SAN DIEGO — For a team that relies heavily on a station-to-station offense to move runners around the base paths, the San Francisco Giants understand the consequences when they fail to execute and find themselves stuck at a particular stop.
They also know what it looks like when their train goes off the rails.
In the seventh inning of Friday’s 5-1 defeat to the Padres, their train finally gained some steam before it suddenly toppled over.
After a Joe Panik RBI single plated Gregor Blanco and put the offense on the board, Brandon Belt stepped to the plate with two on, no one out and a chance to rev up the train’s engine. With the Giants trailing by three and looking for a chance to cut further into the deficit, Belt watched a called strike three cross the inside corner.
The next batter, Andrew McCutchen, swung at the first pitch. He grounded into a double play, ending the Giants’ only legitimate chance at putting a crooked number on the scoreboard.
While Belt and Brandon Crawford combined to reach base six times Friday, the Giants’ 3-4-5 hitters finished the evening 0-for-12 at the plate. McCutchen, Buster Posey and Evan Longoria hit the ball out of the infield twice all night.
That won’t move the train to the next station, much less keep it on the tracks.
After Chris Stratton threw seven innings of one-hit ball to help the Giants to a series-opening win Thursday, manager Bruce Bochy called Stratton the top pitcher on the team’s staff. Bochy said with the three most established starters on the disabled list, the Giants were counting on Stratton to lead the rotation until Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija return from injuries.
But as Bochy’s glowing praise for Stratton trailed off, he casually slipped Ty Blach’s name into conversation, suggesting that both pitchers had the capability to carry the Giants’ staff through a challenging month of April.
And for the first four innings on Friday, Blach lived up to expectations.
The Giants lefty who threw five shutout innings as an opening day stand-in for Madison Bumgarner didn’t allow his first hit until the bottom of the fifth, when Christian Villanueva beat out a slow tapper to the left side of the infield.
Longoria tried to handle the ball with his bare hand at third base, but it squirted away and forced Blach to pitch out of the stretch for the first time since a second inning walk to the same hitter.
After inducing a force-out at second base and allowing a one-out single, Blach nearly worked out of the inning without allowing a run. But a potential inning-ending double play groundout was mishandled by Belt at first, which loaded the bases for the Padres.
Twenty-four hours after pitcher Clayton Richard delivered the Padres’ only hit of the game, starter Tyson Ross smoked a 3-2 fastball into right field to drive in the first run of Friday’s contest. A Jose Pirela RBI single followed, and after Blach dominated through four no-hit innings, the Giants found themselves trailing 2-0.