Ryan Vogelsong was rocked for five runs on six hits, including three home runs, in one and a third innings last night. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
Here is what I have to say to all of you out there who complain about the number of one-run games the San Francisco Giants seem to stockpile, as they attempt to align both the pitching and the offense: One-run games are far preferable to games like last night’s 8-2 drubbing at the hands of the Colorado Rockies. It was over in the first inning, after the second of two home runs exited the playing field, giving the Rockies a 4-0 lead.
I’m not suggesting that a four-run lead is insurmountable; after all, we did that on the opening day of the season, coming back against the Arizona D-backs, eventually taking the lead for good when Buster Posey hit one out in the ninth, and going on to defeat the Diamondbacks. But when your team just completed a three-game string of only scoring one run per contest, and you’re really not sure where your next run is going to come from, your spirits plummet proportionally to the ball(s) sailing up over the outfield wall.
Nothing lends credibility to the man dealing from the mound, than being staked to a lead-any lead-in the first inning. All of the sudden he becomes the reincarnation of Cy Young He’s no longer the guy who’s been struggling, or the guy whose control is only a distant memory; he’s a lean, mean pitching machine and he challenges every hitter to hit the ball out of the park.
They try, believe me they try. It’s no fun to be mired in a team-wide slump, especially when the pitching has come on like gangbusters, and you’re losing 1-0 and 2-1 games with the same regularity as your Aunt Gertrude, who hasn’t missed an opportunity to criticize your life’s choices, since she moved into the guest room back during the Clinton Administration.
So players go up to the plate, determined to make something happen, and they do. They strike out five consecutive times, at one point in the game, and eleven times altogether. They forget that it takes concentration to wait for a pitch they can handle, not for a double off the wall, but for a seeing-eye grounder that darts through between the shortstop and the diving third baseman. You get that first guy on base and it sets into motion an entirely different approach, now, one that involves moving the runner along, and playing for the rally.
Bumgarner Opening Day – Photo courtesy of @SFGiants on Twitter.
For instance, Angel Pagan engaged in a ten-pitch plate appearance in the first inning of last night’s game, before popping up to the first baseman; conversely, Justin Morneau did the same thing in his half of the inning to Ryan Vogelsong, requiring ten pitches and fouling off seven balls to stay alive. Only he ended up doubling to set the table for Wilin Rosario’s three-run jack. It worked for them and not for us. You just have to keep plugging away.
I’m sure Bruce Bochy has had numerous discussions about the need to wait on pitches, to be selective, to protect the plate, et al. He will take steps to vary routines, so that players don’t get too fanatical about trying to fix the problem by going bananas on the practice field. He will do anything and everything to right the problem, except panic.
He won’t panic because he knows his guys, he has seen what they can accomplish, and he is certain they will get it together. He just can’t give you a timeline. He knows that the more the magnifying glass focuses on the lack of runs, the more likely it is that no flame will occur, and that’s just the way it is. Had Pagan been able to emerge from that ten-pitch sequence with a base hit, then the entire complexion of the game may have been altered.
The Giants did string three consecutive singles together at the start of the third inning, only to have a double play and a strike out end the threat, after only one run had scored. Yes, when you are going that badly, you only score runs with the bases loaded and a double play.
The last thing I will say is I didn’t mind chortling at the vulgar display of power at the outset of the season, so I must accept this current lack of clout for what it is: the other side of the coin. Unfortunately, the coin does not stand on edge, so we get one or the other, and we’re never sure which side of the coin will show up. As the old saying goes, you just have to take the bitter with the sweet.
Walk-off win for the Giants in the 10th inning on April 13, 2014. Photo by Denise Walos.