SAN FRANCISCO - Bruce Bochy doesn't like admitting that his team is out of the race no matter how many consecutive losses might pile up. He doesn't like admitting that they're playing poorly, and on three consecutive days he has talked about how many of the last 10 losses could have easily flipped the other way.
But Bochy did make a concession to the reality of the situation on Tuesday afternoon. He met with his team, talking for about five minutes about the importance of playing hard and holding each other accountable. That is not a meeting you have when you're trying to clinch a playoff spot. It's the type of meeting you have when you're losing every night and looking flat, as the Giants have while dropping 10 straight for the first time in 22 years.
"This is a tough time of year when you're going through something like this," Bochy said after a 4-1 loss to the Braves. "It's about character right now. You get in these tough times, it does build character."
Bochy pointed out that there are only 16 games left, and while this season was long ago lost, the Giants are evaluating on a daily basis. It's not just about hits or scoreless innings. He is looking for passion, effort, and fight.
"This tells you a lot about players," he said of the final three weeks.
At the very least, the Giants have learned a bit more about two of their better ones. A night after Dereck Rodriguez took a brutal loss, Andrew Suarez gave up three runs over six innings against a tough lineup and had no chance of winning. He took the 11th loss of his rookie season, watching hard-throwing righty Mike Foltynewicz throw a 108-pitch complete game with relative ease against the coldest lineup in baseball.
The Giants handed Foltynewicz his worst start of the season in May, but that was a different team. Andrew McCutchen hit second that day. Buster Posey hit third. Brandon Belt hit fourth, and on Tuesday he was limited to a pinch-hit appearance because of a knee that likely will require surgery.
Without his stars, Bochy started five young players. The result was predictable, but the rookie pitcher took it in stride.
"We really can't do anything about that," Suarez said of the lack of run support. "We've got to go out there and try to keep the game close."
This is where Bochy has learned something. He is looking for character, and he sees it in Rodriguez and Suarez. On Monday night, Rodriguez asked to go out for the seventh inning despite a high pitch count. A night later, Suarez worked around plenty of traffic to try and keep his team in the game.
"They're doing great," Bochy said of the two, the pride clear in his voice. "They're handling everything fine. Both of them are good kids, good competitors."