LOS ANGELES — Before this week’s series against the Los Angeles Dodgers — who had scored 42 runs in four games to open the 2018 season — Bruce Bochy joked that he didn’t want to talk about the reigning National League champion’s offense.
Los Angeles had slugged 14 home runs to San Francisco’s one over the first series of the season, and the Giants had scored only five total runs against the San Diego Padres.
On Wednesday, San Francisco slugged a pair of long balls in support of Derek Holland, and a team that had lost 187 games in the last two years, which had a .266 slugging percentage entering the series, looked in line to beat the mighty Dodgers at their own game and take two of three in the series and salvage the road trip. They did, at least, until David Freese doubled in a pair in the seventh against Reyes Moronta in the eighth, leading to a 5-3 loss in yet another game where a Giants comeback fell by the wayside, ending a seven-game road swing that saw San Francisco score just 17 runs.
What makes the road trip that much harder to swallow is the fact that Giants pitching allowed just 24 runs, and came back three times against the Dodgers, only to come away with a lone win.
The Giants now head home to stingy Oracle Park for an uncertain home opener. With a 90% chance of rain in the forecast for Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays, San Francisco has issued a release saying the club has explored all contingencies to get the full series in over the weekend. There’s a strong chance the Giants will have to sit with this road trip for an additional 24 hours.
“We just can’t quite put a game away,” Bochy said. “We had that nice inning, but really, besides that, we didn’t do too much offensively … Really, every game went kind of the same … The last two games could have gone either way. That would have made it a decent trip.”
After Kike Hernandez hit his fifth career leadoff home run, Holland issued back-to-back walks, and with two outs, Cody Bellinger — who hit his fourth career grand slam on Tuesday — hit a bleeder up the middle.
Second baseman Joe Panik, shifted hard to the right side, glided up the middle, fielded the ball on the outfield grass and threw home, but Erik Kratz’s tag missed David Freese, who scored from second.
“For some reason,” Bochy said, “we don’t get away with walks.”
Those were the only two runs Holland would allow, as he retired 10 of the next 11 men he faced, finishing the night with seven strikeouts, allowing three hits and four walks on 98 pitches, with 61 strikes. Like Drew Pomeranz two nights prior, he was able to grind enough to not only keep the Giants in the game, but put them in line for the win thanks to a three-run fourth and some nifty defense.
“What a great job he did, went five, left the game with the lead, really got better as he went,” Bochy said. “Good stuff, good command, really good outing for him after the first inning.”
The double-center-fielders experiment got off to a solid start for San Francisco, as after Opening Day starter Steven Duggar once again successfully tested his surgically-repaired left shoulder pursuing a foul ball over the low wall in right, then one pitchlater, called off newly-acquired Kevin Pillar on a dying quail in the right-center gap for the second out in the second.
Both Pillar and Duggar were on their horses, but Pillar remained true to his word before the game, when he said he would completely defer to Duggar in matters of outfield right-of-way and positioning. As Bochy said both Tuesday and Wednesday, the Giants have a rare luxury in having two rangey center fielders in the same outfield, and it showed. That was the first of two plays that displayed San Francisco’s new, expanded coverage.
In the fourth, Duggar cut the lead in half with his first home run of the campaign — a solo shot off of Ross Stripling that deposited an 86.8 mph slider halfway up the bleachers. Two batters later, Brandon Belt turned around a middle-middle 87.1-mph hanging slider for his second home run of the series, inching the Giants ahead, 3-2, as they batted around and saw 35 pitches from Stripling. That was the extent of San Francisco’s offense, after they scored nine runs over the previous two games.
After Holland’s exit, San Francisco got a clean inning from Sam Dyson, before Moronta got into trouble in the seventh.
Moronta allowed a leadoff double to Austin Barnes, and after fanning pinch hitter Alex Verdugo on a nasty change, walked Hernandez on six pitches to bring up the heart of the Dodgers lineup. Justin Turner flied out to right to advance Barnes, and Freese blasted a mislocated 2-2 fastball for a two-out double off the wall in right to give Los Angeles a 4-3 lead it would not surrender.
“He was a little off,” said Bochy, in contrast to Moronta’s outing against San Diego this past weekend. “Give them credit. They got a couple big hits there … The walk didn’t help. It wasn’t quite as sharp.”
Tony Watson allowed an infield single and an RBI double in the eighth for the final tally, before Mark Melancon, on in a second high-leverage situation this series, got a grounder to a drawn-in infield to cut a run down at the plate, and gor Joc Pederson to ground out to end the frame and strand a runner.
“We’ve got a good bullpen, so that’s going to have to be our strength, holding on to those games,” Bochy said.