NL West

San Francisco Giants Fall out of First Place

The Dodgers Yasiel Puig #66 and Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner #40 exchange words after Puig hit a solo home run in the 6th inning during their game at Dodger Stadium Friday, May 9, 2014. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Baseball is a strange game. It is a sport needled by statistics and statistical analysis, yet it is often talked about in terms of feeling momentum, sometimes even particles. Right now, the San Francisco Giants can’t find momentum and the particles aren’t on their side.

Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates was the Giants third straight loss at home, and put it the club a half game behind their West Coast rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants had held their position atop the West since May 10, however, a funky second half has at last caught up with them.

“A lot of baseball left, but we created this with our struggles more than anything,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “We know that, so you keep going. We’ve been through these funks and this has been a long one. It’s not at the point where these guys have their backs to the wall yet, but it’s up to us to find a way to get on a roll.”

Part of San Francisco’s issue has been hitting with runners in scoring position. Since the break, the team is hitting just .198 with RISP, the second lowest figure in baseball behind the New York Mets (.188). The bullpen, which showed improvement through much of the second half, has also struggled of late. Over the last seven games the pen has combined to allow 11 earned runs in 15.1 innings.

Given these second half woes, San Francisco has gone 9-20 (.310) since the All Star Break. With that in mind, remember that the last time the club went through a 29 game streak of comparable toughness was in 2014, when they went 9-20 from June 11-July 14, but went on to win the World Series in four games.

It’s also not as if the Giants have been playing horrendous baseball. It’s just that they’re not playing great baseball, and the momentum never seems to be on their side. To wit, they’ve lost 7-12 games decided by one run in the second half. These numbers don’t suggest particle presence in the San Francisco dugout.

As a team, however, the Giants seem unperturbed by falling out of first.

“It’s a long season, man,” said pitcher Jeff Samardzija. “There’s ups and downs. We have a bunch of professionals in here who play hard every day. We’re not looking at the stuff. We know there are 162 to play, and there toward the end is when it will all be determined. Hopefully, we’ll be playing our best baseball then.”

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