Cain: 'I'm putting these guys in the hole'
Pablo Sandoval was out at home on a perfect throw by former Giant Cody Ross in what could've been the game-ending play. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN FRANCISCO – A couple of streaks bit the dust Tuesday night at AT&T Park.
There was the bullpen’s streak of scoreless innings, which ended at 15 2/3. There was Sergio Romo’s streak of 38 appearances without a walk, which was the second longest in almost a century.
And biggest of all, there was the Giants’ streak of nine consecutive wins over NL West opponents, which is in the rear view following a 6-4, 11-inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
One streak remains. The Giants are winless in Matt Cain’s five starts. The club’s opening-day starter is 0-2 with a 6.59 ERA – just one obvious area where the Giants have ample room for improvement.
They also could stand to get some more production from first base, and perhaps a little is on the way. Brandon Belt had his second huge hit off the bench in as many nights, socking a tying, two-run home run off Arizona closer J.J. Putz in the ninth to force extra innings.
It was Belt’s first career pinch homer – and his first of the season, after leading the Cactus League with seven this spring.
But the Giants could not pull ahead, and the bullpen finally buckled in the 11th under the weight of the club’s third error of the night.
[BAGGARLY: Torres, Giants blindsided by mistakes in loss]
Belt was charged with an error when he couldn’t handle third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s one-hop throw across the diamond. A wild pitch from Santiago Casilla brought in Arizona’s go-ahead run, and the Diamondbacks added another on Gerardo Parra’s double.
It added up to the Giants’ first loss to an NL West team since opening day at Dodger Stadium. They’re now 9-2 within the division as they head into Wednesday afternoon’s rubber match.
Starting pitching report
Time to push the panic button on Cain? Maybe not. But it would be awfully handy if he had a bypass switch to prevent those home run balls from getting jettisoned out of the park.
Paul Goldschmidt added to Arizona’s early lead in the third inning when he crushed a two-run home run – the sixth Cain had allowed over a 14-inning span.
The early 4-0 deficit obscured the fact that Cain met the minimum qualifications for a quality start. He completed six innings and allowed three earned runs.
At times he looked at the top of his game, including a stretch when he retired nine of 10 batters. The lone exception was due to third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s fielding error. Cain had the Diamondbacks completely off balance with his slider and changeup in the middle innings.
He was more snakebit than anything in the first inning, when shortstop Brandon Crawford booted a routine grounder to start the game, Martin Prado singled and Goldschmidt dunked a double off the chalk line in right field.
Cain did well to escape that inning down just 2-0. But the Diamondbacks struck for more in the third, when Cain followed a walk to Prado with a fastball that leaked back over the middle to Goldschmidt. The blast deep into the left field bleachers was the sixth home run Cain had allowed over his last 14 innings. (For comparison’s sake, he gave up just nine homers in all of 2011.)
The homers might be worrisome, but Cain also has a rather healthy 26-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season – suggesting he just needs to eliminate a mistake here or there. He struck out six and walked one Tuesday.
Also, this: The Giants have scored a total of three runs for Cain all year.
Javier Lopez, George Kontos, Jean Machi and Romo combined to hold the Diamondbacks scoreless for three innings, as the bullpen continued to rack up zeroes.
Romo ended one streak, though. He issued a two-out walk to Cody Ross – the right-hander’s first free pass since Aug. 2 of last season. He had gone 38 consecutive appearances without a walk – matching John Smoltz (and finishing three short of Dennis Eckersley) for the longest streak by a pitcher since 1921, when data is available to track such things.
Then the scoreless run ended in the 11th. Didi Gregorius legged out a double when left fielder Andres Torres didn’t get to his ball quickly enough. Casilla appeared to have the second out in hand when pinch hitter Alfredo Marte hit a bouncer to Sandoval. The throw took a long skip that Belt should have handled, but it squirted from his glove. (The scorer initially charged Sandoval with the error but upon review, he shifted blame to Belt.)
Then came the wild pitch and Parra’s double.
Not only did it snap that scoreless streak at 15 2/3. It also ended a run of 22 consecutive scoreless relief innings at AT&T Park.
At the plate
Patrick Corbin entered with a 1.42 ERA and it wasn’t by accident. The Giants only had three hits against the Diamondbacks’ young lefty in the first seven innings, and only one runner in scoring position over that span. Corbin threw 70 of his 96 pitches for strikes.
But the Giants drove him from the game in the eighth with a two-run rally. Andres Torres beat out an infield single and scored on Crawford’s triple to the gap in right-center field – the shortstop’s eighth extra-base hit this season, tying him with Buster Posey for the team lead. Pinch hitter Hector Sanchez followed with an RBI groundout to make it a 4-2 deficit.
Then Angel Pagan had one heck of an at-bat. Down 0-2, he worked the count full, fouled off a pair of pitches and then whistled a line single past Corbin’s head. Pablo Sandoval extended the inning with a two-out single off reliever David Hernandez, turning the sellout crowd from stirring to near crazy.
But Posey could not rock Hernandez for his second home run in two days. The cleanup hitter popped up a first-pitch fastball to end the inning.
The Giants made up the rest against closer J.J. Putz, who blew his third save in six tries this season. Hunter Pence greeted him with a double and Belt came up with his second huge hit off the bench in as many nights. Batting for Joaquin Arias, Belt whiffed at two fastballs but put the barrel to a 2-2 splitter that stayed up, sending it into the right field arcade to set off the steam cannons.
It was Belt’s first career pinch homer. It was also his first homer of the season, after he led the Cactus League with seven this spring.
The Giants nearly won it in the 10th, when Sandoval doubled and Pence followed an intentional walk to Posey with a single that squeaked into right field. Sandoval got a terrible jump, considering there were two outs. But it probably wouldn’t have mattered, since he was out by 20 feet when Ross made an accurate throw to the plate.
Belt added a single in the 11th, further suggesting he might be on to something at the plate.
Crawford’s error set the tone on an off-key night for the defense. Along with their two errors, first baseman Joaquin Arias couldn’t come up with a pick at first base.
But second baseman Marco Scutaro made a nice play to end Cain’s night in the sixth. He fielded a grounder, reached out to tag runner Eric Chavez and fired to first to complete a double play.
The Giants announced 41,955 paid, including one doofus who was ejected for interfering with Pagan’s double down the left field line in the fourth inning.
The Giants complete their six-game homestand and finish their three-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday afternoon. Madison Bumgarner (3-0, 2.05) looks to stay unbeaten while opposing right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-2, 5.47). First pitch is scheduled for 12:45 p.m.