By Doug Bruzzone
Special to S.F. Examiner
ORACLE PARK — The San Francisco Giants played their ninth game of the season on Saturday, and scored their 25th run. They played their tenth game of the season on Sunday, and stayed stuck on 25.
In the finale of a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays, what was expected to be an offense that had difficulty scoring run couldn’t even score one, getting shut out by the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-0.
“I think we haven’t clicked yet as an offense,” said first baseman Brandon Belt, who went 0-for-3 with a walk. “I’m looking at it as we have a good opportunity ahead of us. We have a good lineup. We’ve got to get some people clicking, and when we do that, you’re gonna see more runs.”
Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz opened the game by homering to left field — a line drive that hit a railing behind the fence, bounced back onto the field, and had to be reviewed before it was officially called a home run. The Rays ended up scoring at least one first-inning run in each game of the series, with four runs in the first on Friday, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.
So far in 2019, the Giants have been outscored 8-0 in the first inning and 17-2 in the first three, which, combined with a sputtering offense, has made it very difficult for them to win games.
“You always want to score first,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The numbers show your chances of winning are better when you take a lead … We need to get some early runs. We did a nice job yesterday, but that’s been one of our issues, coming out firing.”
Bochy suggested he might change up the top of the lineup in the next series against San Diego in order to get more offense, with Yangervis Solarte — who went 2-for-2 on Sunday — in line to get some starts.
Tampa Bay added another run in the fourth inning on two walks and a single. Giants starter Drew Pomeranz had strikeout stuff, with five K’s in four innings, but his control was off all afternoon. Bochy described Pomeranz as “a little erratic” because his iffy command meant he walked three and threw too many pitches – 92, one batter into the fifth inning. In all, he gave up two runs on six hits plus the three walks. His two baserunners per inning were too many to let him stay on the mound.
“I felt like my stuff was pretty good today,” Pomeranz said. “I just didn’t do a good job of staying ahead of guys and making good pitches when I needed to. I was out there kinda throwing today. I was feeling good … They still didn’t really hit one ball hard all day, but I make it real hard on myself and everyone else when I throw that many pitches in that many innings. That’s definitely not what I’m up there trying to do.”
Trevor Gott relieved Pomeranz, and threw very well for two innings, striking out three and allowing just one hit. Nick Vincent was effective in his first inning, but in his second, he gave up a triple to Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, and then balked him in from third by making a pickoff throw to Evan Longoria, who was nowhere near the bag.
Bochy went out to argue, but acknowledged after the game that the balk was “probably the right call because the position player has to be in the vicinity of the base. So it was frustrating. We’re trying to keep it a 2-0 game.”
The Giants did flash the leather a couple times on Sunday, with Joe Panik diving to stop a ground ball in the second inning, and Kevin Pillar showing off his range in the sixth, making a nice running catch on an Austin Meadows line drive that seemed ticketed for the gap in left-center field.
The Rays added another chapter to their book of baseball innovations in the bottom of the seventh. With Solarte on first base after a pinch hit single, the Rays moved left-handed pitcher Adam Kolarek to first base so that right-handed Chaz Roe could pitch to right-handed Evan Longoria and Kolarek could return to the mound to face Brandon Belt. The strategy paid off, as Roe struck Longoria out without Kolarek seeing any action at first base, and Kolarek then struck Belt out on three pitches.
“I don’t think I’ve seen them in particular do it,” Belt said, “but the way they do things over there, I’m not surprised.”
Solarte was the offensive star of the game for the Giants, collecting two of the team’s five hits after pinch hitting for Panik in the seventh. The Giants managed to bring Brandon Crawford to the plate in the bottom of the ninth representing the tying run, but he grounded out to second base to end the game.
“It’s up to your core players. You can’t lean on the other guys. And they’ll get it going.” Bochy said.
“It’s getting better,” he insisted, pointing to the quality of the at bats. For now, Giants fans will have to take him at his word, because the results on the field have been the same all year.