Opposite dugout: Free agent acquisitions might not help Giants contend

giants-logo.pngManager: Bruce Bochy (12th season)

Record: 9-12

Last 10 games: 4-6

Who to watch: C Buster Posey, (.265, 8 RBIs), 1B Brandon Belt (10 RBIs, 5 HR), 3B Evan Longoria (7 doubles, 9 RBIs), RF Andrew McCutchen (11 RBIs), RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00 ERA), RHP Hunter Strickland (2.00 ERA, 3 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (1-5 in 2017)

Pitching probables:

April 23: LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-1) vs. RHP Chris Stratton (1-1), 10:15 p.m., MASN2
April 24: RHP Tanner Roark (1-1) vs. LHP Ty Blach (1-3), 10:15 p.m., MASN2
April 25: RHP Max Scherzer (4-1) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-0), 3:45 p.m., MASN

Inside the Giants:

Even with the addition of free agent stars at third base and right field, the Giants have an uphill climb in the tough National League West. For the most part, offense has been hard to come by in the young 2018 season, and the Giants’ opponents have outscored them 75-66. The veteran-heavy club is missing both its closer and its ace, with former National Mark Melancon nursing an elbow flexor strain and lefty Madison Bumgarner recovering from a fracture to his pitching hand sustained in a spring training game. Left fielder Hunter Pence joined them on the disabled list this weekend with a sprained thumb.

Neither longtime Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who has played mostly in right this year, nor veteran third baseman Evan Longoria, who came over from the Rays, has made a huge splash for their new team yet. McCutchen, however, does lead the Giants in RBIs with 11, two of them coming in a 6-for-7 effort that helped the Giants beat the rival Dodgers on April 7. And Longoria’s batting average and power have been climbing steadily over the past two weeks. Lefty-swinging second baseman Joe Panik (.276/.345/.421) has begun to cool off after a hot start. First baseman Brandon Belt, who sat out the last two months of the 2017 season with a concussion, could be getting his groove back. Having just turned 30 on Friday, Belt yesterday went 3-for-5 with a home run and a record-breaking 21-pitch at-bat versus Angels starter Jaime Barria. Center fielder Austin Jackson (.208/.259/.226) has struggled at the plate, but Gregor Blanco (.353/.405/.412) has done well in the handful of starts he’s had in center and left. Five-time All-Star catcher Buster Posey has hit Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark well (.310 and .375, respectively) but - like many - has struggled against Max Scherzer (.167).

Chris Stratton, who starts tonight’s opener for the Giants, went seven innings in each of his last two starts, giving up just one hit in his April 12 win in San Diego. In four starts, he has posted a 2.22 ERA and has yet to surrender a home run. Lefty Ty Blach, who gets his turn tomorrow night, won his opening day start in Los Angeles, but since has dropped three decisions in four starts. The worst beating came April 3 at the hands of the Mariners, who scored six runs on 10 hits over Blach’s 4 1/3 innings. In his last outing April 19, Blach went six innings in Arizona, giving up two runs on six hits. Wednesday starter Jeff Samardzija began the season on the disabled list with a pectoral strain. In his 2018 debut on Friday, Samardzija allowed just two hits while walking four and striking out four over five innings. The veteran righty had his best season in 2011, while with the Cubs. He probably isn’t looking forward to facing Nats first baseman Matt Adams, who is 7-for-14 with two home runs against him.

Lefty setup man Tony Watson has allowed just six hits in eight appearances, giving up just one run so far in 2018. At least while Melancon recovers, Nationals nemesis Hunter Strickland handles closing chores for the Giants. You’ll recall that last Memorial Day, Bryce Harper charged the mound after Strickland plunked him, leading to emptied benches and a career-ending concussion for would-be peacemaker and former National Michael Morse, who got between Harper and teammate Samardzija. In eight appearances in 2018, Strickland has two saves and picked up a couple of wins after blowing two opportunities.

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