SAN FRANCISCO Youll hear Giants manager Bruce Bochy say it: These are must-win games the rest of the way.
Heres how you know he means it: The Giants used 11 pitchers for the first time in at least 94 years.
But for all their fight in erasing a four-run deficit, and for all of Bochys strategizing, the Giants werent able to pull out another late-inning victory. The Arizona Diamondbacks got to George Kontos and Javier Lopez in the 11th inning, Jason Kubel hit a triple over the head of right fielder Hunter Pence and the Giants couldnt get the late magic they needed in an 8-6 loss at AT&T Park Tuesday night.
Their archrivals lacked that magic, too. The Dodgers lost in extras to the San Diego Padres, at least ensuring the Giants wouldnt lose anything off their four and a half game lead in the NL West.
Pence didnt look graceful as Kubels triple fell a few inches from his glove as Aaron Hill scored. Miguel Montero followed with an RBI single to beat the Giants on a night they busted their San Francisco-era franchise record of nine pitchers used in a game.
Until then, the story was all about the San Francisco Rallybacks. Brandon Belt splashed a two-run home run and Pablo Sandoval had clutch at-bats to lead them back from a four-run deficit, and the bullpen made a couple of huge escapes after being pressed into early service.
But the seagulls got Hitchcockian as the game continued late into the night. The Giants got their first two hitters aboard in the 11th, but Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro flied out and Sandoval grounded out to end it.
Starting pitching report
Ryan Vogelsong is a major concern, officially. Despite throwing consistently in the 92-93 mph range, the right-hander was hit hard for a fifth consecutive start while giving up six runs in 3 13 innings.
Vogelsong had multiple baserunners in every inning, and while he minimized the damage in the first two frames, the Diamondbacks punished his pitches in the third and sent him to an early exit in the fourth.
So heres the deal: Vogelsong had a 2.27 ERA in his first 21 starts and held opponents to a .215 average.
He has a 10.13 ERA over his last five starts and opponents are hitting .385 against him.
Perhaps a regression was in order for Vogelsong, who posted a .250 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) over those first 21 starts. Thats over 40 points below the league average not the most sustainable rate. And boy, has that script ever flipped. Over his last five starts, opponents are hitting a whopping .542 on balls in play.
Vogelsong gave up nine hits and walked two (one intentional) while retiring just 10 of 20 batters faced.
He simply is not hitting spots as he did before or getting late movement on his fastball. He threw an 0-2 heater as straight as a string to Paul Goldschmidt for a tiebreaking, RBI double over Pences head in the third inning. An intentional walk loaded the bases and Vogelsong hit his mark on an inside fastball to break Ryan Wheelers bat on a pop fly, but John McDonald grounded a seeing-eye, two-run single through the right side to give Arizona a 4-1 lead.
First baseman Brandon Belt cut off the throw home and the Giants managed to get an out on the basepaths to escape the inning, but trouble began anew for Vogelsong in the fourth. Adam Eaton doubled for his first major league hit and Aaron Hill, who isnt missing many mistakes these days, crushed a hanging, first-pitch curveball for a two-run home run.
At least Vogelsong will get an extra day of rest before his next scheduled start Monday at Coors Field.
The Giants could call up 30 relievers and Bochy would find a way to use them. Dan Otero and Shane Loux made their contributions by tossing 2 23 scoreless innings between them, and Jose Mijares benefited from some sensational defense while completing the seventh.
Things got dicey after the Giants tied it in the seventh, though. Jean Machi issued a leadoff walk, and with one out, Jeremy Affeldt made a mess of Eatons infield single. The left-handers desperation toss to first base wasnt even close, skipping into Arizonas dugout to put runners at second and third with one out.
Enter Santiago Casilla. (Why, is that a reference to Enter the Dragon on Bruce Lee Night? Of course it is.)
Casilla got a pop-up from Justin Upton to first baseman Brandon Belt and then another from Kubel, who owns 27 home runs this season. The second pop was in foul ground, and although Posey had trouble seeing it, Belt raced to the rescue to secure the ball and preserve the tie.
Sergio Romo needed just 17 pitches to dispatch the six hitters he faced, but Kontos gave up a leadoff single to Aaron Hill -- his career-best fifth hit of the night -- and Lopez's scoreless streak ended after 23 appearances.
At the plate
The Giants showed once again that they do not fear coming from behind.
In the early innings, only Marco Scutaro seemed to be getting good swings against Arizonas Ian Kennedy. He tripled in the first inning and scored on Pablo Sandovals ground out, then Scutaro doubled in a run in the third. But Hunter Pence lined out to strand the bases loaded, and Kennedy struck out the next four hitters to carry a 6-2 lead into the sixth.
Thats when it started to get loud. Sandoval and Pence hit ringing doubles and Brandon Belt lofted a two-run home run that splashed into McCovey Cove.
It was Belts fifth homer of the year but his first in 238 at-bats against right-handed pitching.
Brandon Crawford just missed tying the game when he hit a two-out double that struck the bricks just a foot or two short of the metal roof atop the arcade. The Giants stranded him, but they werent done hitting.
Angel Pagan doubled to start the seventh, and after a Scutaro sacrifice moved him to third, Pablo Sandoval executed with a brilliant bit of two-strike hitting. He took an outside pitch and lined it crisply to left field for a tying single, pumping his fist all the way up the line.
Sandoval went for the game winner with a 3-0 count and two outs in the ninth, taking a huge cut and sending a drive to the deepest part of right-center field. It wouldve been a walk-off shot in at least 27 big league ballparks, but Justin Upton ensured Sandoval wouldnt even get a double. The right fielder made a running catch before smacking against the wall.
Its not everyday you can write a 9-6 forceout in your scorebook. Hunter Pence alertly threw to second base after Arizonas Jason Kubel got a bad read on Miguel Monteros line single past second baseman Marco Scutaro in the seventh inning. Shortstop Brandon Crawford was alert, too, to cover second base and treat Kubel to a long, embarrassing trot back to the dugout.
Crawford stayed alert while creating one of the most remarkable double plays of the season. He fielded Wheelers high chopper, did a 360-degree spin while tagging out Montero (who shouldve stopped running) and threw to first base in plenty of time as the crowd roared.
Sandoval earned the next ovation in the eighth when he sprawled on his belly while catching a popped up bunt attempt following Machis leadoff walk.
It wasnt all superlatives for the Giants in the field, though. They had a clear shot to throw out a runner at the plate in the second inning, but catcher Buster Posey set up ultra conservatively outside the batters box on the first base side.
Pences throw, which was on target and wouldve beaten the runner to the plate, short-hopped Posey and he couldnt secure the ball and reach back for a swipe tag. If Posey had stationed himself a little closer to the plate, he wouldve gotten a longer hop and a realistic chance to apply the tag and save Vogelsong a run. Its understandable that the Giants dont want Posey blocking the plate, but their group strategy must be reevaluated if the Giants make the postseason.
The Giants announced 41,038 paid, not including the kayakers in the cove who finally had a splash homer to chase.
The Giants play the rubber match of their three-game series with Arizona on Wednesday night. Madison Bumgarner (14-9, 3.07) will oppose right-hander Trevor Cahill (9-11, 4.02).