Giants drop series opener to Cubs, 6-4

Giants drop series opener to Cubs, 6-4
August 31, 2012, 9:30 pm
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BOX SCORE

CHICAGO Madison Bumgarner was the only fully rested player in a Giants uniform Friday afternoon.

But he looked just as sleep-deprived as everyone else in a 6-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Bumgarner had terrific stuff early, but made a series of damaging, two-strike mistakes in a four-run third inning. His lack of focus was obvious when he failed to back up home plate, allowing another run to score.

Bumgarner put the Giants in a 5-0 hole, and although they came back from a four-run deficit to win the previous night at Houston, their legs were too heavy to reel off another. They arrived at their hotel after 3:30 a.m. Friday morning following a night game in Houston; Bumgarner was sawing logs well before that, since he traveled ahead of his teammates.

The Giants had to be satisfied to end August with an 18-11 record -- their most victories in a month since their memorable kick to the finish in September, 2010.

Starting pitching report

Bumgarner (14-9) could become the first Giants left-hander to win 15 games since Shawn Estes in 2000, but he remained stuck on 14 for the second consecutive start.

He gave up a run in the first inning when Joe Mather drew a leadoff walk, stole second base and scored on Alfonso Sorianos single.

It exposed an emerging weakness in Bumgarners game. Even though hes left-handed and has whats considered to be a good pickoff move, he has allowed a team-high 22 stolen bases (out of 30 attempts). Obviously, advance scouts are seeing an area to exploit.

Bumgarners biggest weakness was his lack of focus with two strikes. He had two outs and an 0-2 count in the third when Anthony Rizzo punched a single, then he had an 0-2 count on Soriano when he threw a cutterslider that ran right onto the barrel of the veterans bat.

It was Sorianos 24th home run of the season as he continued to take a scouring pad to Bumgarner. It didnt make it any easier that Soriano reportedly rejected a potential waiver trade to the Giants, citing the chilly weather at AT&T Park.

With two outs and the bases empty, Bumgarner still couldnt get his teammates into the dugout. Starlin Castro singled on yet another two-strike pitch, then Wellington Castillo hit a double to the wall in left field. Gregor Blanco nearly got swallowed whole by the ivy as he chased after it.

Then came the biggest sin of all. Castro scored easily as the throw bounded away from Buster Posey, and by the time the catcher realized he had nobody behind him, Castillo already had begun his sprint around third base. Poseys desperation toss skipped past Bumgarner as he broke toward the plate a Bad News Bears moment for a club that had played such solid fundamental baseball all through the month.

At least Bumgarner threw 60 of 85 pitches for strikes in four innings. That might have been a few strikes too many.
Bullpen report

Chicagoland native and Northwestern University alum George Kontos fulfilled a lifelong dream by pitching at Wrigley Field, and he nearly committed a balk by levitating a few inches above the mount.

Not really, no. But the fifth pitch he threw took flight, as Anthony Rizzo rattled a home run in the basket that fronts the bleachers. Umpires originally called it a triple, but fittingly on the first college football weekend of the season, the boys in blue went under the hood and quickly determined on replay that it was a home run.

Kontos didnt allow another run in his two innings.

At the plate

Did we mention the Giants were tired?

Even with a warm wind blowing out to Waveland Ave., the Giants barely registered a pulse against right-hander Chris Volstad, who entered 1-9 with a 6.28 ERA.

On Sunday, Volstad snapped a streak of 24 winless starts when he emerged the pitcher of record in a rain-shortened victory over the Colorado Rockies. Now you can use the words Volstad and winning streak in the same sentence.

Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence grounded into double plays to stall rallies in the early innings. Posey hit an RBI double after Ryan Theriot singled in the fourth and Sandovals sacrifice fly scored Angel Pagan in the sixth, but otherwise the Giants showed theyd make lousy long-haul truckers.

They never seem to lack for a second wind in the late innings, though. Posey, who was expected to rest Friday, hit an RBI single in the eighth to complete an impressive afternoon in which he reached in all four plate appearances. Pence brought home another run on a ground out to make it a 6-4 game.

But although the Giants chipped away, they lacked the dagger shot to complete the comeback.
In field

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a lunging stop and a strong throw to take a single away from Castro in the fifth. Right fielder Hunter Pence looked a but ungainly as he fought the wind but managed to make a nice play on Castillos fly ball in the second.

And file this one away for future reference: Bumgarner gave a bull-snorting glare in the direction of Josh Vitters after the Cubs catcher flipped his bat in disgust after lining out in the fourth. Bumgarner did not face Vitters again. Theres always next season for a rib tickler.
Attendance

The Cubs announced 32,476 paid, and there were plenty of ample-sized, yellow-shirted Iowa fans dotting the stands. The Hawkeyes open up with Northern Illinois at Soldier Field on Saturday. It might be their best shot at a victory against an Illinois-based team this season.

Up next

You expect day baseball at Wrigley Field, but the Giants will start especially bright and early on Saturday. Its a 10:05 a.m. PDT first pitch against the Chicago Cubs. Tim Lincecum (7-14, 5.30 ERA) will oppose right-hander Justin Germano (2-4, 5.09). Well see if the remnants of Hurricane Isaac disrupt proceedings. Its forecasted to be a wet weekend in the Windy City.

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