Arizona swept the Giants (21-31) in three games over Memorial Day weekend, capped Sunday by a 6-2 loss with rookie Shaun Anderson (L, 0-1, 4.80 ERA) at the helm.
And most of what went wrong over the weekend was not flukey, if anything it was a microcosm of the 49 games they played before the series.
Teams often use Memorial Day weekend as a measurement of their team’s chances for the rest of the season. Before the holiday, the conventional wisdom is: it’s too soon to tell—the sample size is too small. But afterward it’s supposed to be the time in the season when teams, coaches and front offices take a good look in the mirror.
And in that respect, this series had to be a sign to the Giants front office. The team looked like the kind depicted in baseball comedies like “Major League” and “Bad News Bears” before they find the catalyst that helps them grow together as a team and turn their season around.
With the weight of Friday’s 18-2 loss, Saturday’s 10-4 and Sunday’s 6-2 losses to the Diamondbacks (28-25), manager Bruce Bochy looked tired. He said:
“That’s the worst series of the year. I can’t remember when we had three consecutive games with the kind of baseball we just played. Starters had a hard time getting the ball where they wanted….now you throw in bad defense and that’s a recipe for what happened today. It’s three games where we just played our worst ball. Sometimes you’re gonna have games like that, but to have three [in a row]…”
After Saturday’s defeat Bochy noted that starting pitchers set the tone, and in this case it was not the kind of tone they were looking for.
Asked how he handled the immediate, first-inning deficit, Anderson said:
“As we’ve seen the past couple days, [the Diamondbacks] have been swinging the bat pretty well. And [I was just] just trying to avoid crooked numbers and just try to keep the damage to a minimum and get on to the next guy.”
For Anderson, it was a Ketel Marte solo shot (12) to center that he coughed up on a pitch that caught too much plate. Marte hit a dinger in each game of the series, a personal record.
He allowed a second run in the first when Eduardo Escobar, who’d singled on another pitch over the plate, stole second on a wild pitch and swiped third when a throw from Buster Posey went into center field. A sac fly from Adam Jones put Arizona up 2-0 before anyone could even say “I’ve seen this episode before.”
The remaining eight innings went pretty much how Giants fans, and presumably executives, have come to expect. Anderson hemorrhaged another three runs in the second on shoddy defense and a wild pitch—the Giants have five errors this weekend alone.
Anderson said despite defensive miscues that contributed to two unearned runs, he takes responsibility for his part in the third straight loss
“Our defense has been great all year and [Arizona is] a really aggressive team. I made some some bad pitches early and they got to them.”
The second inning saw an error at third base that was all kinds of ugly. With Jarrod Dyson on first, Marte singled to center. Dyson scored and as Steven Duggar captured the ball and threw to Evan Longoria, Marte decided to stretch the single into a double. Longoria threw wildly to second and it bounced into the outfield, granting Marte third, too. He almost took home when Longoria couldn’t handle the throw back to third and Anderson wasn’t properly backing the play up. But ultimately, between the two of them, they were able to recover and hold Marte at third.
Bochy said the poor defense was particularly shocking because it’s one thing this season they’ve generally been able to count on. He said:
“No question [good defense has] been there all year. Just little things—yeah we [sometimes] throw a ball away, but we gotta back it up. We were slow there, letting guys take extra bases. It surprised me the shaky defense that we showed in this series.”
Offense was a non-factor for two-thirds of the lineup, and aside from a group scattered throughout the order — leadoff hitter Joe Panik, cleanup hitter Buster Posey and the rookie in the eight hole, Mike Yastrzemski — the offense was nothing to write home about facing Luke Weaver (W, 3-3, 3.03 ERA) .
Yastrzemski, on his second day in the big leagues, went 3-for-4. His first hit career hit, however, probably didn’t go quite how he’ll tell it when he describes it to his grandkids one day.
He slapped a single to left but he strayed a dozen or so feet from from first base toward second. Then seeing D-backs left-fielder Blake Swihart with the ball he tried to scamper back to the bag but Swihart made him pay for the foible as it allowed him enough time to fire the ball to Christian Walker at first, where Yastrzemski collided with Waker sliding back and was tagged out. A regrettable way to get your first knock, undoubtedly.
“I just kind of put my head down, I was running hard expecting it to be an out and looked up and the ball was on the ground and then in his glove and I tried to put the brakes on and head back but I wasn’t quick enough. That’s not really how you draw it up in your in your mind before it happens but you’ll take ’em anyway they come—never complain about a hit.”
Asked if he got the ball from his first hit Yastrzemski said:
“I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m hoping so. I don’t know Christian Walker might be holding on to it for diving into him. He’s probably holding it ransom.”
He made up for the mental error, however, as he led off in both the fifth and seventh and swatted a single and double, the latter of which allowed him to score on a ground ball single from Panik, one of the Giants only two runs.
Yastrzemski said getting his first, and subsequently second and third hits out of the way Sunday was a relief but there was another first he got out of the way that helped soothe jitters more than the hit. He said:
“I think getting a little bit of everything out of the way [has helped but] I was more stressed about making a play first and getting the ball. The wind was a little crazy today and just making a routine play felt better to help you just kind of ease yourself out there.”
Posey knocked in the another run after Panik led off the first with a laser that missed being a round-tripper by mere feet as it ricocheted off the bricks right between the “V” and “I” of Levi’s Landing in right for a double. With Posey at the plate, Arizona’s right fielder Adam Jones was shaded toward center and Posey took the opportunity to shoot a grounder into the right field corner to plate Panik.
Those would be the Giants only two runs.
Another rookie, right-handed reliever Sam Coonrod, got to enjoy some firsts Sunday, too. For him it was his first day in the bigs. He held the Diamondbacks hitless in the eighth inducing a pair of groundouts and a strikeout in his debut.
Of the the feeling he had out on the mound Sunday, Coonrod said:
“It’s definitely a different feeling because you just worked your whole life to get here. I can’t really describe how it felt, I really don’t have words for it to be honest with you. It doesn’t feel real yet.”
Heartwarming moments like these are the only memories any of the Giants will likely want to hold onto from Memorial Day weekend 2019.
Defensive gaffes, poor pitching and worse offense aren’t funny or endearing like in the movies, they’re just awkward and cringeworthy.
The team is comprised of the remnants of a pack of champions, young guys tasting their first or second cup of coffee in the big leagues and a handful of trade chips.
Some of the guys wearing rings are underachieving, other are simply past their primes. Some of the coffee drinkers are ready, others are still maturing so it’s not clear exactly where their ceilings (or floors) are.
Is there some catalyst that can bring this motley crew together to find some measure of success?
Bochy thinks there might be:
“We gotta huddle up here and I hope the day off they have will give ’em a chance to wash this one off. This road trip—I’m hoping it brings them together and we get back to playing the kind of ball we need to play.”
They’ve had several roadtrips and offdays this season, though, and they’re still 21-31.
Is an off-day and a roadtrip enough to turn this around? Or should President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi and Co. take Memorial Day weekend at face value and start seriously looking into offers for bullpen denizens like Will Smith, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon who could fetch a nice return in trades with contending teams, and perhaps even for he whom Giants fans would rather not be named— Madison Bumgarner?
All that remains to be seen. But for now the Giants will try to find a catalyst, any catalyst, to put this dreadful weekend in the rearview.