If for a day, Giants shed frustration
Veteran club's resolve tested during trying stretch of games
SAN FRANCISCO -- Maybe this game was the end of a slump. Or maybe this whole season could be the end of an era.
The San Francisco Giants, after losing eight straight games, 11 of their last 13 and 20 of their last 26, stopped the bleeding on Saturday with a 6-5 victory over the New York Yankees that was equal parts long and heartening.
An opposite-field single by Nate Schierholtz scored Ryan Klesko with the winning run with two outs in the 13th inning. The spontaneous celebration on the infield that followed the game-winner appeared to include the entire San Francisco roster and looked like it contained enough jubilation for victory in October.
"That was more than I expected," Schierholtz said with a smile.
They had played four hours, 34 minutes, they had ended an extremely frustrating streak and they had beaten the Yankees. Even though the Yankees are currently a .500 team, with their talent, defeating them still means something.
"Any time you beat the All-Star lineup, it's pretty good," said reliever Steve Kline, who had pitched out of a seemingly impossible bases-loaded, one-out jam to keep the score tied in the 11th.
The long-term frustration was evident in the sixth, when manager Bruce Bochy was ejected after vehemently arguing a call at first base. Replays indicated that Bochy's position was valid, but what be remembered was a really impressive cap toss for distance with which Bochy punctuated his debate with the umpires.
"I just got a new hat, too," Bochy said with a smile.
But for the manager, on this prolonged but victorious afternoon, frustration was no longer the theme.
"More important is how hard these guys fought," Bochy said. "It probably saved some sanity around here.
"They gritted one out and got a win, and we needed it bad. Hopefully, this is something that we can build on."
There is considerable building to be done. The Giants are 31-42, fifth in the National League West. Earlier in the season, when its starting pitching was performing very well, this team gave the impression of being a legitimate contender. But when the pitching dropped off, there was no way to compensate with improved play in other facets of the game.
The Giants are 15th in the NL in runs scored. This is a much deeper issue than whether Barry Bonds is hitting a home run on a given day or not. This is an aging lineup and not a particularly productive lineup.
Bochy, who has managed four division winners, is convinced that this recent slide is a temporary phenomenon, that the starting pitching will get back to its previous, better level.
"Probably more than anything else, we've been beating ourselves, putting more men on base than we'd done earlier," he said. "We were up there near the top in quality starts. Now, they've hit a bump in the road. Our strength has been our pitching, our starting rotation, and that's gotten away from us a little bit. But they'll bounce back, get back to where we were.
"The only way to get through it is to keep believing, stay upbeat and be confident that you're going to get out of this."
The perseverance of his club, which Bochy alluded to in regard to Saturday's victory, has also been encouraging for the manager, even in the midst of an extremely trying stretch.
"When you go through a slump, a man's character is revealed, a team's character is revealed," Bochy said, "and one thing I've been proud of through all of this, they're still going hard, they're still trying, they're doing all they can. You only get stronger when you're tested, and we're definitely being tested right now.
"We're really disappointed with where we're at right now. But we also know that we are a better club than this, and that will show."
If Bochy is right, then this slump will shortly be replaced by better days and the Giants will return to respectability, and possibly go further to contending status.
But if the Giants do not achieve that turnaround, what are you looking at with this club? On the plus side, there is some truly impressive young pitching talent. Apart from that, Barry Zito pitching up to the level of baseball's richest pitching contract would be helpful.
But whatever happens with the pitching, this is still a team with significant age on many of its position players. It has the appearance of must-win-now operation, which would be much less troubling if it were actually winning. If the losing continues this season, the Giants are going to require a new and more viable direction.
They've been patching in veteran players in an effort to stay afloat, but this could be their third straight losing season. If this team does not stage a revival, and soon, fundamental changes are going to be not only advisable but absolutely necessary.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.