News Giants Battling Misery

“It’s tough, because he has been that fixture,” catcher Buster Posey said. “That first game in Cincinnati, we got trounced, and I believe his spot would have been the second game. Sometimes that can really change the momentum of the series if you have your guy come in and be that stopper. So it’s hard not to think about that.”

The Cincinnati series was historically bad: The Giants lost by 13-3, 14-2 and 4-0. The last time they had been outscored by 26 runs in a series of any length was in 1922, against Pittsburgh at the Polo Grounds.

There is no single cause of the Giants’ misery. Their E.R.A. before Monday was 4.81, ranking 28th of 30 teams in the majors. Their offense was averaging just 3.28 runs per game, the lowest in the National League. They had also made eight errors in their last seven games.

“You never lose your sense of optimism,” Manager Bruce Bochy said. “You’ve got to keep believing, and there’s a lot of baseball left. At the same time, you want to avoid having complacency set in to where you go, ‘Well, there’s a lot of baseball left,’ and you lose that sense of urgency. A lot of things have to happen, to be honest with you. We have to pitch better. We have to swing the bats better. We just have to play better all-around ball.”

The Giants seemed a safe bet for the playoffs before this season. After Bumgarner’s wild-card shutout, the Giants lost a hard-fought division series to the eventual champion Chicago Cubs. The Giants swiftly fixed their most pressing weakness by signing a star closer, Mark Melancon.

But they are also among the older teams — only two N.L. clubs, the Mets and the Atlanta Braves, have an older average age among position players than the Giants’ 29.8 years — and have lately been without shortstop Brandon Crawford and center fielder Denard Span, who are injured. Christian Arroyo, 21, was promoted to hold down shortstop while Crawford recovers from a groin strain (he is on a rehabilitation assignment now), but otherwise there is not much the Giants can do to alter the team’s makeup.

“We can see the issues; we can see the challenges we’re facing,” General Manager Bobby Evans said. “We’ve brought in Arroyo, and we have some options with extra players and the bullpen, but when it comes to the core part of your lineup and the rest of your club, there’s not really so much you can do — other than let them get back into the groove.”

The Giants are committed to several of their headliners; their 2020 payroll already includes more than $88.5 million for Belt, Crawford, Posey, Melancon and starter Jeff Samardzija. Another starter, Johnny Cueto, could make $21 million that year, but he could also opt out of his contract after this season.

That clause complicates Cueto’s trade value if the Giants are far out of the race and want to deal him in July. Only one other impact player — the versatile Eduardo Nunez — is facing free agency after this season, and Evans said the Giants were focused on trying to win with this group. They want to extend their era of glory as long as they can.

“For me personally, and I could probably speak for the guys in here, we’re still hungry for more,” Belt said.

Belt mentioned that the Giants had won without prominent pitchers before. Brian Wilson was injured for the 2012 title run, and Matt Cain was hurt in 2014, when the two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum was essentially an afterthought.

But Bumgarner is this era’s most dependable big-game force, and among the small handful of best pitchers in baseball at any time of the year. His accident hurts the Giants’ chances, to be sure, but Evans said the team was mostly relieved. Two other prominent starting pitchers — Miami’s Jose Fernandez and Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura — have been killed in accidents over the past eight months.

“With all the awful things that have happened in the game, tragically, we actually felt fortunate he wasn’t seriously hurt,” Evans said. “He was wearing a helmet. There are a lot of shoulder injuries that are more severe — this was in one spot, the A.C. joint, and our anticipation is that he will return to full strength.”

Bumgarner is resting until the pain goes away and he can begin to rebuild his arm. But the Giants have no time to waste as they wait for him.

“You’ve got to be careful that you assume the attitude of, ‘Hey, we’ll be fine, we’ll be fine,’” Bochy said. “Well, we’re not fine now, and it’s time for us to do something.”