By Doug Bruzzone
Special to S.F. Examiner
ORACLE PARK — In the San Francisco clubhouse before Friday night’s game, Giants personnel handed out Triple-A Championship shirts to every Giant who had spent time with the Sacramento River Cats this year. Some were there for a week, some were there for practically the whole season, but they all got apparel to commemorate the team’s achievement.
Then the Los Angeles Dodgers showed just how far away the big league team is from a championship of their own.
The Giants lost to the Dodgers 9-2 on Friday night after they had runners on base all night, but failed to cash in. Facing a then-three run deficit, they got the tying run to the plate in each of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but didn’t plate a run in any of those frames. They stranded 17 on the night, tying a San Francisco-era franchise record for stranded runners in a nine-inning game.
“That was a big part of the story tonight,” Bruce Bochy said. “We had a lot of traffic out there. You create those chances there and you gotta cash in. We went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, we left 17 guys on … All we needed was one hit to keep things moving and we couldn’t get it.”
By contrast, when Los Angeles loaded the bases in the top of the eighth on a Brandon Crawford mental error, they were able to capitalize. With one out and runners at first and second, Crawford fielded a hard-hit shot from Corey Seager, then tried to flip the ball to second baseman Mauricio Dubon to start a double play. Dubon, though, was nowhere near second base, and couldn’t catch the ball anyway, so instead of two on and two out, the Dodgers had the bases loaded and just one out.
Los Angeles catcher Will Smith then singled to left field off of Shaun Anderson, plating two runs. One out later, when the inning could have been over had Crawford gotten the sure out, Kiké Hernandez singled in another two runs, the final nail in the coffin.
Kevin Pillar won the 2019 Willie Mac Award earlier in the night, and he went 0-for-2 with a walk, a hit by pitch – which loaded the bases in the eighth inning, leading to zero Giants runs – and a sacrifice fly. He also reached on an error.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Pillar said. “For me, I just come to work and I just do my job and to be voted by your peers and your coaching staff and people who are with you every single day means the world to me … The three things that I know that I can do every single day is work hard, play hard, and be a good teammate. Getting that award reiterates that I’m doing the right things.”
Johnny Cueto’s night started out well, retiring the side on three groundouts, but the Dodgers pounced on him in the second. He gave up back-to-back homers to Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager to open the inning, then allowed a walk and a triple, struck out the next two batters and then finally gave up a two-run homer to Joc Pederson.
“It was [a matter of location],” Bochy said. “He was wild in the strike zone. A couple of those changeups came back and stayed in the nitro zone there for him, and then the fastball, he didn’t quite get it where he wanted. They took advantage of it.”
After such a long, tough rehab process just to get back on the field this year, Cueto just seemed to run out of gas in his final start of 2019. Still, just the fact that he was able to compete on a major-league field in 2019 bodes well for his prospects in 2020.
“This is a long process,” Cueto said. “Basically what I wanted to do was see how I felt. I wasn’t too much concerned about the results, and I think I feel great, so I’m gonna take this into the winter as a positive.”
While Anderson had his troubles in the eighth inning, the left-handers in the Giants bullpen acquitted themselves very well. Wandy Peralta, Sam Selman, Andy Suarez and Conner Menez combined to pitch six innings, strike out six, and only give up one hit, all without allowing a walk or run.
As the Giants have been doing all month to celebrate their manager’s upcoming retirement, they played several video tributes for Bruce Bochy on the scoreboard. On Friday night, they came from past Willie Mac Award winners Andres Torres, Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain and Hunter Pence, as well as decidedly non-Willie Mac winners Tommy Lasorda and Steve Kerr.
Bochy said after the game that Madison Bumgarner will not pitch the finale on Sunday, the final game of Bochy’s managerial career. Instead, he’ll be by Bochy’s side, helping to manage what’s expected to be a largely-youngster-laden lineup.
“I talked to him, discussed the whole thing,” Bochy said. “I’d just as soon him hang with me and watch the game with me. I didn’t want him to feel like he had to get out there. We’re covered on the pitching side.”
A free agent at the end of the year and San Francisco’s innings leader, it could mean Bumgarner has pitched his last game as a Giant.
“He’s pitched enough,” Bochy said. “The game’s not going to determine anything. He’s got a lot of baseball left. I’d just like to take care of him. So he’s not going to pitch.
“I didn’t want him to feel like because it’s going to be my last game that he had to get out there — which he would have.”