OAKLAND – Forget the price of admission Tuesday night. It was debatable whether watching the Giants was worth the $6 bridge toll.
They never seem to play well in American League parks, and when your opponent has the best record in baseball … well, let’s just say it wasn’t umpire Angel Hernandez and his meandering strike zone that made the difference in their 6-1 loss to the A’s at the Coliseum.
They were outscored 11-1 over two awful games here. They went 1 for 20 with runners on base against A’s starters Jesse Chavez and Sonny Gray. It took Tyler Colvin popping one in the seventh inning to prevent their fifth shutout in nine games.
Tim Hudson suggested a week ago that the Giants might not escape this slide, now measured at 20 losses in their last 27 games, until they “beat the brakes off somebody.”
That’s hard to do when you can’t score. The Giants have scored 30 runs in their last 14 games. They didn’t have a rain barrel to store all those two-out RBI hits in April and May, and now they’re parched for them. The A’s might have blooped and bled their way to four runs off Madison Bumgarner in the third, but the Giants had a similar chance blow up an inning earlier when Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford struck out.
“There’s not a lot that can happen when you strike out,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Except get frustrated at the umpire, maybe. Hernandez’s zone might have been some form of quadrilateral, but it wasn’t a rectangle. It led to yelling from the bench and some steely glances from the mound.
You could argue that fuming at the umpire beats another night of confused heads buried in lockers. You won’t get Bochy to agree with you, though.
“It became counterproductive,” Bochy said. “You’re not only competing against the pitcher but you’re thinking about the calls. It’s something we can’t think too much about because it’s going to make things worse.
“It can compound the damage. You can dwell on it too much. We have to play better and that’s the best way out of it.”
As Hunter Pence put it, “We all know you get three strikes so I don’t think you ever point a finger at an umpire. They’re the best in the world and what they do is very difficult.”
Here’s another difficult task: winning in an AL park. The Giants have lost 13 of their last 15 interleague road games dating to June of 2012, including five consecutive to the A’s. Beginning in 2010, they have lost 11 of their last 13 here.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants shut down by Chavez, lose 5-0 to A's]
It’s understandable, especially now. Handing a DH to a team that can’t score is like giving a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle to a 3-year-old. There’s only so much they can do with it.
The only show worth watching, really, was between Pence and the bedsheets-and-airhorns crowd in the right field stands.
Pence could not make a catch on Jed Lowrie’s blooper to start the inning. He had the angle but had to peel off or risk colliding with Panik, who couldn’t hear his screams for the ball. Pence followed up by sprinting near the line to catch Alberto Callaspo’s sinking line drive.
He sprinted nearly as fast back to his position, cupped a hand to his ear and waved his arms in the universal gesture for, “Go ahead guys, lemme have everything you’ve got except the D batteries.”
“Oh, they were a lot of fun out there,” Pence said. “They’re creative, they’re rowdy and they’re loud. It’s a baseball atmosphere that’s fun to play in.
“Yeah, they were razzing me a little and I made a play and I was a little fired up. I don’t really remember what (I did), I was just in the moment and I went with it.”
There were tense moments in the bottom of the eighth when Jean Machi was called for a balk and catcher Buster Posey, a scowl on his face, appeared to bump Hernandez while maneuvering in front of him to argue the call. Hernandez appeared to warn Posey to give him some space.
Bochy jawed with Hernandez for long enough to make any lip readers at home blush, but miraculously did not get ejected. Machi did, as he was walking off the mound at the end of the inning.
He’ll get fined for that and take a hit to the wallet. It might turn out to be the Giants’ biggest hit in two games here.
“Obviously we’re not playing the type of ball we can play so tempers flare a little bit and that’s good,” said Bumgarner, who felt his linescore – six runs on 10 hits in 7-plus innings – did not match his stuff or execution. “It means our guys have a lot of heart and they care. Nobody just wants to get beat all the time.”
They would like to avoid that fate over these next two games against the A’s as the series shifts home to AT&T Park. That should bring them some comfort. Then again, they’ve lost 14 of their last 17 there, too.
How much is that price of admission, again?