SAN FRANCISCO — Jeff Samardzija set the side down in order four of the first five innings Monday night, which made the second inning all the more maddening. Samardzija gave up five runs in his second frame, and that was that.
The Giants would never recover, losing 8-3 on a night when rookie Daniel Mengden flummoxed them. Mengden picked up his first career win. Samardzija, who won seven of his first 10 Giants starts, was left wondering how he can find the consistency to be that guy again.
Samardzija finished with a 6.69 ERA in six June starts, but the stretch includes a dominant four-hit complete game in Tampa Bay. It’s nights like those, and innings like the first, third, fourth and fifth on Monday that show Samardzija he’s not fatigued or a mechanical mess. He said the issue is mental.
“You’re in there making pitches,” Samardzija said. “It’s just about eliminating those mistakes that come back to haunt you.”
The big one was a two-strike slider in the second that Marcus Semien blasted for a three-run shot. Samardzija was kicking himself for missing over the heart of the plate.
“If anything, you miss in the other batter’s box,” he said, noting that he should have lived to come back and get Semien on the next pitch.
That was the theme of Samardzija’s night. He knows what he has to do, and he had a laundry list after his fifth loss of the season: Get your off-speed pitches in the strike zone and your two-strike pitches out of the zone … “relax and trust your stuff” … get the slider “where I need it to be.” Samardzija simply couldn’t check any of the boxes on a consistent basis.
“It’s just going to take him being consistent,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He came out the first inning and threw great. The second inning got away from him. He lived in the heart of the plate and we payed for it.”
Samardzija dug such a deep hole that Bochy did something he rarely does: He waved the white flag. The Giants trailed 8-0 heading into the eighth, and Bochy had already pulled a handful of regulars. Brandon Crawford was getting a day to rest some aches, but before the eighth, Bochy approached him and noted that the Giants could get the pitcher’s spot up with the bases loaded.
“Sure enough, it came up,” he said.
Chris Stratton had come in after Samardzija and was tasked with saving the rest of the bullpen, which has been worked hard. Bochy let him hit with no outs and the bags juiced, and Stratton hit into a double play.
“In talking to the training staff, we didn’t think it was worth the risk (of using Crawford),” Bochy said, adding that he would have to warm up for just a swing or two. “You hate to be caught in that spot. We’re down eight runs, I decided to rest Buster and Angel. I made that call (to let Stratton hit) really the inning or two before.”
It was an odd sight, but hardly an important moment. This game was lost in the second.
“When you give up five out there you really put your offense in a hole,” Samardzija said. “With this team, you’ve got to keep it close, because anything can happen.”
--- Bochy had a long conversation with the home plate umpire after the fifth, and he said he was asking for the crew to keep an eye on Mengden’s pitches out of the stretch. The Giants weren’t asking for balk calls, they just wanted to make the crew aware that other pitchers are doing similar things to Johnny Cueto, who was called for a balk in a big spot a couple weeks ago. It was a long-term play.
“We’ve gotten complaints about our guys about their setup in the stretch and stopping and going again,” Bochy said. “He does it. I was talking to the umpire about that.”