In the wake of news that the Giants had fired General Manager Bobby Evans just hours before Monday’s series opener with the Padres, the team on the field illustrated for the 85th time in 2018 that the ‘re-load’ described last winter was decidedly unsuccessful.
Despite a respectable start from Derek Holland, in which he allowed three runs on eight hits over five innings, the Giants (72-85) bats made right-hander Bryan Mitchell (W, 1-4, 6.16 ERA) — who entered into the contest with a WHIP of 1.834 and ERA over six — look like an ace. Scattering just seven hits against a starter that had allowed more than 10 per nine innings coming in, San Francisco fell 5-0 to the cellar-dwelling Padres (63-94) .
The Giants front office made moves in the offseason to bolster its offense after losing 98 games in 2017, picking up Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria while standing pat with what looked like a leakproof starting rotation. As it turned out, the starting rotation fell apart by May when the Giants top three starters all ended up on the shelf at the same time, and the team was forced to fill in gaps with names no one expected to see in the rotation just two months earlier.
So it would’ve been understandable if it was starting pitching that presented a roadblock day-in and day-out for the Giants, but that simply hasn’t been the case. Monday the Giants got yet another solid performance out of Holland (L, 7-9, 3.63), who’s been dependably keeping them in games since June when he switched to the other side of the rubber on the advice of some teammates.
But reliable starting pitching like Holland’s has consistently gone to waste for the Giants and it’s gotten progressively more discouraging as the season has gone on. Since August 1 the Giants have scored four or more runs just 14 times, something they managed to do 16 times in the month of April alone.
For starting pitchers it has to be difficult to go out every five days with the knowledge that giving up even one run is often enough to sink a start, never mind three. But Manager Bruce Bochy believes they’re able to rise above it:
“I think it’s fair to say that it’s been an issue with [Holland] getting run support from these guys. I think the starters have done a good job of not letting that affect them … they’re pros. They know they can only control what they do and they have to go out there and do the best job they can to get us a chance to win and they can’t control if we score runs for them—that’s baseball.”
Despite that Holland has allowed more than three runs just six times in 30 starts, he’s averaged just 3.79 runs of support this season, so when he allowed a leadoff homer to Manuel Margot (4) in the fourth to give the Padres a 3-0 lead, statistically speaking, it didn’t look good.
He was then pulled at 82 pitches after the fifth when his spot came up with one out and Gorkys Hernández on first, and after the inning ended fruitlessly and Ty Blach allowed two more runs in the sixth to make it 5-0, it really didn’t look good.
Though he only allowed three runs, Holland took his first loss since the All Star Break, a fact he expressed pride in after the game, kind of.
“That kind of blew me away. … Execution on my part was a little off, I just had a lot of misfires going different directions, but we tried to battle.”
“That could’ve been my last start, I’m not really sure I still gotta wait to find out, [but] it’s kinda not the way I really wanna go out. At the same time I did achieve a lot this year and I feel very happy with that.”
It’s worth also noting that Holland only has two wins since the All Star Break despite holding opposing batters to a .212 batting average and notching an ERA of 2.66 in that span.
While the Giants have struggled for most of the season the marked offensive struggles have coincided with some particularly devastating blows to the roster. August saw McCutchen traded to the Yankees and season-ending surgeries for Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Steven Duggar, and September has been no better, producing season-ending surgeries for Brandon Belt and Ryder Jones.
So for a team that struggled offensively to begin with in 2018, these developments sent them into a death spiral causing Bochy to finally call a time of death on the Giants October aspirations during their last homestand.
With that, the front office got to work hunting for necrotic tissue within the organization to excise. Or to at least look like they’re doing something.
Said Giants President and CEO Larry Baer of relieving Evans of his duties:
“I made the decision that really, at this point, we needed to take a fresh approach to baseball operations. We’ve had a very successful group here for a long time, and we wanted to bring a new approach to Giants baseball and take a look outside [the organization].”
So far Baer and Brian Sabean have used a scalpel — letting strength coach Carl Kochan go last week and Evans Monday — but there are no guarantees that there aren’t plans to begin hacking with a less precise instrument after next week.
In the aftermath of Evans’ firing, Bochy acknowledged that it’s difficult to see the way that losses on the field have translated to the loss of jobs off the field.
“I think overall the plan was pretty good. You go into the season and you hope everybody stays healthy and has their normal years and we had a tough time doing that. We were hanging in there in the second half, [but] it’s been a struggle getting runs.”
Bochy, for one, is safe. He has one more year on his contract and according to Baer there are no plans to include the skipper in the hacking. Baer also claims there will be no more changes made within the front office itself. But it remains to be seen what will become of the Giants coaching staff.
When asked what he wanted to see out of his team during their final homestand before the opener, Bochy said he hoped the Giants could play entertaining games and find a way to win some of them.
“We still have fans coming out [and] we want to have a good presentation, a good game [of] solid baseball. … We knew when Buster went down [and] we traded ‘Cutch’ it’d be a bumpy road but you come out and you give it all you have every day and they’re doing that.”
But Mitchell (W, 2-4, 5.42 ERA) held the Giants scoreless through 8-2/3 innings coming one out away from recording his first career complete game before loading the bases in the ninth on a double and a pair of walks, and being replaced by Kirby Yates (S, 11, 2.10 ERA).
Yates struck Austin Slater out without a fight to close it out, providing what may have been entertaining baseball to the clusters of Padres fans in the stands at AT&T Park on a chilly Monday night by the Bay, but was more or less re-runs of a lost season for the portion of 35,423 at the game who continue to root for the home team.