SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants did so many things right Thursday night.
Adam Duvall’s first major league hit resulted in a joyous bleacher scramble for a souvenir. The Giants threw out two runners on crisp throws and expert tags at the plate. Pablo Sandoval looked like a Gold Glove third baseman on several tough plays. Ryan Vogelsong did more than enough to subdue a talented Cincinnati Reds lineup through six innings.
And yet … their MomenTim is gone.
One day after Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter buoyed the club, the Giants were weighted down by heavy bats. Duvall’s home run was one of just five hits as the Giants lost 3-1, and their lead in the NL West is down to just two games over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It’s their smallest advantage in the standings since May 11.
The Giants have lost 12 of their last 16, and what can go wrong has gone wrong. On a night they did so many things right, right-hander Jean Machi gave up his first run since April 15 as the Reds scored twice off him in the seventh inning.
Starting pitching report
Vogelsong took the loss but continued to pitch well against the Reds, the team he so memorably beat in Game 3 of the 2012 NLDS – the first of six elimination victories for the Giants in that magical postseason run.
This time Vogelsong (5-4) held them to a run on five hits and no walks while striking out seven in six innings before Bruce Bochy lifted him for a pinch hitter. The only run he allowed came in the fifth, when Jay Bruce hit a one-out single and No.8 hitter Zack Cozart doubled on a first-pitch curveball. Bruce barely beat the relay throw from second baseman Joe Panik to the plate.
Cozart’s double was the only extra-base hit that Vogelsong allowed. He entered having given up 14 extra-base hits (12 doubles and two triples) in 16 innings spanning his previous three starts.
It helped that Vogelsong retired the first batter in every inning but the sixth, when Billy Hamilton singled and took second base on Todd Frazier’s infield hit off Pablo Sandoval’s glove. Hamilton promptly stole third base, then tried to use his otherworldly speed to turn a pop-up to second base into a sacrifice fly.
Panik wasn’t surprised to see Hamilton take off after catching the ball on the outfield grass. Still, it took an on-target throw and Buster Posey had no leisure time before putting down his tag to finish off the double play.
That was the end for Vogelsong, who struck out 16 in 12.1 innings over his two starts against the Reds this season.
With his first pitch in the seventh, Jean Machi’s scoreless streak ended at 25.1 innings. Brandon Phillips took him deep, snapping a streak that matched the A’s Ryan Doolittle for the longest current scoreless streak in the major leagues.
It was the first home run allowed by Machi in exactly one year and three days; he gave up shots to Justin Ruggiano and Marcell Ozuna on June 23 of last season at Miami.
It didn’t end there. Bruce hit a double – breaking Machi’s 0-for-26 streak against lefty batters – and scored on Ryan Ludwick’s single up the middle. At least Machi managed to pitch around Joe Panik’s second missed-catch error in three games.
At the plate
Mike Leake entered on a roll and hit the Giants like tenpins, racking up 12 strikeouts in eight innings. He took a shutout into the seventh before Duvall, in his third big league at-bat, knocked an 0-2 pitch into the left field bleachers.
He became the 13th Giant (since 1919, at least) to collect a home run for his first big league hit in his debut game. Brett Pill was the last to do it, in 2011. John Bowker did it in 2008. And then there’s Will Clark, of course.
Buster Posey doubled twice and has six doubles in his last six games. He had just
Six doubles in his 65 games prior to that. His deep drive to the gap in right-center brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Sandoval grounded out, pinch hitter Michael Morse struck out and Duvall lined out sharply to third base to end it.
Their other prime chance came in the sixth when Hunter Pence hit a two-out triple and Posey walked. But Sandoval struck out on a 3-2 fastball.
In addition to Panik’s throw to the plate on Hamilton, shortstop Brandon Crawford made his second strong throw to the plate in three games as part of a relay that threw out Phillips in the eighth. And for the second time in three games, Posey smothered every angle and went wide to prevent being beaten by a creative slide. He is determined not to get Heywarded again.
The Giants announced 41,156 paid. At least Team USA is through.
The Giants and Reds continue their four-game series at AT&T Park on Friday. It’ll be Madison Bumgarner ((9-4, 2.63 ERA) vs. Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto (7-5, 1.86). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT.