The Giants were playing some of their worst ball of the year when manager Bruce Bochy decided to rely more heavily on his veteran hitters.
So on July 29, he stacked four of them at the top of his lineup, batting Andrew McCutchen first, Buster Posey second, Evan Longoria third and Brandon Crawford fourth.
For the most part, he has stuck with that lineup, and it has been hit and miss much like the entire season. Friday, it clicked beautifully from start to finish, and the Giants outmanned the Pirates in a wild 13-10 victory.
“I think (Bochy) has searched for the right combination,” said Longoria, noting the focus no longer is about staggering right-handed hitters and lefties. “We’ve had our good spells but also had some streaks where we haven’t been very good offensively. I think he’s trying to mix and match to see what works.”
The Giants collected 16 hits but gave up 17. The Pirates rallied from an 11-3 deficit, and Josh Bell nearly hit a two-run homer in the eighth that would have made it 12-11, but Steven Duggar caught the ball at the top of the wall.
Things got heated in the seventh when former Giant Kyle Crick drilled Longoria and almost hit Joe Panik, too. The teams barked at each other — Hunter Pence and Bochy were especially hot — and the plunking backfired for Crick when Longoria scored on Alen Hanson’s double.
Photo: Eric Risberg / Associated Press
Longoria, who left the game with a back contusion and was replaced by Chase d’Arnaud, said he hopes to play Saturday but added, “97 (mph) in the back is never a good thing. I’m confident there’s nothing seriously wrong, but I also want to test it and see how it feels.”
The third baseman said Crick wasn’t throwing at him on purpose, just extremely wild. Crick nearly pelted Joe Panik, too.
“I think everybody was more upset because (Crick is) throwing that hard and really doesn’t have an idea where it’s going — Joey almost gets hit and a couple other guys brushed back,” Longoria said. “When a guy’s throwing that hard and throwing it all over, it doesn’t make for a good situation. You just don’t want to see a guy get hurt.”
Bochy had similar thoughts, which explained his frustration.
“We know Crick,” he said. “He hasn’t been that wild. .. Panik almost wore one. He’s wild out there. I get that. But you hate to see your guys get smoked like that.
“You know what, you have to keep fighting at that point and try to keep putting runs on the board. We did that. We kept adding on, which was important because they kept coming back.”
On a night batting coaches Alonzo Powell and Rick Schu met with the hitters, McCutchen opened the first inning with an opposite-field homer over the brick wall in right, a rarity for a right-handed batter, and Posey banged out hits in each of the first four innings.
No Giant in the team’s San Francisco history had done that. In Posey’s case, they were all singles, the biggest coming in the four-run third, which was made possible by the hustle of Giants starting pitcher Derek Holland, who legged out an infield single with two outs to load the bases.
McCutchen drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the first run, Posey followed with a two-run single to left-center and Longoria poked an RBI single.
The first four batters reached base 15 times — McCutchen drew four walks — and collected seven hits in the first five innings. The previous three games of the homestand, all losses, they were a collective 5-for-42.
The new lineup initially was successful. The Giants had lost eight of 10 when Bochy put his four vets at the top, and the team won four in a row, then lost five of six entering Friday.
“It just got contagious tonight,” Bochy said. “They started swinging with more authority and taking advantage of some pitches to hit tonight. We got shut down pretty good the last three games, and you hate to see that happen here at home.”
Before Giants reliever Pierce Johnson coughed up a grand slam to Francisco Cervelli in the seventh, making the score 11-7, the Giants made few mishaps. Aside from the offensive explosion, the defense was sharp all night.
Especially on the game’s first two plays. Crawford made a diving catch up the middle to snag Corey Dickerson’s liner, and Hanson dived in left-center to catch a drive by Starling Marte.
It was the first of two diving catches by Hanson, who also had a big night at the plate with three hits and three RBIs.
Holland yielded 10 hits but exited with an 11-3 lead with one out and two on in the seventh. He was charged with five runs because of the grand slam.
“We’ve been due for a game like this where we break it open, though they came back and made it a game,” Bochy said. “It’s a better offense than what we’ve been doing. It’s going to be important that this offense gets going a little bit. That’s going to be a key for us to get back in this thing.”
Before the game, Bochy had a lengthy meeting with the front-office decision-makers and “talked about the club and ways we could get better,” he said. The Giants were seven games back in both the division and wild-card races, and the brass could decide to shake up the roster.
McCutchen could be traded, which would create room for Chris Shaw and/or Mac Williamson, both of whom are at Triple-A Sacramento.
Long after the game, Longoria was relieved he wasn’t seriously hurt and looking forward to getting back on the field as soon as Saturday.
”I feel fine now,” he said, “but I’m not running around and swinging. Those are things I’ll see how I feel. If there’s a slight chance to feel like I’ll play, I will. But I’m not going to put myself and the team in a bad spot by going out there with less what I feel is adequate to be able to perform.”