Lopez: 'It just came down to one pitch'
SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants had seven walk-off wins in April and May.
Then they had one June 22.
They haven’t had one since.
They nearly had one Friday night, but Pablo Sandoval’s hard contact was right at Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis, Roger Kieschnick couldn’t put a ball in play with a runner at third base and one out, and Gregor Blanco’s backspun liner ended up in a glove.
So it was on to the 10th inning, where Giants manager Bruce Bochy intentionally walked one hitter to have Javier Lopez face the major leagues’ home run leader.
Chris Davis hit a drive that had plenty of air under it, but the outfielders were playing a shift – and Gregor Blanco couldn’t come to the Giants’ rescue. The two-run double sent the Giants to a 5-2 loss.
At least the Giants, with that tying rally in the ninth, managed to take Ryan Vogelsong off the hook for a loss. Nothing else really worked, including Bochy’s decision in the 10th.
[BAGGARLY: Vogelsong's stuff is enough to subdue Orioles]
He started the inning with Lopez because two of the first three Orioles hitters were left-handed. But with two outs and a runner at second base, Bochy could have gone to Santiago Casilla or Sergio Romo to face Adam Jones. But what if they fail to get him? Then he’d be stuck with a right-handed matchup with Davis, who has destroyed them this season. (Check out Davis' splits in the Instant Replay story.)
So Bochy decided not to burn another pitcher and put his faith in his sidewinder, who has held lefties to six hits in their last 49 at-bats (.122) against him.
“Well, I’ve got a guy who’s been throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Instead of going to Romo, at that point, you’ve got a matchup you like, lefty on lefty. We got a fly ball. He just hit it where we couldn’t get to it. … No, the way Lopez is throwing, I had the matchup I wanted.”
Lopez said he wasn’t surprised to see Bochy have him walk Jones to face the major league home run leader.
“You never want to put more guys on base, but my job is to get those lefties out and I’ve done a pretty good job of that,” said Lopez, whose ERA jumped from 1.32 to 2.25. “I had confidence that I could, and Bochy obviously did too. It came down to one pitch and I didn’t finish it and the rest is what it is.
“It was perfect placement.”
These moves worked out for Bochy all through October baseball in 2010 and ’12. But every move won’t work out. Every season won’t work out.
Look on the bright side. The Giants are playing better baseball, even if they aren’t coming up with the hits to win these home games any longer. In fact, they’re now .500 at home, with a 30-30 record. (And they're actually under .500 in home uniforms, since they were the "road" team when they beat the Reds in that odd doubleheader.)
They haven’t had a losing record at home since 2008.
But if it seems like it’s been a long time since they pulled a little walk-off magic, you’d be right. Seven walk-offs in April and May was unsustainable, sure. But the Giants have had just one of those celebratory wins in June, July and August combined.
The starting pitching is much better, though. And that means at least the Giants have a shot in these games.
“We’re not getting crushed like we did the last two months,” Lopez said.
I really thought Gregor Blanco would win it on a walk-off, slug bunt in the ninth.