Bochy: 'We hurt ourselves a little bit today'
Buster Posey made the first out on a close play at the plate in the sixth inning Sunday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN FRANCISCO – Tim Flannery has used some variation of the same quote many times in his seven seasons with the Giants: The team hired a third base coach, not a crossing guard.
But even those who usually wave along with Flannery’s more aggressive decisions had to be questioning why he misplaced his stop sign in sixth inning Sunday afternoon – leading to one of the two crippling outs the Giants made on the basepaths in a 3-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park.
Kensuke Tanaka made the other one in the ninth, getting thrown out trying to advance on an errant throw. Tanaka did not represent the tying run. So there was no defense for that decision.
Flannery’s call was more questionable but the results were just as damaging. He pointed Buster Posey home from first base on Pablo Sandoval’s double, and while the Arizona Diamondbacks had to execute a near-perfect relay, it still resulted in a disturbance of dust and a very unsettling out in what would become a momentum-stopping loss.
There was nobody out. Hunter Pence, the No. 5 hitter, was due up next. The Giants trailed just 1-0 at the time. And there were three more innings to play.
The play in the sixth appeared to take the oxygen out of the Giants, who had won five of their last six and were hoping to complete a series sweep to announce themselves as NL West interlopers once more. They didn’t get another hit after Sandoval’s double until the ninth, and their deficit now stands at 5 ½ games to the Diamondbacks.
They’re five games behind the surging Dodgers again, too – matching the furthest back they’ve been against their archrivals all year.
Flannery also sent Angel Pagan home on his inside-the-park home run, which won a game for the Giants on May 25. It’s not like he has a reputation for recklessness.
But fair or not, when someone gets hit, the crossing guard is going to get questioned.
Starting pitching report
Madison Bumgarner has a 1.71 ERA in four starts against the Diamondbacks this season, but just one win to show for it.
Making his first start after being a part of the All-Star festivities, Bumgarner continued to establish himself as the rotation’s most reliable arm. He yielded just one run over seven innings, and even that one might have been prevented by a more experienced left fielder.
Martin Prado hit a one-out triple in the first inning that eluded Kensuke Tanaka in left field, then Paul Goldschmidt followed with a sacrifice fly.
Prado’s drive was to the deepest part of left-center but had plenty of air underneath it and Tanaka, after a long run, appeared to be in position to make a play. But he slowed up as he neared the warning track, then appeared to take his eye off the ball for an instant as he checked the wall. That was enough for the ball to glance off his glove.
Tanaka was tested again in the fourth, when he couldn’t come up with Goldschmidt’s leadoff double. But center fielder Gregor Blanco made a full-extension dive to take a hit away from Aaron Hilll, and Bumgarner was able to pitch around Cody Ross before retiring Gerardo Parra to escape the inning.
After that taxing fourth inning, it only took Bumgarner five pitches to get back in the dugout in the fifth. Cliff Pennington singled, pitcher Randall Delgado popped up a bunt attempt that first baseman Brandon Belt snared out of the air, and then the Giants made a head’s up play after Belt caught A.J. Pollock’s foul fly. Both Bumgarner and Posey noticed that Pennington hadn’t retreated to first base, (perhaps because Marco Scutaro deked him?) so both raced over to cover first base as the Giants pulled off a double play.
The quick inning masked what otherwise would appear to be a manageable 100 pitches in seven innings. Bumgarner worked harder than those numbers would indicate, especially from the stretch. He walked three, hit a batter and made one more escape in the sixth when Ross grounded into a fielder’s choice to strand the bases loaded.
Bumgarner was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh and ended up taking just his second loss in eight starts since June 8.
Ross hit a two-run single off Jean Machi, who entered a bases-loaded, two-out situation and couldn’t make the pitch to preserve the 1-0 score.
The Diamondbacks mounted their rally against Sandy Rosario, who retired just one of the four batters he faced. Javier Lopez got Miguel Montero to pop up before yielding to Machi, who had just arrived from Fresno.
Opponents are batting .458 against Machi (11 for 24) with runners in scoring position and two outs this season.
At the plate
The Giants made more hard contact than the box score indicated, but that was small consolation in a loss to the NL West leaders.
Sandoval’s double in the sixth wasn’t the hardest ball he hit. He also flied out to the deepest part of right-center field in the fourth inning.
The double was scorched, though, and split the gap in left-center. Posey, who does not run well, lost some steam as he rounded third. Flannery sent him as center fielder Adam Eaton played the carom and delivered a strike to Pennington, who followed with another strong throw. It was to the wrong side of the plate, requiring Montero to make an athletic, twisting tag as Posey slid feet first.
A day earlier, Pence went hard into Montero in a play at the plate. For reasons that should be obvious to everyone, that isn’t part of Posey’s game as a baserunner.
The Giants didn’t get another hit until the ninth, when Pence hit an infield single and then Belt followed with another when Pence beat second baseman Aaron Hill’s throw for the attempted force.
Tanaka followed by beating out a double-play grounder. Pence scored when the relay throw got past Goldschmidt at first, but Tanaka was thrown out easily when he tried to take second base.
Sandoval has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, with a .333 average over that span.
Tanaka got the Aubrey Huff treatment in left field, minus the chalk outline.
Otherwise, there were plenty of fine defensive plays – and not just Arizona’s relay to the plate or Blanco’s catch.
The Giants announced 41,949 paid.
The Giants begin a four-game series with the Reds, including a makeup of the July 4 rainout at Cincinnati. Tim Lincecum (5-9, 4.26 ERA) will make his first start since his no-hitter in Monday’s series opener. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Bronson Arroyo (8-7, 3.42). The Reds plan to pitch left-hander Tony Cingrani (3-1, 3.23 ERA) and right-hander Greg Reynolds (2013 debut) in Tuesday’s single-admission doubleheader. The Giants will start Barry Zito (4-7, 4.88), but likely not in Game 1 when they’ll wear road uniforms and bat first. That start is expected to go to left-hander Eric Surkamp, who would be making his first big league appearance since 2011. At least Wednesday’s series finale is set: Chad Gaudin (4-1, 2.15) vs. right-hander Mike Leake (9-4, 2.79).