SAN FRANCISCO – They emptied into Willie Mays Plaza, ambled over the Lefty O’Doul Bridge, stumbled onto MUNI or BART or into the local watering hole. And, with eyes glazed over, thousands had to be asking themselves the same question Wednesday afternoon:
How did THAT team win a World Series last year? How could the same group devolve so quickly? How is this even possible?
“I think we’re kind of asking ourselves that same question,” said first baseman Brandon Belt, after the Boston Red Sox embarrassed the Giants in all phases of their 12-1 victory at AT&T Park.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with how hard we’re working,” Belt continued. “I think everyone from the coaching staff on down has done everything they can do. For some reason, it’s not working out for us. We’ve got to put an end to it before it starts unraveling even more.”
Yes, there is more string on that ball of twine. The Giants have 36 games left. They need to win seven of them to avoid 100 losses. Who’s to assume anything at this point?
“Today at times I do think we drifted mentally a little bit,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, “and that shouldn’t happen.”
The abbreviated starts, the mental mistakes, the physical errors, the empty at-bats – all of it has happened to the Giants far too often this season. And when they all hit at once, well …
At least you don’t have to give back World Series rings.
“Well, I’m like the players and the staff, Larry, everybody,” Bochy said. “We’re having somewhat of a tough time with this. I don’t think anybody here saw us struggling in all facets.
“Every year is different. Still, we have a lot of the same club back. To make so many mistakes on the mental side or even physically, it’s surprised us as much as anybody. We’re trying to stay positive through this. We’re trying to finish on a good note. It’s going to be important we do. We’re trying to push that on everybody. I know we looked flat but they were going to do all they could.
“It’s not a lack of effort. It’s not.”
That’s what a major league manager is supposed to say, because if the reverse is true, that’s a direct reflection on the skipper. But the same message came from all corners of the clubhouse. People are working hard, Belt said. They’re showing up early, Barry Zito said.
“Everybody is a professional here,” said reigning NL MVP Buster Posey, “and we’ll come out tomorrow and be ready to go.”
But the mistakes they’re making are so elementary. Zito served up a home run to Will Middlebrooks in the second inning with a pitcher on deck (and an AL pitcher, to boot). Belt missed first base on a bunt play, and later, put up his hands as if to signal that he had a fly ball in shallow right field. He did not, and it fell between himself, Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro.
It’s an area that has pushed the Giants onto the rocks all season.
“We’ve had a few balls there in the Bermuda Triangle,” Bochy said. “Belt had his hands up like he had it. So I think that’s why Scutaro and Pence backed off, and he realized he wasn’t camped under it. It’s been a tough spot for us. There’s not much else to say. It’s been tough at times.”
It’s an area where a good defensive second baseman usually takes charge. But Scutaro looked in dire need of a day off that Bochy couldn’t give to him, since Pablo Sandoval’s back required another day to rest. Scutaro also fumbled a grounder up the middle. He has such brilliant bat control that his offensive numbers still look respectable.
But otherwise, the end of the season can’t come soon enough for him.
Zito said some “strange stuff happened out there today,” which is baseball code for defensive breakdowns.
Is strange the best word to describe what’s happened at Third and King in 2013?
“I mean, I don’t know what other word to say,” Zito said. “The nature of the game is so unpredictable. That’s why we all love it. That’s why we all hate it.”