After a rousing pre-game ceremony honoring the offensive force of nature that was Barry Bonds, the Giants were unable to carry their offensive outbreak of the night before into Saturday’s match with the Pirates.
And with Ty Blach‘s transition from the bullpen back to the rotation a dud, the Giants (58-60) failed to come up with enough energy to put up much of a fight, eventually falling 4-0 and slipping two games below .500.
Meanwhile, Trevor Williams (W, 10-3, 3.88 ERA) became a 10-game winner, throwing out a seven-inning five-hit scoreless effort to hand the Pirates (61-56) victory. But San Francisco found a glimmer of positivity in their recently promoted right-hander, Casey Kelly, who relieved Blach and pitched five scoreless innings, recording three strikeouts and impressing the 41,209 fans comprising the team’s 17th sellout on the season.
San Francisco has asked for 10 or fewer outs from Blach (L, 7-6, 4.47 ERA) in 16 appearances since he was demoted to the bullpen in late May, so perhaps it was no surprise that he ran into trouble in the third inning and gave up a back-breaking (by the Giants standards) three-run homer in the fourth.
The Bucs scored on a leadoff walk, a single and two sacrifices in the third to get on the board 1-0 before they put up the crooked number in the fourth. But Bruce Bochy and Blach’s battery-mate Buster Posey felt that, aside from the leadoff walk, the lefty ran into some bad luck more than anything.
Gregory Polanco led off the fourth with a bunt single that beat the shift and David Freese followed by legging out another infield hit. A batter later Josh Bell belted a 91-mph sinker that got too much plate over the cars in left field for a three run homer (8), giving the Pirates a 4-0 lead.
Bochy defended Blach, though:
“You look at [Blach’s] outing and it’s hard to believe he gave up four runs. I think he gave up one really hard hit ball and of course it did some damage. … We just couldn’t get the offense going.”
Giants bats scattered one-hit innings in five separate frames in the contest, but couldn’t manage anything beyond that.
The skipper said:
“Wiliams had been throwing well, the last five starts he was under a 1.00 ERA, so we knew he was throwing the ball well and he did tonight. He just shut us down.”
This season Giants offense has provided an average of 4.03 runs in Blach’s starts, comparable to the 4.07 they average overall. For comparison, Colorado leads the division will an average of 4.75 runs of support for its starters, followed closely by LA with 4.74 (if you correct for Coors Field the Dodgers probably come out on top here), and the Diamondbacks average 4.46. The Giants unsurprisingly lead only the Padres in the division who average 3.83. But if you want to compare San Francisco to a team placed similarly in the wins and losses column, look no further than the Angels who have a 59-58 record and still muster a 4.63 average.
But you don’t need this stat to see the Giants are in a slump that’s bigger than Friday’s 13-10 win in which pitchers on both sides clearly lacked any semblance of command. The Giants have scored three or fewer runs 11 times since the All Star Break, winning just two of those matches, and more than four runs nine times, winning seven of those. Not coincidentally they are 8-11 overall in that span.
Posey is optimistic, though:
“Baseball is such a game of momentum and unfortunately it’s been going the wrong way the last week or so. You hope a game like last night would kind of turn the tide and it still can. It doesn’t mean just because today went the way that it did that it won’t hopefully get that momentum going in the right direction [tomorrow].”
And on that note, the silver lining Friday came in the Giant’s six-hit shutout when Kelly showed up in the fifth with a devastating combo of fastballs topping out at 94-mph, mixed in with curves, changeups and sliders that the Bucs couldn’t do much with, recording just three hits over five innings.
From behind the plate Posey saw an encouraging performance from Kelly:
“I thought he was really good. He mixed four pitches [and] commanded the fastball really well. He’s got a good curveball, [his] changeup has movement and [he was] mixing in the slider, it was impressive.”
In Sacramento, Kelly’s been a starter, and he was called up Friday without any solid idea his role.
“Sitting there yesterday watching the game and you know watching the first few innings today I just wanted to get in there…I was just ready from the first pitch, and you know they called my name.”
With Blach’s performance Saturday Bochy didn’t rule out the possibility that Kelly could get the nod over Blach after the Giants wrap up their series in LA next week and head to Cincinnati Friday.
“We’ll talk about it. What a great job he did. He really pitched well, and he’s been throwing the ball well [in Sacramento], that’s why he’s up here. …He’s a strike thrower with all his pitches, he pounds the strike zone with quality strikes [and] he’s got good command. He has a good tempo out there—he’d get the ball and he [go]. His first time out you’d think he was a veteran the way he carried himself.”
If the Giants decide to give Kelly a start in Cincinnati it will be a fitting opportunity for the 28-year-old who was once a top-rated prospect drafted in the first round in 2008 and listed at No. 45 by Baseball America. His father Pat Kelly, who was a catcher with Toronto in 1980, is currently a bench coach for the Reds.
Of the possibility of starting with his father in the opposing dugout, Kelly said:
“You know, that would be really awesome, but at the same time [I’m] just kind of taking day-by-day right now. If that does happen—awesome—if not then I’ll get back to work and keep doing what I’m doing.”
Brandon Belt played in his first rehab game with the River Cats Saturday going 0-2 against El Paso. Cervelli took a foul-tip to the mask and was removed from the game in the bottom of the fourth.