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DENVER – The Giants’ 10-9 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Monday will drop into the haze as another of those crazy, Coors Field games where no lead was safe, every extra out was a swig of strychnine and the Giants failed to hold onto a five-run advantage.
Unless it’s remembered for something else.
“He hit 100?” said Hunter Pence, his eyes hopefully wide. “It looked like he was throwing hard.
For the first time in his baseball life, Hunter has another Hunter as a teammate. And this one, Hunter Strickland, blew straight fuel after the Giants had fallen behind in the eighth inning.
Strickland threw 16 fastballs in a scoreless eighth inning. Twelve of them hit 98 mph. Three hit 99. One touched 100.
“You have to like the way the first two guys got on and he kept his poise out there,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got a great arm and he’s a tough kid. He kept his composure.”
Despite giving up two singles, Strickland sped up Nolan Arenado’s bat before getting him to pop up a slider. Then he benefited from a would-be basestealer getting thrown out at second base before escaping on a ground out.
Unlike Brian Wilson, who made his debut on the same Coors Field mound in 2006, he didn’t rip an oblique in the process.
This is an important month for Strickland and for the Giants, who will be stretched to address several roster issues in the offseason. One of them is right-hander Sergio Romo, who will be a free agent and command at least $5 million per season. If they feel they have an able replacement in Strickland, they could redirect those funds toward re-signing Pablo Sandoval, Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong or all of the above.
Strickland, who blew out his elbow ligament while closing a game in May of last season for Single-A San Jose, certainly has Wilson’s maniacal workout habits. He also has some edge to his personality, if fewer quirks.
It’s clear the Giants were sitting up and taking notes as he entered in the eighth. They remembered seeing him throw hard even though he was barely halfway through his rehab workload in the spring.
“He’s an absolute animal of a workout guy,” said Pence, which coming from him, are gilded words. “We weren’t too surprised to see him up here and there’s a lot of excitement to see him on the mound.”
He nearly became the winning pitcher, but the Giants could only tie with two runs in the ninth inning. Then Romo, pitching for the second time after appearing in the May 22 suspended game earlier in the day, gave up Colorado’s winning run in the bottom of the inning.
With runners at the corners and left-handed hitting Charlie Blackmon at the plate, Bochy could have ordered Romo to issue an intentional walk. But the manager seldom likes to load the bases and give his pitcher no margin for error. Romo likely was under orders to pitch around Blackmon, and a first-pitch two-seamer was nearly picked out of the dirt and flung into right field for the game winner. (If you want to pin this one on Bruce Bochy, ask why he stuck with Jean Machi -- a pitcher whose splitter doesn't work too well here -- for so long in the seventh.)
In the end, it was another Coors Field special. Tim Hudson and the bullpen couldn’t hold a five-run lead in the sixth inning. Pence’s three-run home run and three RBI hits from Brandon Crawford wasn’t enough.
And Hudson remained winless for his career at Coors. He even took two no-decisions in one day, since he started the May 22 game and threw three innings before a rain delay washed him out.
“We had the game in hand,” Hudson said. “When it’s 7-2, you feel you’ve got a chance to win a ballgame. But 7-2 here isn’t that big a lead. You want to go to that ninth inning with a lead because, I mean, you can give up a broken-bat homer here.
“Nothing really seems secure.”