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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Haircut fails to lift Huff, rest of lineup out of deep funk

Maybe it wasn't the hair.

Aubrey Huff went back to last year's military-style cut to try to change his luck at the plate, and got a base hit in his first at bat Wednesday night. But the next three at bats, he popped out, grounded out, and then lined out to center field.

He's now 3-for-his last 24, dropping to .218 from a "high" of .261. Tough to win when your No. 3 hitter is throwing up a lot of blanks. But at least he's making solid contact with the water cooler.

The Giants' first baseman is hardly the only hitter in a cold spell. Collectively, they're hitting .200 (39-for-195) as they've lost five of the last six games, scoring 13 runs in that time. By the swings of the Giants' bats Wednesday, you'd have thought the Pirates' starting pitcher, James McDonald, was a skilled and accomplished veteran and not a journeyman owner of a 10.13 ERA (now 7.66, courtesy of the Giants).

Shortstop Miguel Tejada's sorry showing began long before the team funk. He's now mired in a 3-for-31 skid, capped by a game-ending double play groundout in the Giants' abysmal 2-0 loss Wednesday to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Tejada is now sitting squarely on the Mendoza Line (That's .200 for those who don't remember the weak-hitting Mario Mendoza from the '70s).

Tejada sometimes appears as if he can't hit the ball out of the infield, as if he's playing his true age and without the friendly boosters that, during his prime, lifted what would have been warning track fly balls into the bleachers. Now, he will take a much-needed respite (how about a few days off?), giving way to  Mike Fontenot, who has been terrible as a pinch-hitter (and is 0-for-17 against righties), but has had a couple big days when he actually got to play a full game (he doubled and homered in one start and tripled and walked twice in the other).

Even Freddie Sanchez, who's hitting a solid .283, is in his own funk, getting only three hits in his last 22 at bats, dropping from a peak of .329. So, he's on the bench tonight, too. Manny Burriss, getting a call-up from Fresno while Mark DeRosa chills on the disabled list, gets the nod at second tonight. The Giants are hoping he injects some life into the offense, having burned up Triple A with a .344 batting average and league-leading 15 stolen bases.

Boss Bochy may as well start Darren Ford in center field. The chaos he creates on the basepaths is precisely what the somnolent Giants need now. His chutzpah Tuesday night, scoring on a ground ball to second with the infield in, is about the only thing the Giants have been able to hang their hats on over the last six games.

Besides, Aaron Rowand has dropped into his own funk, now 4-for-his-last-29, dropping to .278 after reaching the rarified .364 air in mid-April.

Even Buster Posey, the Kid Who Cannot Fail, has taken a 1-for-16 slide, dropping down to .258. His bat is dragging, but it's hard to take him out when everyone else is smelling up the joint.

(update: looks like Rowand is in, Posey is out for the day. Looks like a bad tradeoff, but it's important to get a catcher a game off the day after a night game.)

All is not lost. There were signs that Cody Ross might be finding a groove, finally collecting a pair of hits Wednesday, nicely stroked line drive base hits just over Pirate second baseman Neil Walker. Before that, he had gone 3-for-20 right off the disabled list, raising the question of whether he should have remained in Arizona for a few more games to work on his timing.

Pat Burrell has emerged from a deep slump, which had him going 5-for-32, though four of his hits were home runs; since then, he's gone 12-for-33 (.364). He's sacrificed power, hitting only one HR in that span. But that may be the right approach: the Giants need to keep the line moving, and Burrell's base hits and walks do that (and they will lead to more power as his swing straightens out).

(It's a little puzzling to see that the Merc's Andrew Baggerly questioned Burrell making the lineup today, calling him the new Klesko. Of all people to single out, Burrell is the one Giant who's having halfway decent at bats!)

And Pablo Sandoval, who leads the Giants with a .329 average, has returned to a semi-hot bat, going 5-for-11 in the last three games after dipping to a 9-for-40 (.225) spell.

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