MIAMI — Four players and a coach were watching the same game Wednesday afternoon when the clubhouse doors opened to the media: Phillies at Dodgers. Yes, it is officially scoreboard-watching season.
As the Giants flew back to San Francisco, they regained sole possession of first place in the National League West. They'll start this homestand with a lead thanks to a Dodgers loss to the Phillies, but it's just one game.
Manager Bruce Bochy knows there are two truths about the current standings. First, he noted, the Giants would have been happy with this position if offered on Opening Day.
“This time of year, if you’re tied for first, you take that,” he said.
But … there’s also the reality that the Giants blew a golden opportunity to suck the drama out of September. They led by a season-high eight games on June 26 and by 6 1/2 at the break.
“We wish we could’ve maintained where we were,” Bochy said. “But it’s hard to do that when you’re not taking series. You’re losing series and it’ll catch up with you — and it has. It’s been really our body of work that’s helped us out as much as anything. We have to look at ourselves.”
Bochy was encouraged by what he saw on a 4-5 road trip, noting that the effort is there. But the Giants still haven’t translated that into consistency on the field, and they’ve won back-to-back games just once since the final series of the first half. They’ll face the Dodgers on August 23-25 in Los Angeles, and they have some work to do if they want to head into that big series in first place.
Both teams host the Pirates before the head-to-head, but while the Giants face the Orioles and Mets at AT&T Park, the Dodgers have road series against the fourth-place Phillies and last-place Reds. Bochy knows his group can’t afford to give back any more ground during this stretch.
“Everyone in there knows where we’re at and what’s at stake and what needs to be done,” he said. “We’ve met. We’ve talked. Now, go out and get it done. These guys have it in them. I’m not concerned about these guys. They’ll get the mojo back.”
--- Cory Gearrin has now made five relief appearances during a rehab assignment, allowing one run on two hits and striking out eight. He is just about ready, and Bochy said he’ll talk to Bobby Evans on the flight home about when Gearrin will be activated. Gearrin had a 2.16 ERA before a three-run outing that kicked off a run of bad results and eventually the DL trip, so he should add another weapon to a bullpen that’s starting to come together.
The big pieces lately have been Derek Law, who has a 17-game scoreless streak and Hunter Strickland, who has carried a heavy load. Strickland is fourth in the NL with 54 appearances, but Bochy isn’t concerned.
“He’s so strong,” he said. “We’re confident in him. He’s really grown and become more of a pitcher in all aspects of the game.”
--- Mac Williamson is swinging off a tee and will graduate to batting practice on Friday. He’s eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday, but it sounds like the Giants will be cautious with that shoulder strain given where they are on the schedule. With Hunter Pence (3-for-28) slumping, the Giants could use Williamson’s right-handed pop, but he’s the only outfielder they can send to Triple-A to ease the roster crunch and there doesn’t seem much point to rushing him back just to send him to the minors.
Of course, that could all change if Gregor Blanco continues to slump as Williamson gets healthy. Blanco is 5-for-42 since the All-Star break, and he’s a free agent at the end of the year. The Giants won’t cut ties with their best backup center fielder, but Blanco has battled a sore knee for much of the year and a DL discussion could be had at some point.