SAN DIEGO – The Giants might have mastered the art of the comeback this season. But every once in awhile, the saw cuts the magician in half.
Especially when the magician has greasy fingers.
The Giants blew a 5-0 lead, rallied to move ahead again, squandered a second advantage and then lost in the 12th inning when second baseman Marco Scutaro got handcuffed by what could’ve been a double-play grounder.
Couple that with left fielder Andres Torres’ damaging missed catch error in the fourth inning, which opened the door for the Padres’ six-run rally, and it resulted in a hollow sounding 8-7 loss to the San Diego Padres at Petco Park Saturday night.
The Giants have lost four consecutive for the first time since July 25-30 last year. (That’s when they were memorably swept at home by the Dodgers and fell into a first-place tie with a 55-47 record.)
The game by all rights should’ve gone to the 13th inning, after Sergio Romo induced a potential double-play ball from Nick Hundley. But Scutaro, perhaps looking to see if Yonder Alonso was breaking off third base, was unable to make a clean stop. The ball squirted past him and shortstop Brandon Crawford’s desperation heave to the plate had no shot.
Starting pitching report
For all of Barry Zito’s ups and downs as a Giant, there was no way to predict his sudden meltdown in the fourth inning.
He’d already worked out of a jam in the second inning when he followed up a single and a double with a pair of strikeouts, and was pitching with confidence. He even opted to pitch to No.8 hitter Nick Hundley with first base open and two outs in that troublesome second inning, strutting off the mound after striking him out.
It appeared Zito would cruise after he was handed a 5-0 lead.
But Torres flat-out missed a line drive off Carlos Quentin’s bat in the fourth. And with the door opened, the Padres proceeded to blow Zito off his hinges. The left-hander retired just one of the next six batters he faced, and the lone out came after third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a diving stop to (momentarily) save a run.
Zito had a chance to escape with a 5-2 lead, but he kept leaving mistakes at the belt. Pinch hitter Jesus Guzman hit an RBI single up the middle and Chris Denorfia followed with a tying, two-run double that landed just inside the chalk down the left field line.
And just like that, Zito was done. It was a stunning turn of events for a pitcher who was 42-3 as a Giant when handed at least four runs of support. He was 127-7 in his career when he received at least four runs.
Zito almost fell to 127-8. He was on the hook for the loss after right-hander Chad Gaudin allowed Denorfia to score on Everth Cabrera’s single as the Padres took a 6-5 lead.
Because of Torres’ error, all but one of Zito’s six runs were unearned in the fourth inning. So he actually lowered his ERA, from 3.42 to 3.29.
In fact, if you were to take out Zito’s eight-run third inning at Milwaukee earlier this month, he would have a 0.68 ERA for the season.
Gaudin allowed Zito’s run to score when Cabrera dug out a good pitch, but the right-hander ended up placing a big puzzle piece. Gaudin struck out five and tossed a scoreless fifth and sixth innings, holding onto the one–run lead after the Giants moved ahead.
It slipped away in the seventh, though. Chase Headley’s leadoff double ended Gaudin’s night, then right-hander George Kontos gave up a one-out, RBI single to Kyle Blanks.
Jean Machi was the relief hero of the night, showing off a dazzling splitter – as well as a surprisingly quick and athletic pickoff move – in three shutout innings.
But Romo gave up a one-out double to Yonder Alonso in the 12th, Jedd Gyorko singled to put runners at the corners and then Scutaro couldn’t handle Hundley’s one-hop smash.
At the plate
The Giants appeared to have all the runs they would need after knocking around Eric Stults in the first three innings.
Brandon Crawford followed a walk and a hit batter by lofting a three-run home run into the cutout near the right field pole in the second inning. It was the 12th home run of Crawford’s career, and amazingly, half of them have been three-run shots (four) or grand slams (two).
It was also his fifth homer of the season, setting a career high. It’s April, by the way.
Crawford’s homer also snapped the club’s 0-for-15 streak with runners in scoring position that dated to the extra innings of Tuesday night’s loss to Arizona.
The Giants added two more runs in the third when Angel Pagan singled to precede back-to-back doubles by Sandoval and Buster Posey.
But a 5-0 pleasure cruise it was not. The Giants needed more big hits after the Padres took a 6-5 lead in the fourth, and they received one in short order when Hunter Pence sent a two-out, two-run triple to the wall in right field.
The Giants threw away a couple of chances to score in the sixth and seventh. For some unexplainable reason, Gaudin – a 1-for-41 hitter – swung away instead of bunting with one out in the sixth. Crawford, who ran with the pitch, was thrown out easily at second base.
And they ran themselves out of the seventh inning when Sandoval was thrown out trying to stretch a single with two outs. (Actually, “trying to stretch” isn’t the best way to describe it. He was just not fast enough to get to second base on a hit that nearly made it to the warning track in the right-center gap.)
From the sixth to the 11th inning, Sandoval had two singles and the rest of the lineup went 0 for 17 with no walks.
The Giants threatened in the 12th when Joaquin Arias hit a pinch single and Scutaro snuck a hit through the left side. But Sandoval grounded out to end the inning.
Torres’ error was a wound that required stitches, but the Giants made a number of spritely little defensive plays along the way as well.
Pagan made a sliding catch in the third inning and first baseman Brandon Belt showed no hesitation after fielding Hundley’s hard bunt in the eighth, throwing on target to force the lead runner.
Left-hander Javier Lopez showed remarkable quickness while covering first base on a 3-6-1 double play to end the seventh, too.
And left to the dustbin of history was a thrilling, diving catch in right field by Pence, which would’ve won the game for the Padres in the 11th inning had it dropped.
The Padres nearly filled Petco Park. They announced 38,823 paid, and while Giants fans were well represented, it actually felt like a road game for the orange and black here.
The Giants and Padres conclude their three-game series on Sunday. It’ll be Ryan Vogelsong (1-1, 5.68 ERA) against Padres right-hander Jason Marquis (1-2, 4.63). First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. PDT.