SAN FRANCISCO -– The Giants plan to activate first baseman Brandon Belt from the disabled list prior to Friday’s game at San Diego.
Maybe they can purchase the contract of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard to play second base. Or Gheorghe Muresan, if he’s not too busy.
The Giants twice threw way too high to second base Thursday afternoon, botching what should have been easy double plays in a dispiriting 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park.
First baseman Adam Duvall sailed his throw to open up the Cardinals’ three-run fourth inning against Madison Bumgarner. Reliever Yusmeiro Petit channeled his inner Christopher Cross when he sailed one in the seventh.
The Cardinals gave the Giants no significant breakdowns to exploit, and a new-look lineup offered no breakouts. Buster Posey had a controversial strikeout in a big spot with the bases loaded as the Giants dropped their fifth consecutive home series and lost for the 14th time in their last 17 games at Third and King.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner (9-6) wasn’t sharp for a second consecutive start, but he deserved a better fate after getting charged with five runs (four earned) on six hits and three walks in five innings.
Bumgarner paid for a mistake in the second inning, when Buster Posey wanted a 1-0 fastball up and in to Jhonny Peralta and the left-hander didn’t get it far enough on either score. Left fielder Tyler Colvin didn’t even see it off the bat as it landed in the left field seats for a two-run home run.
Bumgarner paid for Duvall’s mistake in the fourth. Mark Ellis, as inviting a double-play target as there is in baseball, hit a grounder to first base and Duvall spun and threw to second base. The throw sailed into the outfield and instead of a relatively easy 3-6-3 double play that would have ended the inning, the Cardinals had two on and one out.
Jon Jay lofted a lawn-dart double down the left field line and pitcher Carlos Martinez grounded a two-run single past drawn-in shortstop Brandon Crawford.
Scorers can’t assume a double play, so just one of the three runs in the inning was unearned. But all were undeserved.
In addition to the three runs, Duvall also cost Bumgarner an additional 22 pitches in the inning.
Bumgarner was lifted for pinch hitter Joaquin Arias in the fifth inning, even though the pitcher already had an RBI single earlier in the game. Bumgarner’s eight RBIs are tied for the major league lead among pitchers.
Bumgarner has a better average than Arias and the same number of RBI.
There’s still a decent chance that Bumgarner ends up on the NL All-Star team, especially since he’s scheduled to pitch on the Sunday before the break and wouldn’t be eligible. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny could name Bumgarner and replace him with another pitcher.
The relief crew continues to work sloppily. Juan Gutierrez, who was so good at home for the better part of three months, gave up an RBI triple to Shane Robinson in the sixth. And Petit’s error led to a run in the seventh.
At the plate
A new-look lineup didn’t produce enough against hard-throwing rookie Carlos Martinez.
Instead it was the bottom of the order that accounted for the Giants’ first run. Gregor Blanco, demoted from leadoff to eighth, started the third inning with a double down the right field line on a down and in pitch. Then Bumgarner slashed his RBI single to left field.
The Giants’ best chance against Martinez (2-3) came in the fifth inning, when Blanco reached on a bunt single, Hunter Pence beat out an infield hit following a replay reversal and Joe Panik drew a walk. But Posey struck out on a 2-2 curveball, and argued that he foul tipped it. Replays appeared to show that the ball hit the dirt before catcher Yadier Molina secured it. Either way, Posey was called out.
The Giants scored their second run in the sixth when Brandon Crawford singled with two aboard and Tyler Colvin scored on an error in center field. But Blanco struck out and pinch hitter Hector Sanchez looked awful from the right side while grounding out to short. The Giants certainly could’ve used Marco Scutaro in that spot. Maybe they’ll get him back later this month.
The Giants received just one hit out of the Nos. 1-5 batters in the lineup. The Cardinals had three hits from the No. 9 spot alone, two from pitchers.
Pablo Sandoval continues to step up his defensive game. Despite having the entire left side of the field to cover on a shift play, Sandoval made a diving stop of Oscar Taveras’ grounder and threw to start a 5-4-3 double play in the fifth inning.
The Giants prevented a run in the eighth when Tyler Colvin caught a moderately deep fly ball near the line and threw a one-hop strike to the plate. Posey applied the tag on pitcher Seth Maness to complete the double play.
If only the Giants had completed those other two double plays as well.
The Giants announced 41,181 paid and Cardinals fans left happy. Then again, they’re always happy. They even consider Ted Drewes mediocre Frozen Custard a gourmet experience!
The Giants begin a three-game series with the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Friday. Matt Cain (1-6, 4.38 ERA) takes the mound against Padres left-hander Eric Stults (2-11, 5.36). First pitch is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Tim Hudson (7-5, 2.59) vs. right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne (2-0, 0.66) on Saturday and Tim Lincecum (7-5, 4.06) vs. right-hander Jesse Hahn (4-1, 1.95) on Sunday.