MLB: Giants struggling to do little things to score
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Baseball Writer
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants' top hitters are either hurt or slumping. The entire offense is sputtering.
It's been a discouraging stretch to say the least for a team that has said all along it plans to make the playoffs this year. San Francisco has a season-high five-game losing streak and has been held to one or fewer runs in five of its last seven games.
"We don't do the work when we need to do it, driving the guy in or moving the guy over," slugger Pablo Sandoval said. "We need to do the little things."
The Giants were happy to have an off day Monday to get a much-needed mental break following 13 straight, their longest stretch without a break this season. They had been in either first or second place in the NL West for 45 straight days before dropping to third following Thursday's 8-7 loss at last-place Arizona. San Francisco finished 1-6 on its road trip and was swept by the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum for the first time in five years.
The Giants scored only one run in the three games at Oakland. It was the first time the Giants had been held to one or fewer runs in a three-game series since scoring one against St. Louis from June 7-9, 1949, at the Polo Grounds in New York, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
A year ago, the Giants lost six straight in April and had three four-game skids — two of those in May.
"This is a time you get tested. You've got to put it behind you. Last year we dealt with it well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It'll turn around. The best thing we can do is keep grinding, stay positive. It's a long season."
Two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum is 5-0, but he easily could have three more victories. He has left with the lead in three other starts only to see the bullpen lose it.
San Francisco needs more from its best run producers. Edgar Renteria is the only one batting above .300 and he just came off the disabled list Saturday from a groin injury.
Before a pinch-hit single in Sunday's 3-0 loss to the A's, cleanup hitter Bengie Molina was in an 0-for-17 funk. Bochy gave Molina most of the day off Sunday so the catcher could have two days to "freshen up" heading into Tuesday night's series opener at home with the Washington Nationals.
Six regulars have 20 or more strikeouts.
"We all go through our ups and downs," Bochy said. "This game is pretty simple at times, really to create opportunities then you have to drive them in. We're not getting the hits. That's what it takes to win ballgames."
Aubrey Huff has been consistent at times, while Mark DeRosa — another new addition signed last winter to help boost the middle of the lineup — is sidelined with a wrist injury. DeRosa is set to take batting practice Tuesday and then the Giants will decide when to send him out on a rehab assignment.
Reliever Jeremy Affeldt injured his left hamstring Sunday and his status was unclear.
"Stuff's just not going our way," Affeldt said. "I hope my hamstring is lying to me and it's not hurt."
Second baseman Freddy Sanchez returned last Tuesday from the disabled list after he missed time while recovering from December surgery on his non-throwing left shoulder. The three-time All-Star, signed to a $12 million, two-year contract extension with San Francisco on Oct. 30, is 4 for 19 in his five games so far.
Sandoval hasn't homered since hitting his third clout April 21 at San Diego, going 111 at-bats without a longball. He is batting .193 in May, but feels like he's getting back on track.
"I just try to put the ball in play," Sandoval said. "I don't try to hit home runs."
Bochy doesn't want the free-swinging Sandoval to stray from his approach and start doing too much.
"He's still letting it go. He's still being himself," the skipper said. "I think we'll see more consistent at-bats. The home runs will come."
Juan Uribe, back this year on a $3.25 million, one-year contract, has been one of San Francisco's most reliable hitters of late. He is batting 9 for 31 (.290) with two home runs and four RBIs over his last nine games.
"We have groups here, and groups start heating up or groups start getting cold," Molina said. "A couple guys are hot and the other guys are cold. We need to put it together somehow. I'm not saying it's going to be easy. We're pretty positive. The whole group has a strong mind. We know what we want and that we're very much capable of winning."
Bochy tweaked his lineup Sunday, moving Andres Torres into the leadoff spot and Aaron Rowand down to sixth. He's going to stick with Torres at the top of the order for now. Rowand, who also missed time after a fastball to his head from the Dodgers' Vicente Padilla caused two small fractures in his left cheekbone and a mild concussion, is in an 0-for-11 stretch.
"We keep trying things and see if we can get something clicking here," Bochy said. "We're in a tough rut and you know what? The only way it's going to change is if we change it. We have to do something about it. We're getting shut down and we know it. We have to get these bats going. That's the only way we're going to come out of this."
The Giants are trying to keep their spirits up during this rough patch.
"We're good," Sandoval said. "Yeah, it's all good."
Molina is counting on that if the Giants are going to stay in the chase. They have missed the playoffs the past six years, but were in the NL wild-card race well into September last season.
"I hope we stay together, stay as a group," Molina said. "We're going to have to step up and find a way to score."