NEW YORK -- Long before the Giants jogged onto the diamond at Citi Field on Wednesday, the lineup pinned to their clubhouse wall spoke as much to the state of the team as their 5-3 defeat to the Mets would later. Absent from that bulletin was the name of Andrew
NEW YORK -- Long before the Giants jogged onto the diamond at Citi Field on Wednesday, the lineup pinned to their clubhouse wall spoke as much to the state of the team as their 5-3 defeat to the Mets would later. Absent from that bulletin was the name of Andrew McCutchen, the Giants' leader in games played this season, whose tenure in San Francisco, according to reports, could be nearing its end.
McCutchen eventually emerged from the dugout and into the on-deck circle, where he witnessed the game's last out. And he's expected back in the lineup Thursday, when the Giants wrap up their four-game set in New York. But now 9 1/2 games back in the National League West and 8 1/2 behind in the NL Wild Card hunt, the Giants' actions moving forward figure to come with an eye toward 2019, above all else. That likely means moving an expiring contract like McCutchen, who reportedly cleared waivers Wednesday. That likely means surgery, at some point, for Buster Posey.
It likely means getting younger, healthier and less expensive, wherever they can.
"It's part of the game sometimes, and it makes sense when things like this happen," McCutchen said. "It's not something I stress over. … It'd be something if I'd never gone through it, still with the Pirates, and this popped up. But I've kinda been through it a little bit."
That Austin Slater helped create two-thirds of the Giants' offense in place of McCutchen only underscored the timing of such a shift. It's the likes of Slater and Alen Hanson, or perhaps even other prospects, whom moving McCutchen would free up playing time come September. Slater singled and scored off winning pitcher Noah Syndergaard in the third inning, and he cleared the left-center-field wall off Mets reliever Drew Smith in the seventh. Both times, the runs inched the Giants closer from a deficit their defense played a big part in creating.
"Good night for Austin," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's going to get playing time. He's getting some good swings off. We need to get a guy or two hot. Hopefully, that gets infectious and we get things going."
After losing pitcher Casey Kelly allowed a solo home run to Dominic Smith on the first pitch of the second inning, National League Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop Brandon Crawford's second error of the night opened the door for two more Mets runs. Kelly surrendered just two earned runs (four total) over six innings. But the other two he allowed, unearned or not, count all the same. Crawford's error extended the second inning for the Mets, paving the way for consecutive RBI hits to Jeff McNeil and Todd Frazier.
Frazier later answered Slater's solo homer with one of his own against Hunter Strickland in the seventh, which stretched New York's lead. Five relievers then retired the last eight Giants to send San Francisco to its sixth loss in seven games, dropping them below .500 for the first time since May 30.
"What I take out of this is I need to make some better pitches with two strikes," Kelly said. "I'm going to go about my business every day and try to get better for the next start, the 'pen, whatever they need me to do. In September, everything else will take care of itself."
The mindset for McCutchen is similar, though his situation is different. The former NL Most Valuable Player Award winner is fully aware he could be moved prior to Aug. 31, the deadline for teams to add players who are eligible for postseason play. That he cleared waivers means he could be traded to any club, which would then be responsible for paying the roughly $3 million left on his contract.
"I try to focus on the reality of right now and not something that may or may not happen," McCutchen said. "I anticipate where I am right now. Anticipate it. Still here. That's the thought. Live for today. I'm focused on right now. I'm not focused on the what could, what couldn't happen. You dig yourself deeper in the dirt when you do that. The game is hard enough."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Slater says, 'Later': Whether Slater can unlock the power potential the Giants believe he has -- but has rarely shown in his professional career -- will be a point of focus in the coming weeks. Wednesday marked a positive sign: Slater turned around a 95.4-mph fastball from Mets reliever Drew Smith, pulling it 425 feet.
The homer was his first in 44 games this season, though those opportunities have come sporadically.
"I just want him to do what he's doing, have good at-bats and find the barrel on a consistent basis," Bochy said. "With experience, power usually comes a bit later."
How rare is a two-error night from the sure-handed Crawford? Wednesday marked his first multi-miscue effort since June 22, 2016, against the Yankees. That came 316 games ago.
"It's always surprising," Bochy said. "This is an All-Star shortstop. You're going to have your off days."
HE SAID IT
"I don't even really understand that process. I don't get it. I don't know. Waivers, clears, revocables -- I don't know what that stuff means. I have a better chance understanding trigonometry. Until somebody calls or whatever happens, cool. I try to keep it simple, not focus on what that stuff means and just play baseball. When you start to think about all that other stuff, you lose focus on what's important, and what's important is being here and trying to win and perform." -- McCutchen, on clearing waivers
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
A successful Giants challenge shaved a Mets run off the board in the second, when Frazier's double appeared to score McNeil from first. But after San Francisco challenged the play, it was ruled that Frazier's double bounced over the left-field wall and back into play for a ground-rule double. McNeil returned to third base after a 1-minute, 3-second review. The next batter, Michael Conforto grounded out to end the inning and strand him there.
A day after endorsing the National League Cy Young Award candidacy of Jacob deGrom (8-7, 1.71 ERA), Madison Bumgarner (4-5, 3.05) lines up against him in a marquee matchup to close this four-game series at Citi Field. It'll be Bumgarner's first time pitching at Citi Field since the 2016 NL Wild Card Game, in which he tossed a complete-game shutout to outduel Noah Syndergaard. The game will begin at 10:10 a.m. PT.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.