Tuesday marked the beginning of the Giants third revolution through the starting five without a win. And with Andy Suárez on the mound celebrating his 26th birthday, the Giants offense continued their flailing descent into the abyss, despite his best efforts.
Mike Foltynewicz, meanwhile, smelled blood in the water, cutting through San Francisco (68-77) with ease, averaging around 10 pitches or fewer an inning and shutting the contest down in just over two hours to secure a series victory for the Braves (80-64).
Tuesday’s new low — the team’s tenth straight loss pushing them 10 games under .500 — drew some words Manager Bruce Bochy had been loath to say aloud:
“Let’s be honest: we’re out of it now.”
And the fact that Giants starters continue to pitch well is more salt in the wound than anything else at this point in the season for San Francisco.
When you’re playing badly, it’s easier to stomach when you’re playing badly as a collective. But pitching continues to keep the Giants in most games, which becomes something of an awkward sticking point when you lose 10 in a row for the first time since your starting pitcher was still in pull-ups and the Chicago Bulls beat the Seattle Supersonics in the 1996 NBA Championships.
Bochy has had to acknowledge the incongruity and admit he doesn’t have an answer dozens of times this season:
“You look at the last two [or] three months and we’ve been as good as most clubs on the pitching side, we’re just challenged offensively.”
“Challenged” is a gentle way to put it. The Giants have a minus-62 run differential and, according to FanGraphs, they have the worst wRC+ (83) in all of baseball and are tied with the Padres for second-worst wOBA (.293), just one point better than the Marlins.
“[We’re] not a club that has a lot of power and we need to get our hits, move guys and keep the line moving, but we don’t really have anybody hot with the bat right now.”
Bochy noted that they spent capital trying to bolster a strong offense last winter, but nothing shook out quite the way the team had hoped. Evan Longoria has been underwhelming (.242/.279/.420 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI), and since the Giants traded Andrew McCutchen to the Yankees August 29, the team’s won just one game.
Suárez (L, 6-11, 4.33 ERA), for one, believes in the Giants bats, and said he tries to control the controllable:
“I really can’t do anything about [the slump] I just gotta go out there and try to keep the game close. I think our team can hit, it’s just slumping right now.”
Atlanta took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning Tuesday when Suárez allowed a pair of hits and a sac fly, but things still looked manageable. An inning later the rookie southpaw coughed up a grand total of two more runs, though.
To most teams, three is not a disqualifying number, least of all in just the fifth inning. But for the Giants, such a deficit has been all but insurmountable. In the previous nine consecutive losses they scored three or more runs just four times.
The visitor who did the most damage Tuesday was a Brave not even penciled into the starting lineup. Johan Camargo was replaced by Charlie Culberson in the third after reaching on an Austin Slater error in the second, and suffering left groin tightness. Atlanta wouldn’t score then, but two innings later Ronald Acuña Jr. put on a show by slapping a 91-mph fastball that caught too much plate to Triples Alley, good for its namesake, that Culberson followed by putting the Braves ahead 3-0 with a two-run shot (11) to center.
Suárez allowed no more runs, but it wouldn’t matter.
Foltynewicz (W, 11-9, 2.66 ERA) was efficient with his pitches, completing his second complete game of the season on 108 pitches, and allowing just one run in the bottom of the ninth on more defensive indifference than anything else.
Despite repeatedly plowing through rock bottom in search of a rockier bottom in the month of September, the Giants do still have 16 games to play, and with the knowledge that they are undoubtedly out of even the figment of a post-season dream, Bochy met with the team today to urge them to finish strong.
“You play for each other, you play for the fans [and] ownership, that’s our responsibility. And people come out here and they want to see a good ballgame and that’s what you want to see from the guys. We have a job to do and that’s to try to win a game for that starting pitcher, to try to play our best ball to our ability every day—that’s what we gotta do and we’re gonna hold each other accountable for doing that.”
Tuesday’s fall to the Braves nudges the Giants losing streak into double digits, making it the team’s longest skid in 22 years, and just the third such streak in the San Francisco era. Their last 10-game losing streak came in June of what would be a 94-loss 1996 campaign at Candlestick.
The Giants swept the Braves in Atlanta back in June, so as veteran lefty Derek Holland (7-8, 3.54 ERA) gets his third chance to find a way to put the brakes on the team’s uncontrolled descent, the Braves and their right-hander Aníbal Sánchez (6-5, 3.09 ERA) will try to return the sweep in the series finale Wednesday in San Francisco at 12:45 p.m.
Both Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford have missed playing time on a ‘day-to-day’ basis for issues with their knees. In Crawford’s case, Bochy has described it as a badly bruised left knee, but Belt’s injury, Bochy said, involves the meniscus in his right knee and offseason surgery is being considered.
“I don’t know if we know exactly [what the problem is yet]. When the year’s over we’ll look into [possible surgery].”
Bochy said Belt was taken out of the lineup Tuesday because of soreness in that right knee, but he remains day-to-day (he came off the bench for an at-bat in the eighth Tuesday) and expects he’ll be back in the lineup Wednesday.
As for the status of the Brandons in what appears a decidedly inconsequential final month of 2018—Bochy expects both infielders to finish the season on the field:
“If they can play I think it’s important that they get out there and help lead and try to finish strong here.”