SAN FRANCISCO - During batting practice on Monday afternoon, young Atlanta Braves Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies came over to the Giants dugout to chat with Hensley Meulens. Albies, like Meulens, is from Curacao, and the two were at a clinic together last offseason. Albies plans to bring Acuña Jr. along this offseason to help teach the next generation of stars from his country.
The Giants did not need that connection to know what Albies does so well. He is a spark plug, the type of player you can't take your eyes off when he's between the lines. But Gorkys Hernandez forgot how dynamic Albies can be, and it cost the Giants in a big spot.
The young second baseman led off the seventh by poking a single into right-center. He took a wide turn around first, getting halfway to second as Hernandez scooped the ball. The right move was to run towards the infield and get the ball to Brandon Crawford or Kelby Tomlinson. Instead, Hernandez tried to back-pick Albies at first. His throw sailed to the visiting dugout and Albies ended up on third. He scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly, and the Braves handed the Giants their ninth straight loss.
"With the runner, he's so athletic," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Once [Hernandez] threw it he's headed to second and we wouldn't have had a shot at him. It was a little too aggressive on Gorkys' part. He's halfway between first and [second], just get the ball in."
To be fair to Hernandez, his aggression brought in the only run for the Giants. He stole third with one out in the third and scored when Austin Slater bounced a ball over a drawn-in infield. That was it for the lineup. The Giants managed just three hits against Sean Newcomb and none against three Braves relievers.
"We didn't make a lot of hard contact," Bochy said. "That was pretty evident. We didn't make good hard contact as often as you need to. We were late a lot tonight. (Newcomb) has got a good live fastball and then he keeps you honest with the breaking ball and changeup."
--- The Giants were held to one run or fewer for the 31st time. Somehow that's tied with the Cubs. Somehow that's also not worst in the big leagues. The Orioles have done it 36 times and the Marlins have done it 33 times.
--- The Giants have lost nine straight for the first time since 2006, when they lost nine straight from July 23 to August 1. They appear to be making a late run at a top-10 draft pick.
--- Hunter Strickland has given up a run in three straight and four runs over his last two appearances. Overall, he's had just three scoreless appearances out of nine since returning, and his fastball velocity is down to 93-94 at times. As much heat as Strickland took early on, he was a pretty good relief pitcher before punching a door. The late collapse may have an impact on how the Giants view him for next season, and also may have an impact on trades. He was a candidate to be moved, given how few trade options this front office has, but he isn't ending on a high note.