Giants offense shut down by Dodgers' Ryu
Scuffling Sandoval could drop in batting order; Adrianza gets three hits
SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval's sinking offensive production might also cause him to descend in the Giants' batting order.
Manager Bruce Bochy isn't making Sandoval a scapegoat, since several other Giants are struggling to hit. San Francisco batted .167 (5-for-30) with runners in scoring position during its three-game series vs. the Dodgers and mustered four hits in seven innings off starter Hyun-Jin Ryu during Los Angeles' 2-1 victory Thursday.
But Bochy seems to sense that Sandoval could be hampered by stress, with the prospect of free agency -- and a potentially lucrative financial windfall -- looming after this season. So Bochy might attempt to relieve the third baseman's tension by dropping him from the No. 3 spot.
Sandoval stroked a game-winning single Wednesday night but couldn't sustain that momentum. He went 0-for-4 Thursday and struck out in his last two plate appearances as his batting average dwindled to .175.
"Maybe I'll drop him down in the order, try to take some pressure off him," Bochy said. "He's a good hitter."
Asked if he thought Sandoval was preoccupied by his impending free agency, Bochy said, "I certainly hope not. He and I have talked about it. His job is to play the game."
Sandoval, who has insisted on multiple occasions that he's not dwelling on economics, reacted calmly when asked how he'd feel about occupying a lower berth in the batting order.
"Fine, fine," Sandoval said. "[Bochy's] the manager."
Unfortunately for Bochy, he can't put every slumping Giant in the bottom half of the order. Buster Posey's in a 1-for-19 skid and is batting .259. Hunter Pence singled twice Thursday, hiking his average from .183 to .206. Second baseman Brandon Hicks hit .158 on the homestand. Joaquin Arias, the top infield backup who has played 11 games, is batting .167.
"We started off kind of hot, then kind of leveled out," Posey said. "When we get everybody clicking on all cylinders, it should be good stuff."
If Bochy moves Sandoval around in the batting order, Posey also could be switched, perhaps to the third spot. Posey said that it "doesn't really matter" where he hits.
The Giants' 10-6 start has minimized any sense of urgency they might feel about their collective tailspin. In fact, Los Angeles had to survive more late-inning rallies from the Giants to prevent them from recording a three-game sweep.
AT&T Park became the scene of rollicking theater in the eighth inning, when former Giants closer Brian Wilson entered the game to protect Los Angeles' 2-0 edge. Absorbing loud booing from the pro-Giants crowd, Wilson allowed a leadoff double to Ehire Adrianza, who went 3-for-3 off the bench. Pence walked with one out. But Wilson ended the threat by fanning Sandoval and coaxing Posey's harmless fly to center.
The Giants actually put the tying and winning runs on base in the ninth inning against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, whose wild-pitched third strike to Michael Morse gave San Francisco a leadoff baserunner. Two outs and a Gregor Blanco walk later, Adrianza's bloop single to left field scored Brandon Belt and averted the Giants' second shutout defeat in five days. The unfazed Jansen induced pinch-hitter Brandon Crawford's fly to left field.
As a result of the mini-rally, the Giants played their seventh consecutive game decided by one run. According to STATS, that hasn't occurred in franchise history since Aug. 11-17, 1910, when the New York Giants endured eight consecutive one-run affairs.
"They play the game of baseball the right way," Wilson said of the Giants. "We play each other extremely close, extremely tight."
Giants starter Madison Bumgarner (2-1) struck out six in 4 1/3 innings, indicating that he had decent stuff. But he experienced several prolonged confrontations with Dodgers hitters, escalating his pitch count to 99 by the time he was removed from the game.
Bochy and Bumgarner suggested that plate umpire Seth Buckminster's strike zone wasn't advantageous to the Giants left-hander.
"For some reason the outside corner was hard for [Bumgarner] to get," Bochy said almost matter-of-factly.
Said Bumgarner, "I felt like I made some pretty good pitches in big situations."
Ryu consistently threw excellent pitches. He didn't allow a runner to reach scoring position after the first inning. The left-hander's performance contrasted sharply with his previous appearance against the Giants, who raked him for eight runs (six earned) and eight hits in two innings on April 4.
"I think Ryu was pretty good today," Posey said. "He did a good job of pitching off his heater and everything kind of came out [of his hand] looking the same."