SAN FRANCISCO –- Madison Bumgarner really, really enjoys hitting home runs.
He got to savor a trot around the bases Sunday afternoon. He also put down a successful safety squeeze. He even threw out a runner at third base when he was backing up the plate. And he used his curveball and cutter to get the Giants within six outs of a victory.
But against the depleted Colorado Rockies this weekend, those last outs were grains of sand. And a three-run lead slipped away in the eighth inning of an 8-7 loss Sunday afternoon at AT&T Park.
The Rockies beat Sergio Romo in the ninth inning Friday. They did it again Saturday. This time, with Romo getting a day to rest, Giants manager Bruce Bochy never got to sort through his committee options in the ninth. Juan Gutierrez couldn’t carry the lead that far. Gutierrez hadn’t allowed a run in all 16 of his home appearances this season before retiring just two of his six batters in the eighth. Justin Morneau’s two-run double off Javier Lopez put the Rockies ahead.
“He served it in a good place,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s the way this series went.”
Suddenly, the Giants were swept in a series where they held three leads in the eighth inning or later.
The Giants had been 34-1 when leading after seven complete. The Rockies had been 0-24 when they trailed after seven.
“It just stinks for us,” said Bumgarner, who couldn’t enjoy any of his good deeds after the Giants lost for the sixth time in seven games. “We should’ve won a lot of the games we lost on this homestand.”
Said Bochy: “That’s why it’s tough to take this because we’re a couple outs away from a sweep and instead we got swept. … A day off is probably coming at a good time. We’ve got to regroup and we’ve got to get things back in order.”
The bullpen needs a break. Bochy didn’t want to use Romo for a fourth consecutive game. He didn’t want to push Jean Machi for the fourth in a row, either, before finding himself in a box after the eighth inning got away from them. Don't expect much shakeup of relief roles, with the exception of Santiago Casilla returning to the bullpen Tuesday in Chicago. The club activated him from the DL after Sunday's game and optioned George Kontos to Triple-A Fresno.
Besides, the galling part of Sunday’s loss happened much earlier, when the Giants stranded nine runners in the first four innings. There were some execution mistakes and also some plain old bad luck, such as when Pablo Sandoval lined out with the bases loaded.
“We had chances to put the game away,” Bochy said.
That’s what you do to teams like the Rockies, who are missing Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer and Nolan Arenado –- three of their best four hitters. Troy Tulowitzki sat out Saturday’s game with a sprained toe, too. You put the game away. You pile on and let the second string finish up.
It’s not as if the Rockies pitching was impenetrable in the series. Juan Nicasio allowed 10 baserunners in two-plus innings Sunday but the Giants netted just three runs against him. Jorge De La Rosa left after three innings Friday because of back spasms. If any team was positioned to break down in the late innings because of bullpen fatigue, it figured to be the Rockies.
The Giants built the best record in baseball by stepping on necks and beating lesser opponents. They won’t see the Rockies any smaller than they are now. But no matter how baldy you’re trailing on points, you have until the final bell to score a TKO. That’s what Walt Weiss’s team did.
At least Buster Posey appears to be OK after a foul tip to the mask led to his departure in the fourth inning. Angel Pagan’s back doesn’t appear to be a big deal, even though he couldn’t swing and Bochy appeared mildly irritated that he wasn’t available.
And there’s this: the Giants are still 6 ½ games up in the NL West.
“It doesn’t seem like we’re playing that bad,” Bumgarner said. “We just didn’t come up on the winning side. For this homestand to go as rough as it did for us, we’re still in good shape.”
It was pointed out that three of Bumgarner’s four career home runs have come against the Rockies, who likely won’t be keen on challenging him again.
“Well, I’ve got to learn to hit some breaking balls, I guess,” he said.
That was the only bit of levity in the postgame clubhouse.