Kruk & Kuip: 'It's a tough loss'
Jeremy Affeldt hadn't allowed a home run since Carlos Quentin went opposite field on June 6 of last year. (AP)
PHOENIX – Jeremy Affeldt didn’t even wait for reporters to tiptoe to his locker. He waved them over as soon as he saw them.
“It was a dumb pitch,” said Affeldt, whose 2-0 fastball to Paul Goldschmidt turned a one-run lead into a 3-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night. “Dumb location, dumb selection. Just stupid. For a strike pitch, it wasn’t that bad, but that’s not what I’m trying to do there.
[RECAP: D'backs 3, Giants 1]
“When you do that to a hitter like that, you end up looking bad. The loss is on me. Cain didn’t deserve that. It’s completely my fault.
“It’s just dumb right there and I paid for it.”
The consequences ran a little deeper than blowing Matt Cain’s decision after he stood the higher ground in a tremendous duel with Patrick Corbin. It cost the Giants most dearly in the NL West standings, and the first-place Diamondbacks – now 3 ½ games up – aren’t going away any time soon.
It also will bring out the second-guessers after Giants manager Bruce Bochy let Affeldt, a left-hander, face a right-handed hitter who leads the NL in RBI and has been turning baseballs into ovals in recent weeks.
In fairness, it should be mentioned that Bochy’s right-handed setup men these days are Jean Machi and Ramon Ramirez, with Santiago Casilla out 'till the All-Star break. Goldschmidt was hitting better against right-handers (.344) than lefties (.306), too.
And Affeldt had allowed a grand total of one home run (to the Padres’ Carlos Quentin) since the end of the 2011 season.
Although the question was phrased mildly enough, Bochy interrupted a reporter who began to ask about the matchup with Goldschmidt with runners at first and second and one out in the eighth inning.
“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Bochy started. “He made a mistake. It left the ballpark. (Goldschmidt) is having a great year. He has a knack for doing that. That’s our bad.”
Bochy had Machi warming up but not closer Sergio Romo. (Goldschmidt was 3 for 7 against Romo and 0 for 5 against Affeldt.)
Would Bochy have used Casilla if he were available?
“Maybe, yeah,” Bochy said. “But Jeremy has done such a great job setting up. That guy’s hitting left-handers and right-handers, if you look at the numbers.
“(Affeldt) has got great stuff, throwing 94-95, with good secondary pitches. He’s having a great year and we’re close to winning this ballgame.”
The other option would be to walk Goldschmidt, load the bases and have Affeldt face Miguel Montero, a left-handed hitter who has struggled to a .202 average this season. But Bochy got burned on that strategy two weeks ago at Oakland, when Mike Kickham walked the next batter to force in a run. Besides, Affeldt had just issued a walk to Willie Bloomquist to bring Goldschmidt to the plate.
“Well, you’re putting your pitcher in a tough spot there, putting the winning run at second base,” Bochy said. “We already walked one guy. He just didn’t control that pitch.”
Affeldt made that clear enough.
“I wasn’t even trying to throw a strike and I did,” Affeldt said. “It was kind of a backwards day for me. He’s just a good, strong, powerful hitter who’s hot and seeing the ball well right now. Everything about that was wrong and completely my fault.”
And what happened with the walk to Bloomquist?
“I just tanked that deal,” Affeldt said. “I was flying open.”
The Giants have their problems. They brought back almost the entire World Series roster from last year but their lack of depth has exposed them at times, whether it’s in the lineup, where platoon outfielders Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres are playing every day in Angel Pagan’s absence, or the rotation, where they could adjust and move Tim Lincecum to the bullpen if only they had a palatable alternative. This time, it was the bullpen’s turn.
Accountability is not one of their problems, though. And it wasn’t just Affeldt who jabbed his index finger into his sternum.
Cain, despite holding Arizona to four hits and taking a shutout into the eighth inning, blamed himself for not making a better 0-2 pitch to A.J. Pollock, who reached on an infield single.
“That was my situation to get Pollock there,” Cain said. “I feel bad for Jeremy. He should be coming in with nobody on and I didn’t do a good job of that.”
It was a noble statement, if nothing more. Pollock, in fact, only reached on an infield single because third baseman Pablo Sandoval took a step back while fielding it.
Bochy didn’t hammer Sandoval, but left little doubt he felt the play should have been made.
“It all started with the ground ball,” Bochy said. “Pollock runs well. Once he did that (stepped back), he had no chance.”
The entire night turned into a step back. One moment, the Giants were about to hand lefty Patrick Corbin his first loss in 12 starts, celebrate Cain’s return to town sheriff of the rotation and creep to within 1 ½ games in the NL West, with the chance to wrest first place if they could manage a sweep here.
Instead, the postgame clubhouse was about assigning and accepting blame.
Just don’t ask Arizona manager Kirk Gibson for his opinion.
He’s not that dumb.
“I’m not going to second guess Bochy,” Gibson said. “He won two World Series.”