PHILADELPHIA – The Giants are missing Brandon Belt, Angel Pagan and Matt Cain. They have a husk of Marco Scutaro’s former self. They’ll start their Nos. 3-4 and ostensibly 6 starters this weekend against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top three.
They are not all assembled. But they believe they might have found their old souls on a 5-2 road trip that ended with a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday.
“That’s a really good road trip facing good pitchers here,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, after Cole Hamels shaded Tim Hudson. “We should leave here feeling good about this trip and where we’re at. We’re going to play a really good team and we’ll face great pitching, and we know it.”
It is precisely those three pitchers – Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu – that form the center of anyone’s thesis that the Dodgers remain the team to beat in the NL West. They have clubhouse issues, injuries, declining stars, a toxic outfield where, by comparison, Yasiel Puig is all asset and no distraction, and a talented bullpen that might start to mouth breathe in the second half because of Don Mattingly’s bull whip. The back end of their rotation is suddenly soft, too.
So a strong showing by the Giants this weekend would do more than re-brand them as the team to beat in the NL West. Bossing the Dodgers’ top three starters would be like hitting Goliath between the eyes. The rock only stunned him, remember.
A different kind of clank prevented the Giants from completing their first four-game sweep in Philadelphia since 1998. Michael Morse couldn’t backhand a fly ball for an error that led to a run in the fifth inning.
When the Giants signed Morse to play left field, they had to figure it’d cost them a game somewhere along the line, right?
“Aw, well, he’s been pretty good,” Bochy said of Morse, who had made just one outfield error in his first 60 starts there. “I can’t say that. He made a long run for that ball and couldn’t quite get it. They’ve been rare. I’ve been happy with what he’s done with the bat, and out there.”
The Phillies’ other run against Hudson was unearned because of a passed ball in a rugged first inning that the right-hander only managed to escape because of a lineout double play.
“Yeah, I pulled a stooge move,” said Hudson, who threw a split instead of a cutter. “(The Phillies) are really good, stealing signs. We were trying to get creative and mix things up. It wasn’t one of my prouder moments. I essentially cost us a run.”
Hudson didn’t cruise like he did in Miami, when he pitched eight innings and never threw more than 15 in any of them. The Phillies worked him harder and he threw a season-high 114 pitches in six innings. But he mostly allowed the bullpen to freshen up for the Dodgers. Bochy no longer has to ponder a roster move for a reliever.
Instead, the chatter on the team flight was sure to be about whether to go ahead and purchase the contract of Dan Uggla, who went 1 for 3 with a double, two walks and a run scored in his second game for Triple-A Fresno at Albuquerque on Thursday.
Ehire Adrianza is a possibility to go back on the DL, Bochy acknowledged, after reinjuring his right hamstring on the basepaths. Joe Panik was unavailable Thursday because of a sprained ankle and is questionable to play Friday. And Scutaro didn’t start despite the fact he’d been out of the lineup the two previous days and the Giants were facing a left-hander. Scutaro appears to be chest-deep in water when he swings, and he will not be a miracle worker in the second half again.
So … Uggla?
“I haven’t talked to Brian (Sabean),” Bochy said. “I can’t assume anything. He needs playing time, I know that. These are things we’ll talk about internally and see what we need to do.”
Looks like a load of tea leaves from here.
In the meantime, let’s just provide the following as a public service: Uggla is 3 for 9 with a double off Greinke, 1 for 12 with six strikeouts against Kershaw and 1 for 4 with a pair of walks against Ryu.