Giants Observations

What we learned as Hicks gets roughed up in St. Louis return

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ST. LOUIS, MO – JUNE 22: Starter Jordan Hicks #12 of the San Francisco Giants throws during the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on June 22, 2024 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)


ST. LOUIS -- With just two healthy starting pitchers, the Giants will take all the scheduled days off they can get, and they had an unusual one on Friday because Major League Baseball folded in a travel day after the visit to Rickwood Field. It did nothing to help get the pitching back on track. 

San Francisco's staff ranks 26th in ERA and every number went in the wrong direction in Saturday's 9-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, who have taken both games of this series in two different states and ballparks. The Giants have dropped four of five on the road trip and are five games under .500 for the first time since May 15. 

Saturday's game actually got off to a great start, with the lineup's veterans leading a three-run first inning. But it was all Cardinals from there. Paul Goldschmidt hit his 32nd career homer against San Francisco and Alec Burleson had his first career multi-homer game as St. Louis handed a loss to longtime Cardinal Jordan Hicks. 

Tough homecoming

Hicks was making his 100th career appearance at Busch Stadium, but he came out of the visiting dugout for the first time. The return was filled with bouts of wildness. An inning before he got touched up for three runs, Hicks loaded the bases on two walks and a hit-by-pitch. He got out of that jam when Brendan Donovan hit a deep fly ball to center, but Burleson didn't miss in the fourth.

Burleson crushed an inside fastball into the home bullpen, giving the Cardinals the lead. For the first time as a Giant, Hicks gave up more than four earned runs. The outing raised his ERA to 3.24 and put a dent in his All-Star case, which largely was built on being among the National League's top five in ERA. Hicks now ranks 14th. 

For the third time in four starts, Hicks failed to get through five innings, but he did reach a milestone nonetheless. With 80 2/3 innings, he has set a career-high with half the season to go. The Giants want to watch his workload at some point, but they can't do it right now with Blake Snell, Robbie Ray, Alex Cobb, Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn and Tristan Beck on the IL. 

Finding his groove

Jorge Soler got the Giants on the board with an RBI single in the first and scored on Michael Conforto's two-run single. It continued a quiet surge for Soler, who was so out of whack for much of the first two months that manager Bob Melvin moved him down the lineup and even gave him a couple of games to clear his head. 

Since sitting out a Saturday night game against the New York Yankees three weeks ago, Soler has resembled his old self. The power isn't fully there, but he entered the day with a .293 average and .923 OPS over his previous 16 games. 

Conforto has been the one in the deepest slump in June, but he drove in three runs on a pair of hits. He also saved a run with a nice running catch in left:

Running wild

The Cardinals didn't just do it with the long ball. They also stole a couple of bases off Hicks, continuing a season-long trend for the Giants. They have allowed 82 stolen bases through 77 games, six more than the next-closest team. 

That would be a problem on its own, but given that they have maybe the game's best defensive catcher, it's downright embarrassing. Far too often this season, and especially on this trip, San Francisco pitchers have given Patrick Bailey, who ranks third in the Majors in pop time, no chance to even try and throw a runner out. 

Nolan Gorman got a huge running start on Hicks in the first and stole second without a throw. Two innings later, Burleson had a good jump and got in safely ahead of a wide throw. 

Holding runners has been an issue all year, and the Giants seem incapable of fixing it. It doesn't help that they also rank last in the majors in stolen bases from their position players.

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