Technically, you miss a player like Hunter Pence every day. You miss his bat, but you also miss his energy and his passion. The Giants have survived without Pence, but tonight was one of those nights where you could really feel that void in the middle of the lineup.
Nori Aoki and Matt Duffy each reached base twice, Angel Pagan had two hits and Buster Posey had three, but the Giants scored just three runs while falling 4-3 in Houston. They are, on many nights, a bat short in the middle of the lineup, which is no slight on the guys who have tried to replace Pence behind Posey. Justin Maxwell has been a revelation and Brandon Belt just had a hell of a homestand and is putting up good overall numbers, but the Giants could use that extra power bat, that extra run-producer.
They left 10 on base, the majority in the early innings, and the Astros stormed back with three homers. There’s another area where you miss Pence, who has seven straight 20-homer seasons going back to his time in Houston.
After the loss, manager Bruce Bochy said he saw good at-bats and bad at-bats, but ultimately he felt the Giants didn’t execute quite often enough. The last sequence seemed to stick with him. The Giants couldn’t capitalize on Brandon Crawford’s leadoff double in the ninth.
“We actually created what we were hoping to do, a leadoff double,” Bochy said. “Just the little things, productive outs, that missed hit-and-run — those things catch up with you in a close ballgame.”
Two plays stood out late. Bochy said the failed hit-and-run was “a tough pitch for Casey (McGehee) to try and make contact on.” You wonder if the manager was trying to stay out of a double play in that situation given what he’s seen for six weeks. Either way, the Giants have had very little luck trying to hit-and-run in the past week. When you score by doing the little things, you'd better be doing them well.
The other play that stood out was Crawford getting thrown out at third in the ninth, but he made the right read on a ball hit to his left. Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar played it perfectly.
“That’s a tough ball for him,” Bochy said of Crawford. “If he goes back (to second) they might have had a shot at him there. We’ve got to execute a little better there. We still had first and third and the right guy up there, that’s all you can ask for.”
That guy was Posey, but on a night he had three hits — including a homer — Posey grounded out softly to end the game. It was one the Giants felt got away from them. Tim Hudson had a 3-1 lead after Posey’s homer but exited after giving up two homers.
“Mechanically I got a little bit out of sync in the last couple of innings,” he said. “I wasn’t making quite as good pitches as I had been earlier in the game. It’s a tough game. Any time you have a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning, you hope to be able to hold onto it.”