SAN FRANCISCO--Sitting in the visiting clubhouse in Cincinnati last July, a frustrated Bruce Bochy dropped what would be his most famous quote of the year, saying he hoped his slumping team had hit "rock bottom" and would bounce back.
That group never did, but a year later the Giants are far from the bottom. They remain on top of the division--just barely--thanks to two spectacular months. But with the Reds again on the other side of the field, the Giants have looked nothing like a contending team this series.
The lineup stalled once again Friday, and Madison Bumgarner gave up five runs in a 6-2 loss that was the 13th in 17 games. The Giants have the worst record in the majors since this current skid began June 9. They've lost every which way over the span, and in what looked to be an epic pitchers' duel Friday at AT&T Park, the Giants once again were outclassed.
Bumgarner and Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto have been two of the best pitchers in the National League this season, and they didn't disappoint early. Bumgarner gave up two hits in the first inning but picked off both runners, becoming the first Giants pitcher since Bud Black in 1992 to record two pickoffs in one inning.
Cueto had a no-hitter the first time through the order, and at the end of the third inning Bumgarner and Cueto had combined to throw 50 strikes and just eight balls.
The wheels came off for Bumgarner in the fifth. The Reds batted around while scoring five runs on six hits. Billy Hamilton's flare to right was the killer, bringing two runs home in an at-bat that started with two strikes.
Bumgarner was charged with a season-high five earned runs. His ERA at AT&T Park this season is 4.94, light years from his 1.32 mark on the road.
Cueto nearly went the distance, recording an out in the ninth before putting two runners on. Aroldis Chapman closed it out, hitting 102 mph three times and throwing six fastballs that cracked the 100-mph barrier.
Eleven days before Tim Lincecum's no-hitter last July, the Giants were no-hit by Reds right-hander Homer Bailey, prompting Bochy's "rock bottom" quote. Cueto had the stuff to follow Lincecum's second no-hitter with another historic moment for the Reds, facing the minimum through four innings, but Pablo Sandoval led off the fifth with a blooper that just ticked off a leaping third baseman Todd Frazier's glove for a single. The Giants scored two runs off Cueto in the sixth, but that was his only bump in the road. The likely All-Star game starter gave up just three hits.
--Brandon Belt homered in the first inning of his second rehab appearance for the San Jose Giants and later added a single. Earlier Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said Belt has progressed so quickly that he could play first base for the Class A team sometime this weekend. The original plan called for Belt to be a D.H. until Monday.
"Belt is doing great," Bochy said. "He said he felt that good."
Despite the strong report, the Giants won't rush Belt. Bochy wasn't sure if Belt would be ready in time for next Friday's series opener in San Diego, which would be exactly eight weeks after an inside pitch broke Belt's left thumb.
"He needs at-bats right now," Bochy said. "He missed a lot of time, and even though he feels good with the hand, it takes awhile to get that timing back. We're looking at him playing quite a few games."
Bochy said Belt would be evaluated every day and that his return could be moved up.
--Second baseman Marco Scutaro played three innings in a rookie league game, grounding out and hitting into a fielder's choice. Scutaro (lower back strain) has played two rehab games this week in a bid to return to the big leagues, where he has yet to play this season.
--Right-hander Derek Law had Tommy John surgery Tuesday. The 23-year-old was one of the organization's top pitching prospects and this spring made a strong push to make the opening day roster. Law had a 2.57 ERA and 13 saves for Double-A Richmond but felt tightness in his forearm June 8.
(c)2014 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services