Nolan Arenado walks it off for cycle, hands Giants toughest loss in season full of them

Nolan Arenado walks it off for cycle, hands Giants toughest loss in season full of them

DENVER — In a somber visiting clubhouse at Coors Field, a veteran position player shook his head as he slowly peeled off his jersey. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “Do you think someone put a voodoo curse on us?”

That might be the best explanation at this point. Sure, the Giants are bad in a traditional way, and they’re outmatched talent-wise against most of the teams in the National League at this point, but losses like Sunday’s almost defy description.

Losers of 14 of their previous 18, the Giants appeared to have avoided their first ever four-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies when Hunter Pence hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the top of the ninth. Twenty-eight minutes later, they suffered the worst of their 45 losses to date. 

Nolan Arenado hit a three-run, walk-off homer off Mark Melancon to give the Rockies a 7-5 win. The blast, his 21st in just 80 career games against the Giants, clinched the cycle. Arenado became the 31st player in MLB history to hit a walk-off homer to complete the cycle, and afterward, he called it the best moment of his career. 

The mood was much different down the hallway.

Melancon has two save opportunities in the last 22 days and he has blown them both. In the first season of a four-year, $62 million deal, he has a 5.06 ERA and four blown saves in 14 chances. 

“My performance has been absolutely terrible,” Melancon said. “I need to be better. That’s it.”

Melancon, who spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a right pronator strain, said he is fine physically. Some others in the organization believe he is not 100 percent, though, and his usage backs that up. The Giants aren’t giving their closer save opportunities, but Bochy also is not using him in non-save situations. Melancon has pitched just four times in June. 

Asked about the situation, Bochy backed up his closer. 

“Mark could have come out better. I mean, look at those hits,” Bochy said. “A blooper in center field, another one we couldn’t quite get to in center field, an eight-hopper between first and second. Of course their guy (Arenado) came through but he should have fared a lot better than what happened. He made great pitches. I mean, sure, there’s the home run at the end, but the first hit the ball was on the dirt. He jammed (Charlie) Blackmon there and then made great pitches on (DJ) LeMahieu. They just put it in play.”

There’s an alternative path, of course. Most of the game’s dominant closers get through the ninth on strikeouts, but that has never been Melancon’s calling card. For years, his method has worked beautifully, but in a park like Coors Field, relying on the BABIP Gods is a recipe for disaster. All five Rockies who came to the plate in the ninth put the ball in play. While the hits were relatively soft until Arenado’s, Melancon tipped his cap, saying Colorado’s lineup “has all the tools.”

“I didn’t execute as good as I wanted to,” he said. “That’s why they were able to make contact.”

Three straight singles with one out put one run across, cutting into a two-run lead the Giants had built in the top of the inning. Pence’s blast got Ty Blach off the hook for a loss on a day when he pitched well and got burned by two solo shots in his final inning. Brandon Crawford, who had homered early in the game, added an insurance run with a double. It wasn’t enough. 

Melancon said he was trying to go in on Arenado, who already had a triple, single, and RBI double. The world’s preeminent Giant-killer came up with runners on the corners. 

“I was hoping to get a ground ball to short,” Melancon said. 

The first pitch wasn’t in far enough and Arenado knocked it into the first row of the seats. He raised his arms as the sold-out park shook and chanted “M-V-P.”

“It’s a dream come true,” Arenado said in an on-field interview. “My whole goal was to get the ball in the outfield. We had a chance to tie the game, but thank God the ball went out.”

Arenado thanked the fans as he was showered with ice water. “It’s fun to be in Denver right now,” he said. 

The Giants couldn’t get to the airport fast enough. 

After another Giants clunker, Bochy tells players 'enough is enough'

After another Giants clunker, Bochy tells players 'enough is enough'

SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after yet another missed opportunity at the plate Sunday, a voice came over a speaker in the press box at AT&T Park and announced a 524th consecutive sellout. It nicely summed up this current stretch of Giants baseball. 

The seats are emptier than they used to be at first pitch, and they were just about abandoned in the ninth inning of an 8-2 loss, but for the most part the fans are still showing up in droves. One woman brought a toaster by the dugout Sunday morning and asked players and coaches to sign it, hoping to recapture the magic from across the bridge. Another, Bryan Stow, made his first appearance of the season at AT&T Park, met with Bruce Bochy, and said he hoped to see a win. As Matt Moore started warming up, a band set up on top of the visiting dugout to play hits that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. 

For a while, AT&T Park was rocking. And then, as has happened so often this summer, the game started. 

The Giants turned in another epic clunker in a season full of them. They have lost 12 of their last 13 games and 21 of 26, but it’s worse than the raw numbers. On most nights, some in the organization have noted privately, they are simply boring. It’s one thing to lose, it’s quite another to do it in this way. 

“There’s no getting around it,” Bochy said after the sweep. “I’ve been through some tough stretches here and this is as tough as any stretch I’ve seen. For some reason the baseball gods are really testing us here and (testing) this group. It’s not that they’re not coming out ready or trying, but enough is enough.

“At some point, we’ve got to find a way to get this thing turned around.”

Even a slight pivot would be welcomed by the faithful. There were scattered boos Sunday, the latest in a growing trend. This is a fan base that has seen the highest highs, but rarely in franchise history have the lows been this low. 

The crowd no longer turns to the rally lights that were used so often in an awful April, but the noise still grows with each new rally. And then, every single time Sunday, the Giants killed off any hope. 

In the second inning, a Brandon Belt bunt single and Brandon Crawford bloop put two on, but a pair of rookies flied out. 

In the third, the bases were loaded ahead of Buster Posey. He flied out to bring one run across, and there were still runners on the corners for Belt, who leads the team in homers. On a 2-2 count, Hunter Pence inexplicably took off for second. He was caught, the inning was over, and the two-run Mets lead was intact. Bochy said he did not send Pence. 

In the sixth, there were two on with no outs for Posey. Both runners bolted to stay out of a double play. Posey popped up to first -- for a double play.

“He’s not a guy that strikes out, so I’m pretty confident sending runners with Buster,” Bochy said. “We can’t keep laying back. We’re trying to force the issue a bit and stay out of double plays.”

In the eighth, the Giants loaded the bases for Posey and Belt. Posey grounded out. Belt struck out for the third time. 

“We’re getting guys out there,” Bochy said. “We’re not doing enough damage.”

Matt Moore’s damage was self-inflicted. He twice gave up homers to the guy — Rene Rivera — hitting in front of the pitcher. Moore said he has stopped throwing his cutter the past three starts and tried to get his four-seamer going, but the Mets were teeing off. Moore gave up five runs on seven hits. He was pulled in the fifth, left to think about mechanics that still aren’t right. 

“The cutter is a little bit different of a pitch and at times it can take away from the four-seam fastball location-wise, and command of the four-seam was starting to go down the more I threw (the cutter),” Moore said. “I’m anxious to get back to it, but the foundation has got to be throwing the four-seam fastball. I need to execute where they’re carrying through the zone, not running or cutting.”

Moore said his confidence is fine and his problems are not physical. Others can no longer say that. Austin Slater, a rare bright spot in this five-win month, was pulled with a tight hip flexor. He was headed for an MRI. 

Slater is too young to be one of the players Bochy approached after the game. He said he talked to a few, though, passing along that “enough is enough” message. Moore, last in the National League in ERA (6.04), was not one who needed a reminder. 

“I’m sitting on a six right now with not a lot of wins and not enough team wins when I’m throwing,” he said. “It’s been 'enough' for me for the last couple of months.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants get swept by Mets at home

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants get swept by Mets at home

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The Mets spent the first half of this week in Los Angeles, where they got swept by the Dodgers and outscored 36-11. Their beat writers publicly wrote an end to any thoughts of the postseason. The fan base renewed the calls for manager Terry Collins to be fired. 

That’s where they were. And then they flew to San Francisco. 

AT&T Park continues to be a place where others get healthy, and this weekend it was the Mets. The Giants lost 8-2 on Sunday, getting swept by a similarly disappointing team. They have lost 12 of their last 13 games. 

There’s not much more to be said about it, but I did anyway. Here are five things to know from the day a relief pitcher got an at-bat but it would have been far too cruel to text your friends … 

—- Matt Moore’s line: 4 1/3 innings, seven hits, five earned runs, three walks, five strikeouts. Through 16 starts, he has a 6.04 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. He ranks last among qualified NL starters in ERA. Only Matt Cain (1.73) has a worse WHIP. Good times. 

—- Mets righty Rafael Montero entered with an 0-4 record and 6.49 ERA. He gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings. Good times. 

—- With runners on the corners and two outs in the third inning, Brandon Belt strolled to the plate. He leads the team in homers. Hunter Pence tried to steal second for some reason and he was caught, ending the inning and keeping Belt from batting in a two-run game. Good times. 

—- With two on and no outs in the sixth, the Giants sent the runners to make sure Buster Posey didn’t hit into a double play. Posey popped up softly to first and Joe Panik was doubled off of second. Good times. 

—- One last bit of bad news: Austin Slater was removed from the game with a tight right hip flexor.