Bob Melvin

Giants' lineup wastes latest chance to lead way for ailing pitchers

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SAN FRANCISCO -- For most of the past two weeks, Bob Melvin's pregame media sessions have revolved around his starting rotation. Or, to put it more accurately, his lack of a starting rotation. 

The Giants have just three starters right now, and one is a rookie who has made just one MLB appearance. Melvin worries on a daily basis about the toll all of this is taking on his bullpen, which has two players -- Ryan Walker and Tyler Rogers -- tied for the MLB lead in appearances and a third -- Erik Miller -- who pitched in his 40th game on Saturday. 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, represented by Kyle Harrison, Blake Snell, Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray, all of whom are due back over the next month. The Giants are ticking off the innings until they reach full health, and they're hoping a strong rotation can lead them to enough second-half wins to reach the MLB playoffs. 

But … there is another way. Or there should be. 

Most of the money Farhan Zaidi committed in the offseason was to the lineup. The team's best young player (Heliot Ramos) is a position player, along with the biggest surprise (Brett Wisely). Ramos and Patrick Bailey are among Melvin's leading candidates to appear in the MLB All-Star Game next month. 

What if the Giants hit their way to success?

For three innings Saturday, it looked like they would do that. They stunned Los Angeles Dodgers ace Tyler Glasnow, scoring four runs while batting around in the third and putting five on his line overall. And then they shut it down.

There were just two more runs the rest of the way, one coming on a broken-bat single and the other being the automatic runner that was placed on second base in extra innings. When the Dodgers scored seven runs in the top of the 11th, they had a 14-7 win

The seven runs came off Sean Hjelle, who had to deal with one of the wildest roller coaster performances in recent Giants history. The right-hander has flourished in a short relief role and entered the day with a 2.33 ERA. He allowed the automatic runner to score in the 10th, but limited the damage from there, and he was in line for a win had the Giants pushed another run across in the bottom of the inning. 

Instead, Hjelle went back out for the 11th. Only Spencer Bivens, Luke Jackson and Tyler Rogers remained in the bullpen and Rogers -- the best option -- was off-limits because of how much he has been used. Melvin had hoped to use Hjelle for just one inning, but he felt he had no choice. Hjelle was the best option in the 11th, but a collection of Dodgers hits and mistakes by Giants outfielders led to the lopsided score. 

Hjelle left the park with his ERA at 3.54, which seemed impossible back in the 10th inning. David Villar came off the bench to tie the game and the Giants loaded the bases with one out, forcing Dave Roberts to bring center fielder Chris Taylor in as a fifth infielder. But Patrick Bailey struck out and Matt Chapman popped up, sending the game to the 11th. 

Asked to sum up the at-bat, Bailey described it as "not a very good one."

"I was looking for a good pitch to hit up the middle," he said. "I didn't do a good job of it."

The Giants went 5-for-23 with runners in scoring position and left 15 on base. 

"There are so many ways to dissect this game," Melvin said. "But we had our opportunities to win."

With one more well-placed hit, the lineup would have clinched a series win and gotten back to within two games of .500. Giants pitchers could have saved a few bullets ahead of another bullpen game on Sunday, and maybe the team could start to build some real momentum.

At some point, the Giants figure they will go on a run of some sort and get back into the thick of the race. They're waiting for the starting pitching to return and help lead the way, and that might be their only path. The lineup had a chance to break through Saturday and lead a rousing win, but the group was far too silent after an early barrage against Glasnow. 

As he prepared to head back to a disappointed clubhouse, Melvin was asked about what's ahead. Spencer Howard, Randy Rodriguez, Walker and Hjelle all threw multiple innings Saturday. Melvin used seven pitchers, including a closer who took the mound for the fourth time in five days. 

What's the plan for Sunday?

"We'll see," he said. 

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