Bay Area Baseball

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May 30, 2013
Bochy after Giants' 9-6 loss: 'We've got to get our act together'

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the ninth inning Wednesday night, with the seagulls starting to descend on AT&T Park, the Giants tried a crowd-based tactic to ward off the flock. The PA system encouraged, "Everybody clap your hands," while the video board flashed the message: "See ya, gulls!" And the clapping did send the birds into flight -- briefly.

It was maybe the 12th-oddest sight Tuesday on the shores of McCovey Cove, on a night when the Giants scored six runs on 13 hits in their home park -- including one on which they benefited from an overzealous fan interfering with a live ball -- and still lost their third game in a row to the streaking A's, 9-6.

Tim Lincecum couldn't get out of the fifth inning, due in part to more shaky defense on the part of the Giants, who committed three errors. Marco Scutaro dropped a pop-up in shallow right that allowed a run to score. Andres Torres fell down trying to backhand a ball that rolled past him to the wall. Even the Giants bullpen, which started the game with the second-lowest ERA in baseball, got in on the act, allowing three runs in 4 2/3 innings a night after making up 5 2/3 innings in relief of rookie Michael Kickham.

"I don't know what happened, to be honest," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We just didn't play well. There's no sugar-coating this thing. We pretty much covered all facets of the game tonight as far as not playing well.

"We've got to get our act together. It wasn't good tonight."

Not much has gone right for the Giants in this series, in which they're now on the verge of being swept. They've lost 10 of 15, a span in which their rotation has given them just two quality starts, following Lincecum's 4 1/3-inning outing Wednesday.

"We need some quality starts," Bochy said. Technically, the term often means six innings and three or fewer earned runs. But Bochy wasn't being that technical. "We need some guys getting us a little deeper in the game," he continued.

Needless to say, that's affecting how Bochy is able to use his bullpen. Wednesday night he brought in Javier Lopez in the fifth inning -- a night after Lopez came on in the third.

"Sometimes you're using your 'pen a lot, when guys are logging a lot of pitches," Bochy said. "This is not our game. It's gotten away from us here for a while and we've got to find a way to get back on track here."

Yes, but how?

Catcher Buster Posey echoed his manager's assessment of "We're just not playing well, all in all. We're not pitching great, we're not playing good defense, and it seems like when we are scoring runs, we're scoring them when we're way behind. And the games when we're getting some decent starts we're not scoring runs."

Posey was asked if the answer might be as simple as the Giants taking a step back and remind themselves that they're the defending World Series champions.

"I mean, I think that the position we're in, as far as the standings, it feels like we should be further behind than what we are," Posey said. "So I think we have to look at that as a positive and realize there's still four-plus months to go."

For how badly things have gone in May, the Giants are 28-25 and 2 ½ games behind the first-place Diamondbacks in the West. But that can change quickly. After this series, the Giants go to St. Louis for three games against the team with baseball's best record, then four days later begin a nine-game road trip through Arizona, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, who were a combined 31 games over .500 after play on Wednesday.

"I think baseball's just very contagious," Posey said. "I think that if we start doing one aspect of the game better, everything will follow suit. So I don't think you can just point to one thing (that's fixable). I think in general we need to just play a little bit better."

One thing Bochy made clear -- with the possible exception of some fluctuation to address the workload on the pitching staff, any improvement will come from the players currently in the Giants clubhouse.

"This is our club here," Bochy said. "It's a good club. We're not playing like we should be. This is a very talented ballclub. They've done some good things. We're going through as tough a stretch as you can go through, not just this series, but really for the last two weeks. We're just not playing like the team that we are."

* Lincecum's night began with a leadoff walk to Coco Crisp -- who later scored -- and ended with his having allowed 11 baserunners on seven hits and four walks while getting 13 outs. The 4 1/3 innings marked his shortest start of the season.

"Too many pitches up in the zone, not very many pitches down in the zone," Lincecum said in summary. "Just didn't execute all that well with the fastball. I just didn't really give my team a chance to win."

Lincecum looked to have gotten out of the first having allowed one run until Scutaro had Josh Donaldson's pop-up fall out of his glove in shallow right-center.

"Those are tough plays to make, those balls kind of falling into nowhere-land," Lincecum said. "Outfielder's got to come from a long way away in the right-field gap, and second baseman's got a ways to go, too."

Lincecum got out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fourth by striking out counterpart Tommy Milone. But he retired just one of the six hitters he faced in the fifth. He rued a grounder by Donaldson that was knocked down by first baseman Brett Pill, who couldn't get a throw off to second for a force-out and then looked back to first to find Lincecum nowhere near the bag.

"I could've been there on that play," Lincecum said. "I could've been covering first. I just didn't read the situation well and didn't get over."

Bochy said he didn't think it would've mattered with Donaldson hustling down the line. But the play was emblematic of a bigger theme.

"That's what's really hurting us is our defense," Bochy said. "Making too many mistakes. And the more we talk about it, it seems like the more it happens.

"They're out here working every day," he said. "That's all you can do, and these guys are trying. It's going to get better, we know it. We're just not playing winning baseball."

* The Giants seemed to catch a break in the sixth, when Andres Torres doubled down the left-field line with Gregor Blanco on first. A fan reached over the wall and interfered with the ball, prompting umpires to rule the play dead -- and bullpen coach Mark Gardner to give the fan an earful.

Blanco appeared to be about halfway between second and third when the fan touched the ball. But umpires allowed Blanco to score while Torres stopped at second. It prompted an argument from A's manager Bob Melvin and led to the ejection of Oakland bench coach Chip Hale.

Here was crew chief Gerry Davis' explanation of the play, courtesy of a pool reporter:

"The ball went over the bag. I called it fair. There was spectator interference. Whenever there is spectator interference you award the runners the bases you feel they would have had had there not been interference."

Davis also explained how that decision was come by:

"(Home plate umpire Brian Knight) basically made the decision because he's the home plate ump and he has the whole field in his perspective. So he made the decision as to whether the runners would score. And if any of the other umpires have anything different on the field, then we would get together if we need to. But we were all pretty sure that was the case."

* That play made it a 6-4 game. Pablo Sandoval came up two batters later with runners on first and second and one out, and the crowd at AT&T Park may have been louder than at any point this season. Sandoval, though, grounded into a double play on the first pitch.

It was one instance of the contrasting solid defense of the A's. Josh Donaldson made an error in the fourth inning but robbed Buster Posey with a diving catch on a line drive in the seventh. They also turned three double plays, including one started calmly by closer Grant Balfour to erase a leadoff single in the ninth.

For all that went wrong, the Giants did bring the tying run to the plate in every inning from the sixth to the eighth, and scored twice off A's reliever Sean Doolittle, snapping Doolittle's streak of 13 games and 13 1/3 innings without scoring a run.

Gregor Blanco started the two-run rally in the eighth with a single off Doolittle. It was Blanco's second hit off a left-hander this season. His first had come two innings earlier, with a single against A's starter Tommy Milone. Sandoval drove in the second run off Doolittle with a single on a 96 mph fastball, snapping an 0-for-15 skid.

* Aside from catching a 3-hour, 43-minute game, Posey had to block a handful of balls in the dirt, and Bochy said he'd need to check with his catcher after the game about whether Posey felt up to being behind the plate for the series finale.

It is, indeed, a quick turnaround. Barry Zito (3-3, 4.13) will try to play stopper against the A's and the right-hander from Southern California starter with a slow curveball who has drawn comparisons to Zito, A.J. Griffin (5-3, 3.84). First pitch at 12:45 p.m.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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