Giants flirting with rock bottom in MLB

NEW YORK -- The San Francisco Giants never expected to look up five weeks into the season and have Major League Baseball's worst record, worst run differential, second-lowest scoring offense and 29th-best team ERA. They've been bad across the board, regardless of weather conditions, time zone or venue.

It's unaccustomed terrain for a franchise that has endured only one losing season since 2009, and manager Bruce Bochy is grasping for solutions. In the quiet of his office late Tuesday night after a lifeless, 6-1 loss to the New York Mets, the typically stoic Bochy came as close as he ever will to venting.

"Wearing this uni, there's a lot of pride here," Bochy said. "We're embarrassed as a group. We're pissed off. Each day you think, 'We're going to come out of it.'

"Sure, I'm concerned with the way we're playing. It's one thing if it's one facet of the game. But it's pitching. It's our bullpen. We're not hitting. We've got a lot of things to fix here right now. We're working on it."

On the precipice of an 0-6 trip to Cincinnati and New York, the Giants found a sliver of hope Wednesday afternoon.

The Giants trailed New York 3-2 in the top of the ninth inning and appeared ready to go down meekly when things finally went their way. Mets third baseman Wilmer Flores botched a potential game-ending double-play ball and rookie Christian Arroyo delivered a bases-loaded double off Jeurys Familia, and the Giants sweated out a shaky ninth inning by fill-in closer Derek Law to escape with a 6-5 win at Citi Field.

"Wearing this uni, there's a lot of pride here ... We're embarrassed as a group. We're pissed off. Each day you think, 'We're going to come out of it.'" Bruce Bochy, Giants manager

Arroyo, 21, embodied the sense of joy and relief throughout the San Francisco dugout when he pumped his fist upon arrival at second base. The Giants were outscored 46-15 during their 1-5 trip east, so pardon them for milking stray moments of celebration.

"There was a lot of frustration from the past week coming out there," Arroyo said. "Pent-up aggression, I guess."

It has been a team-wide phenomenon for a while now. After rolling into the All-Star Game with an MLB-best 57-33 record last season, the Giants limped home at 30-42 and bowed out against the Chicago Cubs in four games in the division series. Their uninspired play in April and May has disabused anyone of the notion that a winter of rest and a clean slate would cure what ails them.

Offense is a problem. The Giants are hitting .227 with an MLB-worst .340 slugging percentage as a team, and they've hit a total of five home runs at home this season. For sake of comparison, New York Yankees outfield sensation Aaron Judge already has 10 home runs at Yankee Stadium.

The Giants are going down meekly against inexperienced starters and back-of-the-rotation guys as well as the elite pitchers. During their 1-5 trip, they did little to nothing against Amir Garrett, Scott Feldman and Tommy Milone, who was claimed off waivers by the Mets from Milwaukee.

Injuries haven't helped. Center fielder and leadoff man Denard Span, who has lost a step or two at age 33, sprained his shoulder slamming into a wall April 22 and is currently on a rehab assignment in the Class A California League. Shortstop Brandon Crawford, out since April 29 because of a groin strain, is expected to return to Thursday night for the opener of a four-game series against Cincinnati at AT&T Park.

Some other positions might be beyond help. The Giants refrained from adding an established left fielder during the offseason and entered spring training hopeful that the tandem of Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson could get the job done. Five weeks into the season, Gorkys Hernandez, Parker, Eduardo Nunez and the five other left fielders used by Bochy have an aggregate slash line of .156/.235./.221.

The Giants' bullpen, a source of concern throughout the 2016 season, remains in a state of flux. Mark Melancon, who signed a four-year, $62 million free agent deal in December, went on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday because of a mild pronator strain near his right elbow. Law assumed the closer role in the series finale and came perilously close to blowing a 6-5 lead.

Starting pitching, the bedrock of San Francisco's success during Bochy's 11-season run as manager, has been very un-Giant-like. Madison Bumgarner created a major void when he hurt his shoulder in a dirt-bike accident, and the group of Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore, Matt Cain and Ty Blach has lacked any semblance of consistency. The San Francisco rotation ranks 28th among MLB teams with a 5.01 ERA.

"That's our strength: our starting pitching," Bochy said. "We figured it would keep us in games. We can't slug with other clubs. That's not our style. But we [usually] pitch, and that hasn't been as sharp, either."

As the Giants continue to flirt with rock bottom, they're dredging up some bad memories. Their 12-23 start is the worst for the franchise since 1972, when they went 10-25 through 35 games. The '72 San Francisco rotation featured Ron Bryant, Sudden Sam McDowell, Steve Stone and Juan Marichal, who posted a 6-16 record in the twilight of a Hall of Fame career.

Amid the team's early travails, San Francisco's old standbys and recent additions in the clubhouse are keeping the faith that an upturn is just a game or a series away.

"We've dug ourselves a huge hole, no doubt about that," Melancon said. "But I still think we're going to turn this thing around based on the talent, the expertise, the veteran-ism and the recent history of success here. We have high-character guys who work hard, and a chemistry that's great. Those are all things for a good recipe of success."

The biggest obstacles are math and time: The Giants entered play Wednesday 10 games behind first-place Colorado in the National League West. They're realistic enough to know it's going to take an extended run of better baseball -- and some less-than-inspiring baseball by the Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers -- for them to make significant inroads.

"You can get philosophical about where we are in the season," Moore said."But if we go out and win eight of our next 10, we kind of squash the bug.

"I know nobody in here can try any harder. I think it's a matter of all of us kind of syncing up at the same time. Maybe there's one game where we win in extra innings, or someone hits for a cycle or throws a no-hitter, or something weird happens and everybody rallies around it and we can kind of put the negatives to bed."

Arroyo did his part Wednesday to salvage the final game of a trip and ensure a more upbeat charter flight home. The Giants will learn soon enough if the victory was something to build on or just a brief respite from their suffering.