By Cyril Penn
Special to S.F. Examiner
As they turn over every rock in search for some extra pop in the starting lineup, the San Francisco Giants will have to find ways to keep Tyler Austin on the field.
In an ugly 18-2 blowout loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night – the most lopsided game in the MLB this season and the most runs allowed in Oracle Park’s history – Austin’s bat provided the only silver lining for a frustrated Giants fanbase.
Starting in place of Brandon Belt due to inflammation in Belt’s right knee, Austin notched his third straight outing with a homer, knocking a two-run shot to deep left-center in the bottom of the first. The early-season acquisition from Minnesota has been tremendous against left-handed pitching, but less than middling against right-handers thus far this season, touting a 1.159 OPS against the former compared to a .548 OPS against the latter.
“You have to like the way the ball jumps off his bat,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Austin. “That’s a big home run. We’ll give up one, come back and take the lead there. That was a bright spot in tonight’s game. So we’ll try to find a place for him.”
Splitting time between first base and left field, Austin has proven too productive to simply operate as Belt’s backup. While Bochy dismissed the idea that Austin and Belt could form a platoon at first, with nine different players starting in left field through the first 50 games of the season, Austin may be able lock down a platoon role in left as a starter against left-handers, especially with Mac Williamson’s struggles.
Drew Pomeranz entered Friday’s contest 0-3 with a 7.76 ERA over nine appearances – six of which were starts – in his career against Arizona. His poor play against the NL West rival continued, as he spotted the Diamondbacks an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, giving up a solo shot to Ildemaro Vargas, who laced the fifth pitch of the game over the left field wall.
Despite getting some rare first inning run support (San Francisco has scored only 10 first inning runs all season), the lefty gave the lead right back, giving up consecutive RBI singles to Ketel Marte and Vargas in the second. He was pulled in favor of Trevor Gott in the third inning after giving up a two-out, bases-loaded, two-run single to opposing pitcher Robbie Ray that gave Arizona a 5-2 advantage.
“He just missed when he missed. They spoiled a lot of good pitches,” Bochy said of Pomeranz. “He got his pitch count up there and he did make some mistakes … it was their night. Everything they hit seemed like it got through tonight.”
Pomeranz finished with 2 2/3 innings pitched, allowing five earned runs on eight hits while striking out six and walking one, upping his career ERA against the Diamondbacks from 7.76 to 8.53. Over his past four starts since tossing six shutout innings on April 24 against Toronto, Pomeranz holds an 11.77 ERA through 13 innings.
“I feel like my stuff was pretty good. Just, I don’t know, sometimes they hit the ball where people aren’t,” Pomeranz said. “I’ve just got to throw more strikes and be more consistent. Feel like my stuff’s been pretty good, I’m just not getting the job done. It’s pretty frustrating.”
After using six of the team’s eight relievers in Thursday’s 5-4 13-inning loss, Bochy turned to Trevor Gott in relief for the second day in a row. Gott hardly fared any better than his predecessor, however, loading up the bases and walking in a run before being replaced by Nick Vincent with one out in the fourth inning.
Facing a bases loaded, one-out jam, Vincent did well to force Carson Kelly into a pop out, but he couldn’t save Gott from additional earned runs as he allowed a two-RBI shot from Tim Locastro that gave Arizona a commanding 8-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
The Diamondbacks ensured that Vincent would be victimized by their offensive onslaught in the fifth as well, as Adam Jones’ 419-foot, three-run bomb put an exclamation point on what quickly became a full-on drubbing.
Pushing runs across in each of the first seven innings, Arizona ensured that the offensively inept Giants wouldn’t sniff a comeback. They racked up 21 hits on the night, sending many unhappy fans in attendance home before the seventh inning stretch was even underway.
By the time Eduardo Escobar made it 14-2 with his own three-run jack in the top of the sixth, Giants fans began chanting “Let Pablo Pitch,” hoping to see Pablo Sandoval on the mound in a game that was all but decided with three innings to play. Sandoval would enter the game in the seventh inning, but at third base. Sandoval incited cheers of “MVP” from the remaining fans after going 2-for-2 with a single and double in his limited time at the plate, but the Giants went quietly despite his jolt of energy.
“I could hear them chat, ‘Put Pablo in,’ and I wasn’t going to pitch him tonight because he’s going to start at third tomorrow,” Bochy said. “Last thing I needed is him to come up with a sore arm.”
After falling to 21-29 on the season and trailing first-place by 11.5 games already, Fangraphs gives San Francisco only a one-percent shot at making the playoffs. If the Giants are looking to do anything more than tread water at the bottom of the National League standings in Bochy’s last season as manager, they’ll need to make major moves before they run out of time.