SAN FRANCISCO — If Oselvis Basabe’s at-bat in the fourth inning Monday night looked foreign, it’s because the Rays’ rookie shortstop did something few, if any, Giants have done this season. With two on and two outs, Basabe put on a masterclass in situational hitting.
The Giants’ shifted infield opened a wide hole between first and second base, and Basabe adjusted his swing to poke a ball through with surgical precision.
When an out of any kind would have kept the game knotted at zero, Basabe’s single drove in the Rays’ first two runs and was only the beginning of a barrage of hits as they sent San Francisco (63-56) to its eighth loss in its past 10 games, 10-2.
Barreling up just about everything out of the hands of the Giants’ opener, Ryan Walker, and the pitcher who relieved him, Tristan Beck, the Rays (72-49) had amassed a dozen hits and a 5-0 lead by the time they were done batting in the fifth inning. They padded their lead with five runs on six more hits against three Giants relievers: Luke Jackson, Scott Alexander and Taylor Rogers.
The Rays’ 18 hits were the most the Giants have allowed in a game this season, including the bandbox environment in Mexico City, and came only two days after they surrendered 16 in a loss to the Rangers.
“That was a really good team that swung the bat really well,” manager Gabe Kapler said of the Rays. “The Rangers are a really good team that swung the bat really well. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to have days where we get those guys out … but up and down their lineup, they have guys that really bang and clearly they have right-handed hitters that can hit right-handed pitching.”
Beck surrendered 10 hits and all five of the early runs. Following the three runs he allowed in his last appearance Wednesday in Anaheim, his ERA has risen nearly a full point, to 3.61, from 2.72 through his first 23 appearances of the year. Recording only two strikeouts in three innings, Beck was unable to find the putaway pitch that got Walker out of trouble in the first two frames, ringing up four to keep the Rays at bay.
“(Beck) threw a lot of breaking balls today,” Kapler said. “But it was pretty clear that the Rays were on those pitches. Just looking back on today, there’s probably a couple of opportunities for a few more fastballs.”
San Francisco, meanwhile, was limited to six hits, just one with runners in scoring position. Five of them came from Thairo Estrada, who drove in both of the Giants’ runs, and Michael Conforto, who remained hot with his third consecutive multi-hit game. But it was more of the same from the rest of San Francisco’s anemic offense, which wasn’t able to punish Rays starter Tyler Glasnow for any of the three walks he issued over six one-run innings.
Before the game, the Giants called up 2022 eighth-round pick Wade Meckler, in hopes of adding somebody who could put the ball in play in scoring situations and make something happen, a la the Rays and most successful offenses.
Meckler got his chance in the seventh inning, after the Giants loaded the bases with two outs and Kapler opted not sub him out for a pinch-hitter, as he has often done with almost every other player in key, late-game situations when the platoon advantage is not on their side.
Falling behind 0-2 against lefty Jacob Lopez, Meckler laid off three pitches outside the strike zone to force a full count, bringing the crowd of 25,748 to their feet, but went down swinging on a breaking ball, echoing the way the Giants’ other bases-loaded opportunity ended.
Commending Meckler’s at-bat quality, Kapler explained why he left his stable of righties on the bench.
“I think Meckler has a chance to be a good hitter against lefties,” Kapler said. “You go back and look at his track record at the minor-league level, he can draw a walk in those situations, he can slash a ball to the opposite field. He’s shown really good bat control, and I think in our organization, we want to develop some hitters who can face lefties and righties.”
But is a pivotal moment as the Giants try to fend off playoff competition the right time for development?
“We believe that he’s going to be productive against left-handers,” Kapler responded. “So, in other words, we thought that Wade was a good option to hit a left-handed pitcher in that situation and it’s good for his development. … That particular decision was showing faith in a young player that we believe has a chance to hit lefties going forward.”
Now, what does that say about their feelings toward Luis Matos and Marco Luciano? Both rookies were lifted for pinch-hitters in their debuts.
Fellow rookie outfielder Heliot Ramos was left on the bench in the seventh, only to strike out an inning later while pinch-hitting for Joc Pederson. They were down one right-handed bat on the bench after Wilmer Flores was scratched pregame with illness.
For his part, Meckler said he is just as comfortable against lefties as he is righties, and his minor-league splits back that up. He was just sitting fastball, after laying off three straight offspeed pitches, but got a slider, instead.
“I felt pretty confident and even-keeled there,” Meckler said. “I made two pretty good takes on some sliders and I was like, oh, he’s going back to the fastball here, and he didn’t. I chased the pitch low, but it is what it is.”
Finishing 0-for-3 with a walk, a strikeout and a groundout to first in his other trips to the plate, the 23-year-old rookie, who held a .377 batting average in 92 career minor-league games, wasn’t the answer to the Giants’ offensive woes.
“Obviously I wish we won the game and I wish I played better,” Meckler said. “But it is what it is. We’ve got a game tomorrow.”
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Despite recording 12 fewer hits than the Rays, the Giants left only four fewer men on base. After going 2-for-26 (.077) with runners in scoring position during their weekend series loss to the Rangers, they went 1-for-6 Monday night and are batting .192 in those situations since the start of July, the worst mark in the majors.
After Estrada singled home Pederson for the Giants’ first run in the fifth inning, they got nothing more out of a bases-loaded, one out situation. It called for a poke similar to Basabe’s but instead got a strikeout from Johan Camargo and a flyout from LaMonte Wade Jr.
Camargo, making his Giants debut, had no trouble adjusting to the way things are done in San Francisco. He went down swinging on three pitches, chasing a slider in the dirt for strike three. It was the 36th time a Giants hitter has struck out with the bases loaded, and Meckler made it 37 a few innings later, entering into a tie for the major-league lead.