for-87 with runners in scoring position. That’s a .299 average. A far cry from the paltry .188 they displayed on their most recent road trip.

Guys are starting to get on, get moved over and get knocked in. And it’s not just the homers. The Giants had an on base percentage of .339 during the home stand. League average is .318, so the Giants are putting pressure on the other team and causing pitchers to work harder from the stretch.

Just as an example, the Giants were 5-for-18 with RISP in their 9-4 victory over the Padres on Wednesday afternoon. Yes, that’s a .277 average, but 18 at bats with runners in scoring position? That’s a ton. You hope to get 5 of those opportunities a game. All those base runners puts enormous pressure on the other team to make the right pitches and play clean defense. It’s almost as if when you put the ball in play, things happen, and it looks very similar to how the 2012 team operated.

At least the bullpen is healthy

Starting pitchers have been getting banged up this year for the Giants. First it was Jeff Samardzija and his strained chest, after that, Madison Bumgarner got taken out by a line drive to the left hand in the final spring game in Arizona, and finally, Johnny Cueto now has elbow inflammation and it is serious enough that he seeking the advice of Dr. James Andrews, the specialist who performs Tommy John surgery.

Thank goodness the bullpen is healthy because they have been working hard. Out of 90 total innings pitched by the Giants over the last 10 games, 41 were from the bullpen. It can’t be lost that Derek Law, Josh Osich, and Roberto Gomez combined to take the majority of innings in both games the Giants gave up 15 runs. It allowed the rest of the guys to be the shutdown bullpen they have become. By the way, all 3 of these guys are either on the DL or in Sacramento. So, thank you for your sacrifice.

Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, and Cory Gearrin combined for 11.2 shutout innings over the last 10 games. Will Smith made his long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery with a scoreless inning, and the funky DJ Snelten made his big league debut last Saturday in the Giants win over the Dodgers. Snelten threw 1.1 innings, allowed 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out a batter in his first appearance Since then, the Giants have used him twice more and are 3-0 in games Snelten has taken the mound. Maybe he’s the good luck charm?

The Giants are 13-3 in games they score first. That usually means if a starting pitcher can get the ball to Smith, Watson, Dyson, and Hunter Strickland with a lead, the game should be closed out. Despite giving up a home run to a good hitter on a good pitch on Tuesday night, Strickland had a really good home stand. That home run to Hosmer was the only run Strickland has allowed over the last 2 weeks. He picked up 4 saves on the home stand, 2 of which were crucial against the Nats in tight ball games.

All the right moves

Bruce Bochy is back, ladies and gentleman! I mean, I know he never went anywhere, but much like the players seemed to slog through the better part of last year, so did our beloved manager. This past home stand, Bochy showed that he has full control over his team.

For starters, Bochy was not afraid to insert Mac into a struggling lineup and it paid off right away. Williamson hit a 464-foot home run to right center field to kick off the home stand that sent a lightning bolt through AT&T Park. Then the next night, Mac breaks a 2-2 tie with a home run to dead center after he had stumbled over a bullpen mound and slammed his head into the wall the previous inning. Mac ended up on the concussion DL and will return this Saturday in Atlanta and I sure hope he’s feeling better.

On Saturday against LA, Chris Stratton had a rough start and forced Bochy to use his bullpen rather early in the first game of a doubleheader. After both Gomez and Law were gassed and the Giants had allowed 15 runs, Bochy decided to finally use a position player to pitch. The choice was Pablo Sandoval and his 3 up, 3 down top of the ninth was the only clean inning from a Giants pitcher in that game. It was a move that brought levity to a bad loss and allowed the Giants players to stay loose for game 2 of the doubleheader. They went out and dominated that second game with an 8-3 victory.

Buster Posey has had at least one day off in each of the last 4 series the Giants have played. And if you’ve been reading along until now, you know that the Giants won all 4 of those series. Thanks to Nick Hundley turning into the Superman of backup catchers, Bochy has been able to find moments of rest for his superstar starting catcher. It’s a long-term plan that is paying dividends in the short run. Bochy is always managing with an eye towards October, and that’s what you want from your Hall of Fame worthy skipper.

Pitcher of the week

It’s only 3 minutes. You’ve come this far, just watch the Panda dominate some hitters.

Player of the week

Nick Hundley had a series to remember against his former team the San Diego Padres earlier this week. On Monday night, he had the game winning pinch-hit in the bottom of the 9th inning with 2 outs and the Giants trailing. Then on Wednesday, Hundley went 4-for-5 with 2 doubles, a home run, and 4 runs scored. He was a machine and it was great to see all those line drives from earlier in the year start to find some open spaces. Like I mentioned, he’s made it easier on Bochy to give Posey some days off.

Coming Up

The Giants start a 3-city, 10 game road trip tonight in Atlanta. After those 3 games it’s 4  in Philadelphia followed by 3 more in Pittsburgh for Andrew McCutchen’s return. There is no off day on this road trip and the Giants don’t have another day off until May 21, the day after their next home stand.

The hitting has been heating up for the Giants and the weather should cooperate in Atlanta. As someone who lives in Georgia I can tell you it is hot down here and the ball will travel. The Braves hit 4 home runs on Thursday at SunTrust Park and there have been 25 total home runs hit there in 13 games. The Braves are a first place team and I expect we’ll see a ton of runs scored on both sides this weekend.

All three teams the Giants face on this trip have winning records and Atlanta has just taken over first place in the NL East. This road trip should be a good measuring stick to determine if the Giants are contenders.

Torture Level

This was like a yo-yo through all 10 games and there was more torture than you’d expect from a successful home stand.  The Nats series was an 8 until the Giants got blown out and we all just shrugged our shoulders. The Dodger series was pretty much dominated by the Giants, again save for one blowout loss. But then the Padres series brought every sort of excitement and pain over a 2 game stretch.

First was the elation of a walk off, come from behind loss. The next day it was a punch to the gut after the Giants had clawed their way back to tie the game at 2 with the Padres and Eric Hosmer with his bat made of fire had to park one in the left field stands. The epitome of a torture loss. Overall, we’re down to a 5 on the torture scale. The Giants are winning a few games by more than one run, and that allows for some breathing room.

We recorded episode 141 yesterday, go check it out. Remember to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotifyPodBeanPodOMatic, and some other places I’m sure I am missing. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check out the YouTube channel which now has all new episodes as well as plenty of player interviews and much more.

Or you can just tell Alexa, “play the Torturecast podcast” and let her do the rest.

-Eric

 

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