Programming note: Coverage of Reds-Giants begins on Friday at 6:30 p.m. with Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO – Adam Duvall gave a thrill to a sellout crowd, his parents, friends and even his host family from his time in Single-A San Jose on Thursday night. His first major league hit involved a trot around the bases.
Yet once again, at the end of the night, the Dodgers ran faster and harder -- and gained more ground.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Machi slips up in Giants' 3-1 loss to Reds]
The Dodgers overcame Adam Wainwright’s no-hit bid to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0. Meanwhile, the Giants ran into a difficult pitching performance of their own, but were unable to weather Mike Leake’s 12 strikeouts in a 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at AT&T Park.
Duvall’s home run in the seventh inning was the only tally for the Giants, whose lead has plummeted from 9 ½ games to just two – their slimmest advantage in the NL West since May 20.
Ryan Vogelsong allowed just one run to the Reds in six innings but took the loss. In his previous start, he was upset at giving up four runs in five innings at Arizona despite getting the victory. This time, he pitched well yet was left to stew over the one mistake that beat him.
“I pitched my butt off to strike out (Ryan) Ludwick, a guy who has given me trouble in the past, and then I hung a curve to the 8-hole hitter,” said Vogelsong, whose first-pitch curve to Zack Cozart resulted in an RBI double in the fifth inning.
“That chaps my butt a little bit. With this team, you can’t do that, can’t fall behind with the back end of their bullpen.”
There was no sigh of relief when Leake exited after holding the Giants to four hits and striking out 12 in eight innings. The Reds replaced him with Aroldis Chapman and his 102 mph fastball.
The Giants actually made some noise, as Buster Posey hit his second double of the game to bring the tying run to the plate with no outs. But Posey didn’t advance, and Duvall’s line drive to third base ended it.
Yes, Duvall lined out against Chapman in his first major league game. That has to count for something, right?
“I knew I had to get my foot down,” said Duvall, who saw a 101 mph pitch before hitting a changeup. “I was just trying to be as short as I could to the ball.”
There would be no second home run trot, though. Duvall still hadn’t come out of the clouds from his at-bat in the seventh inning, when he deposited an 0-2 pitch from Leake into the left field seats.
“That’s a feeling I’ll never forget, running the bases,” said Duvall, who figured it was more important to be sure to touch every base than try to make eye contact with his cheering section.
“To be honest, I was just hoping it’d go. I’ve heard the stories that it doesn’t fly here, so I was just hoping I got enough.”
Second baseman Joe Panik, who played with Duvall at three minor league levels, had fewer doubts.
“When I saw him hit it, I knew,” Panik said. “That’s his home run swing. When he connects on the barrel, it’s going to go. It doesn’t matter what park he’s in.
“I’ve seen him do it for a few years now. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. I didn’t think to expect one in his first game, maybe.
A season-ticket holder retrieved the ball and offered it to Duvall, who made an exchange after the game. The fan received a signed ball and a signed generic bat. Duvall only brought two of his own bats with him following his call-up from Triple-A Fresno a day earlier, so he’ll give the fan one of his autographed models at a later date. Duvall posed for pictures with the fan as well.
“I even took a picture for myself, so I’ll have that memory too,” he said, smiling.
Duvall became the 13th Giant (since 1919, at least) to hit a home run for his first big league hit in his debut game. Perhaps it worked to his benefit that he didn’t find out he was starting at first base until a couple hours before game time, due to Michael Morse’s respiratory ailment.
Did he take a moment to soak it all in?
“Yeah, the first inning when I ran out there,” he said. “The fans were packed in as usual. I just took a moment to think, `This is what I’ve worked for my whole life.’ Just took a moment to myself, then it’s get ready to play.”
Duvall might not be with the Giants for long. Brandon Belt was 1 for 3 with a hit by pitch in his first rehab game for San Jose Thursday night, and he’s expected to be activated in a little more than a week.
The Giants had three players in their lineup – Duvall, Panik and Tyler Colvin – who opened the season at Triple-A Fresno. Regardless of their personnel or who’s missing, they’ll be challenged the rest of this homestand. Johnny Cueto, Friday’s pitcher, has a 1.86 ERA. Alfedo Simon, a 10-game winner, starts on Saturday. Then the Cardinals come to town after that.
“We’ll play some good teams,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ll see some good pitching, both this team and the next one coming in. And it’s vital that we put some runs on the board.”
At least Posey’s foul ball off the left foot isn’t considered serious. He was hobbled for several moments behind the plate before resuming, and Bochy said the catcher’s toe “numbed up pretty good.”
Otherwise Posey had a tremendous game that included two doubles – one off Chapman’s 99 mph fastball – to give him a .376 average in June. He has hit safely in 20 of 22 games this month and has six doubles in his last six games. Prior to that, he had six doubles in his first 65 games.
Posey also contributed two acrobatic tags on plays at the plate. He has made a clear adjustment since mid-May, when the Braves’ Jason Heyward managed to slide around him and score despite being beaten by 15 feet by the throw. Posey is making certain to seal off the angle now.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford made one strong relay throw to the plate that led to one out. Panik made the other one, when speedy Billy Hamilton tried to turn a pop to second base into a sacrifice fly.
“As I kept going out further and further, I thought he’d probably go,” Panik said. “Hunter (Pence) said as I was catching the ball to be aware, so it was nice to have that little reminder too. It’s a good feeling to throw a guy like that out.”
Between Posey’s first double, Duvall’s shot and Pence’s 410-foot triple, the Giants probably would have had three home runs in 25 other major league parks. That is not the way it works here at China Basin, and they understand that all too well. They aren’t hitting home runs at the same clip, so they’ll just have to rediscover the art of the two-out hit and the rally capper.
Those hits eluded them against Leake and the Reds. And at the end of the night, the Giants lost ground again.