Bruce Bochy was as low as I’ve ever seen him when we talked before Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“The way we’re playing, I don’t think we could beat anybody,” he said — and the Giants then lost another, 2-1 to the Phillies.
Baseball teams can have unaccountably hot or cold streaks. The Phillies were in one of those hot streaks, stretching their win streak to nine that day, and the Giants were in their worst stretch of the season, with eight losses in nine games.
But the Giants manager knows his team faces serious problems in its drive to repeat as World Series champions. Part of it is that they are the target.
“You see it in every series,” he said. “Players say they’re measuring themselves against us.”
And the fact is that the Giants were not as good as their record before they started the stretch against other contenders. They had led the league in one-run wins and much of their record came because they’re playing in a division with three sub-.500 teams.
The Giants started this stretch against contenders well, beating Milwaukee two out of three at home, then taking two out of three against the Phillies in Phiiladelphia, when they saw only one of the Phillies’ top starters.
Then, the nightmare began: Three straight losses in Cincinnati, the last an 8-0 horror, followed by two out of three to the Diamondbacks at AT&T Park and three out of four to the Phillies.
And one of their most persistent problems showed up big time: They don’t “work the count,” as most successful teams do. They go up there swinging, a trait that has been a consistent problem for Giants offenses in recent years.
Baseball people have known for a long time that on-base percentage is a far more important statistic than batting average, but that point has not penetrated the psyche of Giants hitters.
After the Saturday loss, TV announcer (and former Giants pitcher) Mike Krukow noted that this pattern makes it difficult to get starters’ pitch counts high enough to get them out of the game. Significantly, both Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels pitched complete games, a rarity these days.
Not working the count also makes it difficult to get walks, so even though Hamels gave up seven hits, he held the Giants scoreless until Pablo Sandoval homered with two outs in the ninth.
And then, almost before the cheers had died down, Orlando Cabrera swung at the first pitch he saw and made the last out.
Even when they have a good hitting game, the Giants get minimal results: They had 13 hits on Sunday, but just three runs; the first 10 hits produced only one run. Pathetic.
The good news for the Giants is that the schedule will get much easier. They have only 10 games against teams with winning records in the remaining 46 games, 27 games against NL West teams and only seven against the NL East, where the real power is.
The bad news is that, even if they win the NL West, they’ll have to beat the Phillies to get back to the World Series. Good luck with that.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
46 Games the Giants have remaining in the regular season
10 Games remaining against teams currently with winning records
27 Games remaining against NL West teams
7 Games remaining against NL East teams