Kruk & Kuip: Giants start to show life offensively
Denard Span's diving catch prevented the Giants from scoring the tying run and ended the game. (COMCAST SPORTSNET)
WASHINGTON -- Three flashes from this lost yet endless summer of Giants baseball:
--June 17 at AT&T Park, 12th inning, two outs, a runner at second base:
Padres center fielder Will Venable, his back almost totally turned to the infield, makes a full-extension catch on Juan Perez. Brandon Belt could’ve skipped home with a walk-off win. Instead the Giants lost in the 13th.
--June 25 at Dodger Stadium, ninth inning, two outs, runners at first and second base:
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp sprints straight back, makes a leaping catch at the wall and comes down with Marco Scutaro’s deep drive, punching the wall for emphasis. The Dodgers won 6-5.
--August 14 at Nationals Park, ninth inning, two outs, a runners at first and second base: Denard Span now has something to talk about with Venable and Kemp.
Hunter Pence thought he had a two-run double to put the Giants ahead and complete a comeback from a five-run deficit. So did everyone in the visiting dugout. The crowd noise was the first indication to Pence, and Belt running from second base, that something wasn’t right.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Nationals 6, Giants 5]
It wasn’t. Span made a diving catch on the grass and the Giants have more evidence that this is not their season. Their 6-5 loss was their 67th on the year – one away from matching their 68 losses from one year ago.
Leave it to Pence to find a positive out of this -- and make a tremendous board game reference along the way.
“If it’s Candy Land every year, and we win the World Series every year, who’d want to watch?” Pence said. “Not to say we’re out of it. We’re still fighting here. But these situations add character. Humility makes you stronger.”
Maybe so, but the Giants took a wrong turn somewhere in the Gumdrop Mountains and ventured straight into the Molasses Swamp. They’ve reached the stage where moral victories probably mean as much, if not more, than the actual ones.
They had a few of those, including Pablo Sandoval’s first double in 54 at-bats (his last one came July 28) as part of his first three-hit game since May 17. They also saw Brandon Belt stay hot with a tape measure home run in the eighth and an RBI single in the ninth.
Mostly, they put themselves within a few inches of winning on a night in which they trailed 6-1 after the fourth.
Pence didn’t know how close he came to a double. He still hadn’t seen replay of Span’s catch.
“I definitely thought that was a hit,” Pence said. I didn’t even see him catch it. I had my head down, running. The crowd noise made me look up. I was in shock. … He apparently made a spectacular play. I still haven’t seen it.
“I’ll also say it was really spectacular to even be in that situation. The boys, we fought hard. They had some great at-bats. That’s what this game is about.”
Some breaks help, too. Not to suggest luck is the only variation between last year’s World Series winners and this year’s team, which threatens to become the third team in baseball history, and the first since the 1998 Marlins, to finish last place a year after winning a title.
But Pence’s triple-hit? It’s not happening this year.
Belt had the same perspective that Pence did. He didn’t see the catch. He heard it.
“It was a slider and from second base, I could see he stayed on the ball really well,” Belt said. “I didn’t think there was really any way (Span) was going to get there.”
Said Bochy: “They fought so hard. It’s a shame they couldn’t get a break.”
Bochy extended that bad luck to Tim Lincecum, who really made just one mistake -- a firm but plate-splitting 94-mph fastball to Anthony Rendon -- in a five-run fourth inning. The rest was all chops and bloops and bleeders.
“They go out and play all nine innings, regardless of what I do,” Lincecum said. “They’ve done a great job of fighting. And personally, for me, it’s about just accepting the changes I’ve made and knowing I’ve done the homework and done everything I could.”
Some years, it doesn't matter. It falls down like a house of cards. Or of peanut brittle.