AT&T PARK — On Tuesday afternoon, before the San Francisco Giants faced Mike Foltynewicz and the Atlanta Braves, manager Bruce Bochy held a team meeting. The team had lost nine straight, and were one away from the club’s worst losing streak in more than 20 years.
The meeting wasn’t long — about five minutes, by starter Andrew Suarez’s reckoning — and it was about accountability.
“We’re winners,” said outfielder Gregor Blanco, part of the last two Giants’ World Series teams. “There are a lot of guys here that it’s hard for us to be in this situation, losing. We don’t want that. This is a legacy that we create, and that we want to pass on to the young guys. A 10-game losing streak is not what we’re looking for.”
With a 4-1 loss to the Braves on Tuesday night, the Giants posted the club’s sixth double-digit losing streak since 1908, and the first 10-game losing streak since 1996. The last team to lose 11 straight was the 1951 pennant-winning club. This team isn’t headed in that direction.
“Let’s be honest,” Bochy said. “We’re out of it now. Still, we have a job to do, and that’s try to win a game for that starting pitcher, try to play our best ball to the best of our ability every day. It’s what we’ve got to do, and we’re going to hold each other accountable.”
Without a win since the start of September, San Francisco has fallen from 6 1/2 games back of first to 12 with 16 games left on the schedule. At 68-78, the Giants are in a stultifying offensive funk.
Since their last win — 7-0 over the New York Mets behind Tuesday’s starter Andrew Suarez on Aug. 31 — San Francisco has hit just .190. In 13 of their last 15 games, the Giants have scored three runs or fewer.
“It’s fair to say we’re not swinging the bats,” Bochy said. “We’re a team that I think will get through this, and play better here the last 16 games. We’ve got to. You can’t get any worse with what’s been going on offensively.”
Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz held San Francisco to just six hits — including a broken-bat infield single to short by Gorkys Hernandez in the eighth — and struck out seven. The Giants have now struck out 115 times in 326 at-bats since the start of September.
“We’ve been as good as most clubs on the pitching side,” Bochy said. “We’re just challenged offensively. We’re not a club that has a lot of power. We need to get our hits and move guys, keep the line moving, that’s what we say, except we don’t really have anybody hot with the bat right now. It’s always tough when you get good pitching and can’t find a way to win games.”
While the Giants’ pitchers have posted a 3.42 ERA since June 1 — the third-best in the major leagues — the lack of offense has taken its toll. Over the losing streak, San Francisco pitchers have buckled, with an ERA of 4.91, despite strong outings from Dereck Rodriguez and Suarez.
On Tuesday, Suarez gave up a sacrifice fly in the fourth and a two-run home run from Charlie Culberson with no outs in the fifth. He threw 87 pitches in six innings, and largely did what Bochy said was needed before the game: Gave the Giants a chance to win.
Suarez has now gone six or more innings and allowed three runs or less nine times this year. San Francisco has now lost four of those.
On Monday, Rodriguez allowed one run over 6 1/3. The Giants have lost five of his 13 quality starts, including each of his last three.
“You look at it, what’s tough about the streak is you look at a lot of these games where we’ve been right there,” Bochy said. “Even had the lead late in ballgames, couldn’t hold on to it.”
San Francisco’s margin for victory has been slim throughout the season — only three teams were averaging fewer than the 3.85 runs per game the Giants were scoring entering play on Tuesday — but during the losing streak, they’ve averaged just 2.5 runs per game.
Enter: Foltynewicz — who was sitting on 95 pitches entering the ninth — still pumped 98 with his eighth pitch of the inning.
“I think he had Cy Young material,” Blanco said. “I remember the first time I saw him three years ago, and I always thought he had the stuff that he’s showing this year.”
Foltynewicz struck out seven and walked one, throwing 108 pitches, including 75 strikes.
“We ran into a really good pitcher tonight, and I know I’ve been saying that a lot, but still,” Bochy said. “You’ve got to keep pushing.”
It was a far different result than last time Foltynewicz faced San Francisco, when he gave up six earned runs in five innings. Over his last five starts heading into Tuesday, Foltynewicz was 1-2, but he sported a 1.91 ERA.
“He’s been as good as anybody,” Bochy said. “He had great stuff. Let’s be honest here: He’s throwing 98, 99 with good offspeed pitches, good command. I knew we had our work cut out. Still, you’ve got to find a way. We just couldn’t mount much against him.”
Two of the six hits Foltynewicz gave up came in the ninth. After a two-out single up the middle by Evan Longoria, he gave up a looping single to right to Brandon Crawford for San Francisco’s only run of the night. He then retired first baseman Austin Slater on a grounder to short, as Atlanta moved to 68-5 when leading after eight, and 81-64 overall.
The last time the San Francisco Giants lost 10 games in a row, they were in the middle of a rebuilding year. It was 1996, and the team was en route to losing 94 games.
Since that year, San Francisco has had three seasons of 90 losses or more — 91 in 2007, 90 in 2008 and 98 in 2017 — but they haven’t lost 10 in a row. Even the 2017 team that posted 98 losses — the second-worst finish in franchise history — didn’t lose 10 in a row.
“There are those of us who won championships. We love the game so much, and we take pride in ourselves,” Blanco said. “We come in here to keep the legacy to the youngsters, and show them that there’s a lot of Giants left.”
With so many young faces playing — Rodriguez, Suarez, Austin Slater, Chris Shaw, Aramis Garcia and Alen Hanson — and others like Steven Duggar, Mac Williamson and Ryder Jones hurt, Bochy sees the final two-plus weeks as a test of character.
“You play for each other. You play for fans, ownership, that’s our responsibility,” Bochy said. “People come out here and they want to see a good ballgame. That’s what you want to see from the guys. This tells you a lot about players, when you’re going through something like this, and how they go about their business.”