SAN DIEGO – Every one-run loss is a dissection frog.
Examine how one rally died. Magnify one pitch that went awry. Cut open and second-guess one managerial decision. A passed ball that scores a run? Well, of course. Any or all might have changed the outcome.
The Giants’ streak of one-run games is up to eight, the franchise’s longest since 1910, when the Titanic was in dry dock. At least the Giants have won four of these or Bruce Bochy would have a biblical plague of frogs flopping on his desk.
We’ll devote this class hour to examine two situations in Friday’s 2-1 loss to the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. And we’ll respectfully leave aside Matt Cain, because really, do you need to hear for the billionth time about how well he pitched in a loss? (He's 0-2 despite allowing two runs, one earned, in his last two starts.)
Instead, let’s focus on Cain’s batterymate, who was Hector Sanchez, because Bochy saw fit to choose Friday night to give Buster Posey a break he probably needed.
In the first inning, Cain allowed a one-out triple to Chris Denorfia but was a pitch away from getting out of the inning. Then came the 3-1 changeup to Jedd Gyorko that Cain yanked a little too far outside.
Sanchez didn’t shuffle his feet. He didn’t change his glove angle to scoop it. He didn’t ensure that his body would be in front of the pitch. Instead, the ball glanced off his backhand stab and went to the backstop, scoring a run.
“Nothing I can say,” Sanchez said. "I feel bad because it’s probably a different story if I catch it.”
Fundamentally, should he have done something differently?
“All I can say is, in that situation, you have to be ready,” he said. “No matter what, you have to stop it. That’s your job. That’s all I can say. There’s no `excuse me’ because I have to be ready.”
Has he looked at video?
"I'd probably (smash) the computer," he said.
Cain attempted to take his share of the blame for getting in a bad count against Gyorko and for throwing a pitch that cut too much. It’s not like Sanchez fumbled a strike down the middle – the official scorer originally called it a wild pitch – but it’s a run that shouldn’t score against a major league catcher.
The lesson here: Sanchez, for all his defensive growth, still has his lapses.
Now let’s turn attention to another moment, which also happened to involve Sanchez in the seventh inning. The Giants were trailing 1-0 against Tyson Ross, who was as tough as he was marvelous, but started a rally when Pablo Sandoval hit a leadoff single and Hunter Pence followed with a walk. It was a situation where many managers would try to sacrifice the runs into scoring position.
But Bochy didn’t have the right personnel. Sandoval is not a fast runner and he could’ve been forced at third. Although Sanchez can get a bunt down, he’s even slower. A bad bunt could’ve turned into a double play, too.
Bochy had other options. He could have sent up a pinch hitter, a pitcher, even, to bunt for Sanchez. But that’s making two moves because he has to put Buster Posey behind the plate the next inning rather than pick a spot to pinch hit him. And with just a four-man bench, it’s really hard for Bochy to justify making a move that essentially costs him two players.
There was one other factor at work here. If the Giants sacrifice, they’re setting up an RBI situation for Brandon Crawford, who was batting .212 against right-handed pitching, and Ehire Adrianza, the No.8 hitter who isn’t paid to be the team’s run producer.
When Bochy talks about having better length in the lineup, this is what he means. With Posey and Michael Morse on the bench, the straw looked a whole lot shorter.
(It’s not like Bochy was going to pinch-hit Posey for Sanchez, and give up a left-handed matchup, either.)
So Bochy took his chances and took three shots at driving in Sandoval from second base. He ended up getting just two, since Sanchez grounded into a step-and-throw double play and Crawford lined out. Sanchez ended the game 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and one disastrous ball in play.
The lesson here: Do the Giants need that extra bench player? Eventually, yes.
But they also need Sandoval to step up his game and start tagging mistakes down the middle, like the one Huston Street threw him in the ninth. Sandoval popped up to end the first inning, too, when Angel Pagan’s leadoff double was wasted.
Maybe it’s just better to take this one-run loss, forget everything else and gush over Ross, a Cal Bear by way of Bishop O’Dowd High, who used a running fastball and chase-me breaking stuff to beat the Giants for the first time in his young and promising career. With that stuff, he would’ve beaten most teams on most nights.
“That was fun because I grew up an A’s fan,” Ross said. “East Bay always – Oakland.”
Hey, it takes courage to be unabashedly green. Just ask the frog.