Lineup changes can't shake Giants' slump

August 21st, 2022

DENVER -- Giants manager Gabe Kapler wouldn’t go as far as to call it a shakeup, but he rolled out a lineup with some notable tweaks for Saturday night’s matchup against the Rockies. 

With the Giants struggling to score runs, Kapler dropped the slumping Brandon Belt to the eight-hole – the lowest Belt had batted against a right-handed starter since May 9, 2013. Kapler also moved Mike Yastrzemski back into the leadoff spot and started Thairo Estrada over the left-handed-hitting Tommy La Stella. 

Kapler said not to read too much into the changes, though he explained that he thought batting Belt eighth was “a nice opportunity to take a little pressure off” the 34-year-old first baseman, who entered Saturday mired in a 2-for-34 (.059) funk.

“I wouldn’t say that this is anything long term,” Kapler said. “Belt is a middle-of-the-order bat. Right now he’s trying to find his way a little bit, and we’re going to give him the opportunity to do so.”

Still, it’s clear Belt is far from the only San Francisco hitter searching for answers right now. The Giants’ offense mustered only five hits in a 4-3 walk-off loss to the Rockies in 10 innings at Coors Field, extending their losing streak to four games and dropping them two games below .500 at 59-61.

“It’s tough,” said right-hander Alex Cobb, who didn’t factor into the decision after giving up three runs on 10 hits over 6 2/3 innings. “You’d think coming in here, we’d click a little bit better, but I think maybe we’re just pressing a little bit. We knew that this was a must-win series for us.”

 launched a game-tying solo shot in the seventh and then tied the game again with a two-out RBI double off Rockies closer Daniel Bard in the top of the ninth, but the Giants couldn’t score automatic runner Estrada from second after left-hander Lucas Gilbreath retired Belt, Joey Bart and Yastrzemski in order in the 10th.

Belt, two days removed from an unsuccessful two-strike bunt attempt against the D-backs, said he considered bunting again to try to advance Estrada to third, though he didn’t end up squaring up and ultimately went down swinging on a slider.

“It’s got to be the right scenario,” Belt said. “It doesn’t make much sense to bunt when you’re going to get a lot of sliders. That’s why I decided not to do it right there. The first pitch was a ball – I wasn’t going to bunt that, anyway – and the rest of them were sliders. There’s not much I can do with it.”

Camilo Doval, who worked a scoreless bottom of the ninth to force extras, returned to the mound in the 10th and retired José Iglesias before issuing an intentional walk to Charlie Blackmon. That brought up Brendan Rodgers, who lined a single to center field that was fumbled by Austin Slater, allowing automatic runner Wynton Bernard to easily score the game-winning run from second.

The Giants have been held to a combined 10 hits and seven runs over the first two games of this series, falling to 2-18 all-time at Coors Field when they record five hits or fewer in a game here. Their offense is hitting only .168 over their four-game skid, going 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position and averaging 2.3 runs per game over that span.

“Especially being in a park like this, which typically has offensive-driven games here, it’s disappointing, for sure,” Crawford said. “It was kind of the same as yesterday. I think we went through four or five innings with only one or two hits. We’ve been kind of streaky lately.”

Colorado rookie Ryan Feltner, who entered Saturday with a 6.39 ERA, retired the first 11 batters he faced before giving up a two-out triple to Wilmer Flores in the fourth. The Giants didn’t break through until Bart hammered a towering solo shot to left field in the sixth to cut the Rockies’ lead to 2-1.

Crawford crushed another blast into Colorado’s bullpen in right field to make it 2-2 in the seventh, though the Rockies regained the lead on Bernard’s RBI single off Cobb in the home half. Still, the Giants continued to show fight by mounting a two-out rally against Bard in the ninth.

La Stella delivered a pinch-hit single before being replaced at first base by Slater, who promptly stole second to set up Crawford’s clutch, game-tying double down the left-field line. But the Giants couldn’t add on, as Estrada subsequently grounded out to end the inning.

“Battling back is always a great sign,” Crawford said. “But we need to figure out a way to get out of [this slump].”