ST. LOUIS — The Giants had been 27-8 with one of their top three pitchers on the mound this season, and when Jeff Samardzija was staked to a four-run lead, that 28th win looked like a sure bet. In one trip through the order, those hopes evaporated.
Starting with Brandon Moss’ solo shot in the fifth, the Cardinals hit four homers in a span of nine batters, scoring six of their runs in a 7-4 win at Busch Stadium. Samardzija, cycling back through the four pitches, didn’t see a glaring issue. His manager said Samardzija simply “lost his good command.”
“You watch him and he’s really been hitting his spots and mixing it up well,” Bruce Bochy said. “He’s done a terrific job. He’s going to have a hiccup now and then. You give (the Cardinals) credit, they threw out good at-bats. Occasionally this is going to happen.
“We had our guy out there and we had a four-run lead. He just lost his command, that’s all. The ball started drifting toward the center of the plate. That’s a tough one, when you have a four-run lead with a guy throwing as well as he was.”
Given how Samardzija threw the first two months, the Giants won’t be too concerned with one bad start. He entered the day with a 2.84 ERA and just five homers allowed. Still, it’s worth putting a star next to this one on his game log, and it’s worth noting how the Cardinals beat Samardzija so quickly.
Moss homered on a 95 mph fastball and Aledmys Diaz hit the tying three-run shot on 96 mph. Stephen Piscotty got 95 on the first pitch of the sixth and went deep to right. Samardzija throws harder than any Giants starter since Peak Lincecum, but good-hitting lineups won’t be too troubled if every pitch comes in at a similar speed. (The Giants have beaten some very good pitchers this way.) When Samardzija tried to mix it up, he hung an 86 mph changeup to Matt Adams and got blasted again.
“I don’t think anything was anything out of the ordinary,” Samardzija said. “Unfortunately I got in a situation where I got a couple of pitches up, especially that 3-0 one (to Diaz), and they took advantage of it.”
If Samardzija does need to make any kind of adjustment, he has time on his hands. He’ll get two extra days off before his next start and said he might throw an extra side session or flat ground session to stay sharp. The arm, Samardzija said, doesn’t really need rest. Those home-run pitches were proof of that given the velocity.
“I feel good, man,” he said. “My arm feels good, it’s in great shape. That’s not the issue for me. It’s about getting ahead in counts.”
--- Until that stream of homers it looked like tonight’s game story might be the opportunistic offense. Brandon Crawford stretched a single into a double and then later a double into a triple. Both times he scored, and both times he scored only because he had taken the extra base.
“When you can get your extra 90 feet it could be big for the offense,” he said. “We’re missing a guy (Hunter Pence) that can hit the ball out of the park, so it might be even bigger … we have some team speed that can stretch those in-betweeners into base hits.”
Joe Panik also tried to grab an extra base when a throw went home, but he was out at third. Bochy didn’t have a problem with that one, noting that it took perfect execution to get Panik on a bang-bang play.
Either way, the Giants, as Crawford said, will need to do more of this. Even with Pence they weren’t the type of team that would hit four homers in nine at-bats.
--- From pre-game: Matt Cain will throw a bullpen session tomorrow and could return as soon as the Brewers series on the next homestand. Angel Pagan is feeling good, and at some point he’ll play a couple rehab games to see where he’s at. Sergio Romo may play catch tomorrow, but again, that’s a slow timetable. Ehire Adrianza doesn’t sound close; he’s not running yet.
--- In case you missed it, here’s my story on the time Pagan met Muhammad Ali. And from yesterday, here’s the best of May.