SAN FRANCISCO – It was supposed to be a safety squeeze. Brandon Crawford was supposed to bunt it past the pitcher. Gregor Blanco was supposed to watch and wait to make sure it did.
“On both ends, we didn’t execute,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, after a 5-3, 10-inning loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Madison Bumgarner threw his first quality start at home in more than two months and Michael Morse hit the Giants’ first three-run home run at AT&T Park since May. Both precious ingredients have been so difficult to procure here. It all looked so appetizing.
The Giants broiled the crap out of it anyway.
They were left with a black and bitter taste after Jeremy Affeldt appeared to slip on the mound while serving up a tying, two-run home run in the eighth inning. And the Phillies took the lead when Javier Lopez’s bases-loaded pitch ever so slightly ruffled the hem of Chase Utley’s garment.
Does this one rank as one of the more disapp--
“Yeah, no question,” Bochy said, cutting off a reporter. “Bumgarner threw great and we had our chances to add on. That’s what caught up with us. We ended up bunting into an out.”
It was a safety squeeze. Instead, it turned into … well, there is a word for self-inflicted damage, isn’t there?
The Giants remained 5 ½ games behind the Dodgers in the NL West and they’re still within a half-game of the Cardinals and Pirates, who co-lead the wild card picture. Yet when you miss another chance to win consecutive home games for the first time since June 7-8, you only find so much solace in the standings.
Some of those teams will rattle off hot streaks. The Giants appear incapable of joining them.
“You know what? We’re definitely running out of time to say, `Keep grinding it out and come back tomorrow,’” Bumgarner said. “But that’s what we’ve got to do. If we finish strong, we’ve still got time. We’ll be right in it.”
Bumgarner entered with a 5.60 ERA in 11 home starts vs. a 1.72 ERA on the road, and if the home struggles weren’t rattling him, at minimum they were on his mind. This time Bumgarner was nearly as good at home as he was July 23 at Philadelphia, when he tossed eight shutout innings.
He yielded a solo homer to Marlon Byrd in the fifth inning but nothing more while holding the Phillies to four hits in seven innings. He struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter. It was his first quality start at home since June 10.
“It seems like it’s been forever,” he said.
He handed a 3-1 lead to Affeldt. It took two batters for Affeldt to hand it back. Cody Asche became the first left-handed batter in more than three years – Jason Heyward on April 24, 2011 – to hit a home run against him. That was so long ago that Affeldt had allowed a home run to current teammate Hunter Pence more recently than he’d given one up to a lefty.
Bumgarner saw Affeldt slip on the mound.
“I’m just glad he’s all right,” Bumgarner said. “You don’t see him throw many fastballs up in the zone like that. When you slip, it throws off your delivery. It would affect me, but I’ll let him speak for himself.”
Affeldt declined to go into it.
“No excuse,” he said. “I just put a ball on a tee and he hit it where he was supposed to hit it. Fastball, middle of the plate. I made my adjustments from there but it was too late.”
Affeldt entered the game having racked up scoreless outings in 15 of 16 appearances. He’s been a steady force all season in the bullpen. So his slippage wasn’t nearly as irksome to Bochy as the avoidable mistakes that kept the Giants from adding onto their lead.
Blanco was thrown out on Crawford’s bunt in the sixth. Blanco also didn’t appear to bust it out of the box on a sacrifice bunt that he might have beaten out for a hit in the eighth inning. Angel Pagan was thrown out following a leadoff double in the seventh when Cole Hamels caught him running on first movement. Hunter Pence appeared highly overcaffeinated and undisciplined while striking out three times, too. Buster Posey looked every bit the .240 hitter he’s been at home this season. Pence, Posey and Pablo Sandoval grounded out in succession against Jonathan Papelbon in the 10th.
But it was Blanco’s baserunning that you could blot with the yellow highlighter. He has made some curious decisions on the bases in recent weeks, including steal attempts of third base with the team trailing by three or more runs in the late innings.
Is it time for Bochy to sit him down and talk to him?
“I talked to him tonight,” Bochy said. “It’s a fine line between being aggressive and being smart. He can be a very good baserunner. He’s just got to keep his focus out there. These guys are trying to make something happen and sometimes they probably push it too much. When he’s going right, he’s one of our better baserunners.”
Bochy took less issue with Tim Flannery’s send on Pablo Sandoval from second base on Joe Panik’s two-out single to right field in the ninth. Sandoval was thrown out by 20 feet.
“We’ve had trouble scoring runs and we’re all doing all we can as coaches,” Bochy said. “Pablo’s not a speed guy and that ball was smoked. He made a good throw. Hey, you move on after that.”
At least Bumgarner can feel good about a solid home start. And Morse can feel good about having three very good trips to the plate. In addition to his three-run homer, which was his 16th of the season but just his third in 196 at-bats since June 6, he also drew a walk after falling behind 0-2 while fouling a ball off his shin. And he hit a 400-foot out to right-center with such authority that Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels cursed himself on the mound before he turned around to glad tidings.
Of course, when you get all of that good stuff, and still torch it so bad you need to empty a bottle of Renuzit in the kitchen, it's only natural to wonder.
Will you ever savor anything good again?