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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 26, 2010

MLB: Giants celebrate Earth Day with wasteful effort at the plate

By Andrew Baggarly
San Jose Mercury News

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants acknowledged Earth Day by handing out reusable bags and wearing green recycling logos on their sleeves. Otherwise, you could hardly describe Sunday afternoon's 2-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals as a celebration of ecology.

The Giants' lineup continues to be so wasteful in RBI situations, they might as well drive Hummers to the batter's box.

Matt Cain threw a self-described "cement mixer" of a hanging slider to Albert Pujols in the first inning for a solo home run. And that was that.

Former Giant Brad Penny lured an impatient lineup to pound his splitter into the dirt for 10 ground-ball outs, many coming with runners in scoring position, as the Cardinals avoided being swept in the three-game series.

Normally, the Giants could feel good about taking two of three from a quality opponent. Instead, the result was as fragrant as a compost heap. A lineup that was supposed to be more patient and work tougher at-bats did neither. And Penny knew he could exploit it.

"They were swinging first pitch, second pitch, all day long," Penny said. "I wasn't going to keep giving them fastballs. "&Against a lineup like that, with the approach they're taking, it seemed to work pretty well."

For all the Giants' talk of being more patient under new hitting coach Hensley Meulens, they again rank last in the majors with 3.62 pitches per plate appearance.

"We've got to hit better. I've got to do better, period," said Mark DeRosa, who is hitting .235. "We've got to realize how good our pitching staff is and grind every at-bat every inning. Panda (Pablo Sandoval) is the one guy (doing it)."

Sandoval had three crisp hits but didn't receive any RBI chances because Nos. 1-2 hitters Eugenio Velez and Edgar Renteria were 0-for-8 in front of him. Meanwhile, Andres Torres had three hits in the No. 8 spot along with two daring catches in center field.

"I was debating whom to lead off today," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I made the wrong decision."

Bochy should have a heck of a time deciding who stands a chance today against the Phillies' Roy Halladay. He knows it won't be Velez leading off.

"I've got to get him out of there," Bochy said. "Geno was really pulling off (pitches). He was pressing."

It's a team-wide struggle. The Giants collected eight hits in Penny's 72/3 innings but were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Over their past seven games, the Giants are 5-for-54 (.093) with runners in scoring position—and four of those five hits were infield singles.

"We're very thankful we have the pitching staff we do," DeRosa said quietly.

DeRosa included himself in the group of hitters who are trying too hard, looking to "hit the ball 900 feet to put us on the board instead of putting up a tough at-bat."

"All of us need to realize the importance of getting on the board—one run, two runs, something early—just to put the other team on the defensive," he said. "It's the same thing tomorrow with Halladay. You've got to find a way to chip out a run early."

As great as the Giants' rotation might be, they need a few runs to make this season work. Call it a lesson in sustainability.

If the Giants don't take it to heart, fans could find an alternative use for those eco-bags.