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.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.