SAN FRANCISCO -– Sergio Romo put on his socks, saw the media making skittish glances in his direction and waved them over.
“Let’s go,” he said. “You're all just staring at me.”
It was hard to know how Romo would respond to reporters after blowing a save for the second consecutive day. That’s never happened to him in the major leagues before.
But moments after the Colorado Rockies scuttled another ninth inning and claimed a 5-4 comeback victory, this time on Brandon Barnes' two-run, inside-the-park home run that inexcusably eluded Angel Pagan in center field, Romo stood at his locker and took every question.
Even if he didn’t have all the answers.
“I’m just in disbelief, really, that it happened especially the way it went down,” said Romo, when asked whether he thought Barnes’ looping line drive to right-center had any chance to get past Pagan. “It’s baseball. That’s all I’ve got, really. It’s baseball.
“I couldn’t have done anything better. If you look at the swings, there wasn’t one good swing. I can’t take anything away from them. They wanted to win today and they found a way to do it.”
For the second consecutive day. And both times, Pagan contributed huge mistakes. He threw to the wrong base Friday night, allowing the trail runner to move up. That precipitated an intentional walk and before you knew it, the Rockies had scored five earned runs off Romo –- a career high -– on four singles and that free pass.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy went right back to Romo on Saturday, even though the right-hander had thrown 37 pitches over the previous two days. The Giants had a one-run lead to protect courtesy of Buster Posey’s two-run home run and sacrifice fly, his first game with three or more RBIs in 11 months.
Romo got two quick outs. His slider had the usual snap. But then Charlie Blackmon floated a single to left field. And Barnes reached out to get enough barrel on an 0-1 slider, sending the Giants to their fifth loss in six games.
“I don’t feel I could do much more there,” Romo said. “I had two outs. We’re a pitch away there. They found a way to stay alive and I can’t take nothing away from them.”
Romo leads the majors with 20 saves and he’s blown four opportunities. The Rockies are responsible for three of those. That fact is stunning by itself, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture.
In six games against the Rockies, Romo has a 19.80 ERA, has allowed 12 hits in five innings and has one save out of four tries. In 24 games against the rest of baseball, Romo has a 1.93 ERA, has allowed nine hits in 23.1 innings and is 19 for 20 in save tries.
It’s obvious: the Rockies’ right-handed hitters are reaching out over the plate, ready to hit that slider. Barnes’ hit came on a bender that was a borderline strike, if it was a strike at all.
“It’s just familiarity,” Romo said. “They know what I’ve got. It’s no secret. I’ve been in this league long enough. I’m not going to surprise anybody nor am I trying to. They just got me.”
Last year, it was Pagan who got the Rockies with his walk-off, inside-the-park home run to win in memorable style May 25. This time, the Rockies returned the favor. They do say things have a way of evening out in this game, right?
Pagan’s comments weren’t altogether different from what Romo had to say: there wasn’t much more he could’ve done.
“I thought it was going to be a normal hop,” Pagan said. “It went a little to the right. I went for it with everything I’ve got to make that play. It happened the way it happened. It’s kind of hard. It spun. You can’t see that, to be honest.”
The Giants should have been playing no-doubles defense. They weren’t. Pagan was stationed in shallow center field and took a lateral route to Barnes’ drive instead of angling deeper. If the positioning or the route were a tad more conservative, Pagan cuts off that ball and Romo has one more shot at escaping the inning.
Instead, the ball rolled to the wall, and Barnes popped up from his dust-clouded slide into the plate in an every-muscle-flexed pose.
“Oh man, it was a cold water bucket for me,” said Pagan, of the ball getting past him. “I wanted to stop it so the runner couldn’t advance. There’s nothing you can do.
“Can’t make them all, brother. I wish I could. I wish I could make them all for my teammates. We’ve just got to move on, gotta turn the page and get them tomorrow.”
Prior to this weekend, Pagan had played a smart and sophisticated center field. He hadn’t made any of the mental mistakes that plagued him earlier in his career. But the last two games were not his finest. He took a bad route to a Josh Rutledge double earlier in Saturday’s game, too. It also should be noted that he saved a run for Ryan Vogelsong in the second inning when he made a sliding catch on Barnes.
Pagan hasn’t done Romo any favors of late, though.
Romo has appeared on three consecutive days and he said he would be ready for a save chance on Sunday, but there’s virtually no chance Bochy uses his closer again as the Giants try to avoid being swept. That’s not a lack of confidence from the manager. It’s a workload issue. Romo has thrown 51 pitches while appearing in three consecutive, and Bochy almost never runs a reliever out there for the fourth time in four days.
Back-to-back blown saves is new for Romo. Failure is not.
“I’ve been in this situation before,” he said. “I haven’t always been successful. I’ve failed back-to-back appearances before. It’s nothing new. I’ve got to stay positive. My teammates believe in me, that I’m still that guy. As long as I’ve got that jersey on my back, I’ll be fighting. That’s all I’ve got.
“I honestly believe we’re the hardest playing team every day. The effort is not the question. The confidence is not the question. It’s literally just been about the outcome these last two days.”
The Giants had one last chance to change that outcome in the bottom of the ninth, when Hector Sanchez’s infield pop-up hit the turf amid a crowd of Rockies and Pagan appeared to beat out a double-play grounder. But umpire Mike Muchlinski called him out, and despite at least one video angle that appeared to show that Pagan beat the play, a review delay of nearly three minutes ended with the Rockies shaking hands.
Pagan slinked off first base and back to the dugout. It was better than standing there and looking.