CHICAGO -- Giants pitchers know what they're talking about. They just don't always follow their own advice, as Friday's 6-2 loss to the Cubs demonstrated.After convening at Wrigley Field, Giants pitchers held one of their semi-regular meetings which are meant to emphasize fundamentals, analyze an opponent or review a key
CHICAGO -- Giants pitchers know what they're talking about. They just don't always follow their own advice, as Friday's 6-2 loss to the Cubs demonstrated.
After convening at Wrigley Field, Giants pitchers held one of their semi-regular meetings which are meant to emphasize fundamentals, analyze an opponent or review a key issue. Friday's subject du jour, as manager Bruce Bochy related, was walking batters who come around to score critically important runs. The Giants became aware of this sin when they were old enough to put on their first pair of baseball socks.
That didn't prevent Derek Holland from spoiling his own excellent performance with a brief lapse in command. Locked in a 1-1 tie with Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks through six innings, Holland opened the seventh by hitting Javier Baez with a pitch and walking Ian Happ, which ended his day. These free passes led to Benjamin Zobrist's two-run double and Kristopher Bryant's two-run single that fueled Chicago's four-run, seventh-inning outburst. The Cubs' surge hastened the Giants' third consecutive loss.
Bochy referenced the walk talk and remarked, "It turned out that's what came back to hit us today. That's an area we have to get better at."
Holland might struggle to outdo his effort against the Cubs, at least the first six innings of it. He has lasted that long in three consecutive starts, indicating that he's finding consistency. The same can't be said for the rest of San Francisco's rotation. Holland gave the team its fifth start of six innings or more in its last 18 games. Only three of those games were quality starts. Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto can't return from their respective injuries soon enough for the Giants.
Life might be easier for Giants starters if they ever pitched with a commanding lead. That rarely happens for the Giants -- primarily on the road, where they have averaged 3.1 runs per game (84 runs in 27 games). That's the lowest figure in the Majors.
Friday was no different. Hendricks retired the first nine hitters he faced, a span that included warning-track fly balls from Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey. Gorkys Hernandez finally cleared the wall with his fifth home run leading off the fourth inning. That solidified his status, as Bochy acknowledged, as San Francisco's top center fielder. Hernandez is batting .385 (10-for-26) during a seven-game hitting streak. "He's been going out there every day, yeah," Bochy said.
The Giants made a valiant stand in the ninth inning, when Brandon Belt singled with two outs off Pedro Strop, moved to second on defensive indifference and came home on Evan Longoria's single through the right side of the infield. Cubs reliever Brian Duensing entered and walked Brandon Crawford in a 10-pitch at-bat. Chicago manager Joe Maddon then called on his closer, Brandon Morrow, who struck out Mac Williamson on three pitches to end the game.
Besides being 0-3 on this trip, the Giants have dropped nine of their last 10 road games. The've been outscored 70-25 in that stretch.
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Crawford turned in one of the plays of the year in the fourth inning, when Baez smacked a grounder that caromed off the heel of Longoria's glove. Hovering nearby, Crawford grabbed the ball barehanded and fired it on one hop to Belt at first for the out. Crawford, the three-time Gold Glove Award winner, was typically self-effacing. "I thought Belt made the best play," Crawford said.
The enigmatic Chris Stratton doesn't need to reverse his fortunes -- the Giants are 7-3 in his starts -- but he will strive to improve his performance, having recorded an 8.59 ERA in his last five outings. Opponents have hit six homers and batted .358 off Stratton in that span. Stratton, who has never faced the Cubs, will duel Chicago left-hander Jose Quintana in the 4:15 p.m. PT matchup Saturday at Wrigley Field.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.