Updated 4:35 p.m. with Brandon Belt update.
AT&T PARK — Bruce Bochy said several weeks ago that he didn’t like the word “spoiler.” Of course, at that point, his San Francisco Giants were at least nominally in the hunt for the postseason, less than seven games back with more than 30 to play. The 1951 Giants, after all, trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers by 13 1/2 games in the standings on Aug. 11. Crazier things had happened.
On Tuesday, the 2018 Giants lost their 10th game in a row (the last team to lose 11 was, in fact, that 1951 club, but they did it early), falling 20 games under .500. For the first time, Bochy said that it was no secret: They were out of it. He told them as much in a pregame meeting.
“There’s nothing tougher on a manager, I think, then having to tell your group, ‘Hey, we’re out of it,'” Bochy said Wednesday, before the series finale against the Atlanta Braves. “Still, we have a job to do.”
No, the Giants aren’t spoilers, as far as Bochy is concerned. He prefers the word “disruptor.” Of San Francisco’s 16 games remaining, 10 come against Atlanta, Colorado, St. Louis and the Dodgers — all teams that are either leading their division (Rockies, Braves), would make the playoffs (Cardinals) or are within 1 1/2 games of a playoff spot (Los Angeles).
“It’s not a great position to be in, but it is a motivating thing for the players,” Bochy said. “When you’re not in it, you can compete and impact what happens.”
While the prospects San Francisco would probably like to be playing right now — Steven Duggar and Mac Williamson — are both injured (along with recent walking-wounded addition Ryder Jones), San Francisco’s other youngsters like Chris Shaw, Aramis Garcia, Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez, Alen Hanson and Austin Slater are seeing the best that the best in the NL have to offer.
“That’s been great for them,” Bochy said. “That gives them an idea of what they’re going to see in the major leagues, especially with those elite pitchers. As they go into the winter, they’ve seen some of the best, and not just call-ups. The unknown factor’s gone. They saw 98, 99 last night.”
In the second game against the Braves — the Giants’ 10th straight loss — they saw Mike Foltynewicz throw 98 mph into the ninth inning in his second complete game of the season. Hanson grounded out to first, and Slater grounded out to short. Shaw — one of San Francisco’s top five prospects — went 0-for-3 and saw nine pitches.
“It’s good for them,” Bochy said. “Now, they have a visual of what they could be facing next year.”
During the streak, the Giants offense has wilted, hitting just .190 in the month of September. Bochy reluctantly admitted that a losing streak this long and this late tends to exacerbate what was already a struggling offense — the third-fewest runs per game in all of major league baseball.
“We actually talked about that yesterday, about the importance of these games, even though we’re not in it,” Bochy said. “Times like this, that’s where you build character, and we’ve got to show character now. That’s our job.That’s our obligation, to come out here and play well. That’s something you evaluate, too, how guys are handling that. We want guys with character in that clubhouse.”
Brandon Belt — who has been battling knee soreness and may get surgery in the offseason — started at first after a day off. Bochy had thought about putting Joe Panik there in the recent past, in order to keep his bat in the lineup.
Bochy did manage to keep Panik on the field Wednesday, opting to start infielder-by-trade Alen Hanson — someone else he wants to keep in the lineup — in left field instead of Shaw. Panik got San Francisco’s first two hits — a single in the first and another single in the third — and scored the Giants’ first run on a third-inning single by Evan Longoria.
Panik had his first three-hit game since April 24, singleing up the middle in the first, to right in the third and to left in the seventh.
Belt said after the game that he has not yet had any tests on his knee, preferring to wait until after the season to get it taken care of. Stepping on the bag last week while running to first exacerbated some discomfort he’s had for quite some time. It feels, he said, a lot like 2015, when he underwent arthroscopic meniscus surgery on Sept. 30 of that year. He postulated that there may be a fraying of the meniscus.