Buster Posey

Offense’s disappearing act leaves Giants on cusp of elimination

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The stunning thing about the Giants’ success this year was the way the offense fueled the team in the second half, even with All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera gone due to suspension.

The Giants ranked third in the NL with 380 runs scored in the second half. Only the Brewers (392) and Nationals (383) were better, and no other team was within 20 runs of San Francisco.

The pitching wasn’t bad either, ranking sixth with 303 runs allowed during the same span. However, considering that AT&T played as a very good pitcher’s park this year, the offense was even better than the raw run total suggests, while the pitching wasn’t quite as good.

Unfortunately, through two games against the Reds, the Giants haven’t gotten a lot of hitting or pitching. Still, it’s the offense that’s been especially disappointing, particularly after the Giants caught a break in Game 1 when Johnny Cueto left in the first. Completely unable to capitalize, the Giants scored just two runs then and were later shut out by Bronson Arroyo and company on Sunday.

Summer acquisition Hunter Pence has been the biggest culprit, racking up dreadful at-bats behind Buster Posey in the order. He’s 0-for-8 so far. The lineup’s first three hitters — Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval — are a combined 3-for-26.

Changes seem unlikely. The two most vulnerable players in the Giants’ order — first baseman Brandon Belt and left fielder Gregor Blanco — have actually looked the best of anyone besides Posey. Belt walked twice Saturday and had the only hit off Arroyo on Sunday. Blanco was 2-for-3 with a walk Saturday. No one else is likely to suddenly take a seat.

The Giants are probably doomed now, but perhaps the change of scenery to Cincinnati will do the team some good. The Giants hit 31 homers and averaged 3.8 runs per game at home this year, compared to 72 homers and 5.1 runs per game on the road.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.