San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) has a few words with home plate umpire Chris Conroy (98) against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second inning of their MLB game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California, on Monday, July 24, 2017. (JosieLepe/Bay Area News Group)
SAN FRANCISCO – In the second inning of the 101st game in an unwatchable Giants season, Bruce Bochy finally had seen enough.
The Pirates led 6-0 after Andrew McCutchen’s three-run home run left the field of play, and Bochy soon followed. He bellowed rage at plate umpire Chris Conroy and said his special combination of magic words to draw an ejection, leaving bench coach Ron Wotus to mind the till for the remainder of the Giants’ 10-3 loss Monday night at AT&T Park.
At issue: the 1-0 curveball that Matt Cain threw to McCutchen, which appeared to drop into the zone but wasn’t called a strike. Cain ended up behind in the count, and his 3-1 curve wasn’t nearly as good.
After McCutchen flipped it into the left field bleachers, Cain barked frustration at Conroy and then turned around after the umpire yelled back.
The non-call might have altered McCutchen’s at-bat, but it’s hard to argue that it made any difference in the final analysis. The Pirates already had scored twice in a first inning that Cain began with a walk. Third baseman Eduardo Nuñez committed an error that prolonged the second inning and made all four runs unearned. The Giants, who seem to make at least one mental mistake on the basepaths every game, watched Brandon Belt fill the quota this time.
And the Giants offense did scant damage against Gerrit Cole, although Brandon Crawford came out ahead with two singles against his brother-in-law.
Just as myriad factors are to blame for the Giants’ 38-63 record, their worst in the club’s San Francisco era, much more went into Monday night’s loss than a 1-0 curveball that wasn’t called. But everyone has their breaking point, and for Bochy, at least it came early enough to kick back and celebrate National Tequila Day, if he was so inclined.
Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti also got ejected for the first time since 2007, but he waited until the ninth inning, a mound visit to Kyle Crick and a few calm comments with his head down when Conroy walked out to break up the session. Conroy flipped his wrist and Righetti nonchalantly walked off the field and up the tunnel.
The Giants had a chance to get back into the game in the fourth, when Conor Gillaspie pinch-hit for Cain with two outs and the bases loaded. Gillaspie grounded out.
So ended a frustrating night for Cain, and if it was his final start with the club, it would be a pity to have it end that way. Cain was starting in place of Johnny Cueto, who is on the disabled list with three blister precursors on his pitching hand and is only beginning to play light catch. It’s uncertain whether Cueto would be ready to return to the rotation over the weekend at Dodger Stadium, although Bochy said he expected the right-hander to be back without too much delay.
Cain is the latest example that baseball does not allow for a scripted denouement. He is one of the most decorated and accomplished pitchers in franchise history, a key part of two World Series teams who started each playoff series clincher in 2012 while also throwing the franchise’s only perfect game that season.
Yet in the end, the Giants will pay him to go away. The team is expected to buy out his $21 million option for $7.5 million.
There will be little profit in seeing Cain start every fifth day in August and September. But the minor league pitcher they’d most like to evaluate, right-hander Tyler Beede, was scratched from his start for Triple-A Sacramento on Monday because of a strained groin. Beede will have an MRI exam on Tuesday; for now, the club isn’t sure how much time the top prospect is expected to miss.
Beede is 6-7 with a 4.79 ERA in 19 starts and Bochy said the right-hander “has been a little off and on with his consistency, but it’s gotten better, from my reports, with his command and his other pitches. He’s attacking the strike zone a little better.”
Some of the peripherals are not good, even in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Beede has allowed 121 hits in 109 innings. His 1.47 WHIP is nothing special, and neither is his strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.13).
But Beede had been under orders to throw his four-seam fastball and work on commanding the pitch – a tough task when you’re pitching in places like Las Vegas, Reno and Albuquerque. When he went back to his two-seamer, he got ground ball outs in bunches. He was coming off a July 19 start in which he threw seven shutout innings against El Paso.
You couldn’t blame fans at AT&T Park if they want to see something new. The crowd even allowed The Wave – an East Bay creation, and one viewed with utter contempt on this side of the bridge – to course through the stadium in the eighth inning. Ushers actively encouraged its suppression. The game day entertainment crew tried to distract fans with canned clapping.
Then Jordy Mercer hit a three-run home run off Josh Osich.
Nothing stops The Wave better than a rush for the exits.
In his third game with Single-A San Jose, Pablo Sandoval went 1 for 2 and drew an 11-pitch walk. He also played third base for the first time since returning to the organization, with only a few routine ground balls hit his way before he was replaced for a pinch runner in the sixth inning.
Sandoval ended his three-game stint with San Jose going 2 for 9 with two walks and an RBI. He will now head to Triple-A Sacramento to play for the River Cats on Tuesday as he continues his quest to get back to the majors.