Shark, Giants falling prey to close games

Samardzija: Early runs key to 'close the gap,' build confidence

April 16th, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants aren't playing terribly, though their .357 winning percentage suggests otherwise.

Neither manager Bruce Bochy nor a single player in San Francisco's clubhouse offered excuses for the team's plunging fortunes after Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Rockies. Concern might have entered the Giants' collective psyche, but they've avoided distress or panic.

And for good reason: It probably wouldn't take much for the Giants (5-9) to reverse direction. They're 0-5 in one-run decisions. Should the Giants remain unable to win close games, they'll have plenty to rethink.

For now, they can let the nature of baseball take its course.

For example, the Giants can wait for catcher 's return from concussion symptoms, which could happen as early as their next game on Tuesday at Kansas City. The mere presence of the 2012 National League Most Valuable Player and four-time All-Star should provide a boost.

"There are probably a number of guys like that in our lineup, and he's definitely one of them," first baseman said. "When he gets back in there, it's definitely going to change a lot for us. You can say with a lot of confidence that it'll give us more confidence with him back in there."

Injuries befall every club to some degree. Extreme distractions are a different matter. The Giants have been sobered by the harrowing death of shortstop 's sister-in-law. Just when you think that a ballgame might provide relief from such tragedy, left fielder crumples to the outfield grass like an ailing bird after breaking his right clavicle while making a remarkable catch Saturday.

Said Belt, "There's a lot going on, a lot of stuff that we'll probably never forget."

On a more fundamental baseball-related level, the Giants' offensive execution has been substandard. Sunday, they had runners in scoring position with one out or fewer or put the leadoff batter on base in every inning from the fifth through eighth, yet never scored.

"We've played a lot of close games," right-hander Jeff Samardzija said. "I think we need to figure out a way to scratch one or two [runs] across when we need to close the gap and stay away from the heart of the other team's bullpen. That comes from not letting runs in early so you can take the lead."

Samardzija himself has typified the Giants' early performance. Sunday, he walked none and struck out eight in seven innings -- sustaining the quality of his previous outing, when he yielded five hits while striking out seven in 6 2/3 innings against Arizona on Tuesday. But he allowed three third-inning runs in that game and permitted four in the first two innings on Sunday.

Samardzija lamented seeing his good stuff wasted by early-inning lapses. "To start out that way and put yourself in a hole makes the rest of your day a lot tougher," he said.

The Giants hope that they won't have to say the same thing about their season a few months from now.