Bochy, Giants running out of time and answers as season slips away
SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy wasn't running from the media.
He made that much clear as the 11th and final reporter filed out of his office on Monday night, when the San Francisco manager who doesn't have an ounce of Ozzie Guillen in his fiber couldn't help but be his polite self even amid this torturous time. And, no, we're not talking about the kind of close-game, hurts-so-good torture Giants fans grew to love when it became their unofficial team motto in 2010.
Things are really getting painful for the defending World Series champions.
"I wasn't running," Bochy said while explaining his bizarre and unprecedented decision to hold his postgame news conference in his office as opposed to the conference room where the media contingent had, per the routine, gathered before being relocated. "It's just (that) sometimes you might get something different or better from the players."
Which is to say, of course, that he is officially out of answers.
"He doesn't know what to say," a Giants media relations man had said sympathetically of Bochy moments before.
Make no mistake, Bochy was hoping no one would knock on that door after his team hit a new low in a 7-0 loss to Chicago that dropped the Giants five games behind Arizona in the National League West and was their 20th loss in the last 30 games.
He would have preferred not to talk about his team's latest offensive embarrassment -- just two hits mustered by baseball's worst bats against Randy Wells as he dished the first complete game of his four season, 77 start career. Of course these are the San Francisc (the 'o' is silent) Giants, meaning it doesn't much matter what the pitcher's name is when it comes to facing the team has scored a league-low 454 runs (3.36 per game).
"(Wells) pitched great," Bochy said. "I've seen him throw great (before). But everybody who has gone out there (against them) is throwing great right now. That's what makes it tough."
Bochy wasn't eager to discuss the rare chink in Tim Lincecum's armor, either, how his ace's incredible nine-game run came to such a disastrous and dramatic end. Coming in, Lincecum had inserted himself back into the NL Cy Young discussion with a stretch in which he posted two shutouts, allowed one run six times and allowed two runs once -- good for a 1.17 ERA and .169 opponent's batting average during that span. But in six innings against Chicago, his four earned runs allowed were the most the two-time Cy Young award winner had yielded since June 11 (seven in a loss to Cincinnati). He also surrendered three home runs for the first time in his illustrious career, solo shots to Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto and a three-run homer from Blake DeWitt.
"My purpose is to go out there and pitch," Lincecum would say. "We might have a chance to win if it stayed at one run or two runs or zero runs. That's my job and I didn't do that tonight. I had three poorly executed pitches when it counted, and they hit them out of the park. It was three really (expletive) pitches."
Bochy certainly wouldn't be repeating what so many fans and pundits were saying in the tunnels and press boxes of AT&T Park: that the Giants are done.
It's a risky move to bury a second-place team before September rolls around, but there were more black-and-orange shovels flying around the Giants' yard than the native seagulls after this one. The Giants faithful that saw their team rally from an identical five-game deficit on this date a year ago (while trailing San Diego) appear to have lost the faith, convinced that the magic will be replaced by melancholy no matter how many times Journey's rally cry song, "Don't Stop Believing," blares out into the Bay.
As the locals have heard so often on the team's flagship radio station, KNBR in San Francisco, Cincinnati's Big Red Machine -- circa 1975 and '76 -- was the last National League team to repeat as World Series champions. It's the sort of evidence that seems to be espoused to temper expectations, or perhaps just to state the obvious: that history is against the notion of this team, which waited 52 years for its first championship in San Francisco, doing it again.
Still, the schedule makers have allowed the Giants one last chance at a late run. Arizona enters for a three-game set starting on Friday, with the series starting a home stretch in which they face division opponents for all 25 of their final games (12 home, 13 away, and another three-game series with Arizona near the end). It's a welcome development for San Francisco considering its 29-18 record against NL West teams, but it does nothing to change the trends that Bochy & Co. have found so troubling.
Their anemic offense has continued to negate their dominant pitching, a reality that's best reflected in the records of Lincecum and fellow ace Matt Cain (12-11 and 10-9, respectively, despite ERAs of 2.58 and 2.87). Injuries have done their part to decimate the roster, with none bigger than Buster Posey's season-ending collision with Florida's Scott Cousins on May 25 and Carlos Beltran's strained right hand that kept him out of 13 games and seems to have robbed him of the power the Giants went shopping for when they nabbed him from the Mets in late July (he has one homer and four RBIs in 18 games while batting .285 since coming to the Giants).
"Right now nothing is really going our way," Beltran said. "No one wants to win more than ourselves. We're coming to the ballpark every single day trying to make things happen and unfortunately nothing's happening...How do I explain (the offense)? There's no way to explain it."
What's more, the Lincecum subplot is entirely different this time around. Last August was the worst of his career, an 0-5 stretch followed by a 5-1 September that had everything to do with the Giants' late surge. Now, Lincecum enters September having thrown his best stuff and without much reason to think it will matter much if he keeps it up until the end. In his last six starts, the Giants have scored a combined nine runs.
"At this time last year I think we were kind of in a similar spot, but we were gaining ground, not going backwards," Lincecum said. "Now it's just frustrating for everybody. It's one of those situations where it's hard to keep your head up when nothing's really going our way."
Bochy's loss for words would come to a quick end afterward. And as he attempted to explain the dire situation, the rare look inside his office revealed portraits of joy all around him.
A framed picture of a confetti-filled cable car in the championship parade. Another shot of the ecstatic manager having his head bathed in a bucket of ice during a locker room celebration.
Those times, judging by the look of frustration on his face, have never felt farther away.
"It's hard to figure what's going on," Bochy said. "Every day we come out here we think we're going to come out of it. It didn't happen today. I know that can be discouraging, but we've got to stay positive. That's the only way I know."