Giants takeaways: What we learned from first road trip of season
SAN FRANCISCO — There has been a cloud hanging over the Giants all offseason, and on Friday there literally will be clouds over Oracle Park. The Giants expect rain to be a problem during their home opener, and there’s a chance it gets delayed or pushed back a day.
That would be par for the course, but despite all that’s happened, the players in the clubhouse hoped to bring some sunshine with their play between the lines. Instead, they went 2-5 on a season-opening trip against the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers.
“You don’t like it,” manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday night. “You take the first game here and you’re so close to taking another. The last two could have gone either way. That would have made it a decent trip. It’s disappointing.”
It’s only one week, but sometimes that’s all you need to confirm some things or discover others. Here’s some of what we learned from the first trip of the year:
They Are Who We Thought They Were
The expectation coming into the season was that the lineup would massively struggle but the rotation and bullpen should be pretty good. Through a week, that’s the case. Reyes Moronta couldn’t hold on Wednesday, but he was outstanding in his first appearance. Sam Dyson has been filthy. Ditto with Will Smith. Mark Melancon is off to a good start, too.
The starters haven’t gone deep enough, but they have been solid enough as a group. Overall, the pitching staff has allowed 24 runs in seven games, but the lineup has managed just 17.
The expectation was that this team would not have enough power. The Giants head home with just five homers, or three fewer than the Dodgers hit on Opening Day.
Steven Duggar’s Breakout
The second-year outfielder has been the Giants’ best player through a week, and it’s no fluke. Duggar has a .798 OPS going, with a homer, two doubles and a steal. He is one of the few Giants who looks to be moving with urgency on the field, and his defense in center field has him tied for the MLB lead with four Defensive Runs Saved.
The most important development early on has been six hits against lefties. That’ll keep Duggar in the lineup every day.
“He’s hung in there nicely,” Bochy said of those splits.
More Moves Are Coming
The Giants plan to stick with 13 pitchers for now, but they’re going to need to get more flexible at some point. Moronta is the only reliever who can be optioned, and that ain’t happening. There are no bench players who can be sent down in a pinch, either.
That’s not how Farhan Zaidi has operated in the past, and the Giants have run into issues with a four-man bench without even playing extra innings yet. Madison Bumgarner almost batted with the bases loaded in the ninth inning just two days into the season.
Zaidi will continue to evaluate the current roster, but at some point he’s going to need a couple players who can go back and forth from Sacramento to San Francisco, keeping the roster fresh.
Buster Is Not Yet Back
The Giants remain confident that 2019 Buster Posey will be more like the pre-2018 version, but there have been early struggles. Posey is 3-for-18 with one extra-base hit and no RBI.
In a way, all of that is still a bonus. There was a chance that Posey wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day after having hip surgery last August, so even having him behind the plate and leading the staff can be viewed as a positive, even if Posey did sit for two of the first seven games.
Still, this lineup needs right-handed help.
“He’s still trying to get in that groove, get his rhythm and timing,” Bochy said. “He’s not quite there obviously, but he’s close. The most important thing is he’s feeling healthy. Nothing is bothering him.”
Station to Station
If you’re not going to hit homers, you have to move the line. The problem for the Giants is that they have to move that line more times than most.
Evan Longoria and Gerardo Parra were thrown out trying to stretch singles into doubles. Brandon Belt was cut down at second trying to advance on a ball that didn’t get far from the catcher. Posey was thrown out at the plate. Pablo Sandoval could not score from first on a double that rolled around in the gap.
This is something members of the staff have winced about already, but there’s really not much the Giants can do. It’s not a fast roster with the exception of a couple players, and Alen Hanson — the swiftest bench option — was DFA’d and traded. None of this is ideal when you play so many close games.
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