Sloppy defense costs Giants in back-and-forth slugfest at Coors Field

Sloppy defense costs Giants in back-and-forth slugfest at Coors Field

DENVER — The secret about Coors Field is that often times it’s not the home runs that kill you. Oh they leave their mark, but it’s the bloops that turn into singles, the lazy fly balls that turn into doubles, and the gappers that go for three bases that really add up. 

Because of that, this is a place where you can’t skimp on outfield defense. You will pay for your mistakes, and the Giants certainly did Friday. They might have actually completed the comeback this time, but a brutal stretch in the seventh put the finishing touches on a 10-8 loss to the Rockies. 

Trailing 7-5 at the time, Bruce Bochy sent Jeff Samardzija back out on a batter-by-batter basis. Neither player nor manager lasted long. Samardzija’s 3-2 pitch to DJ LeMahieu appeared to catch the inner edge, but home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom disagreed. Samardzija felt Cederstrom gave up on the pitch too soon, missing out when it caught an inch of the plate. He pointed at Cederstrom and soon Bochy was running out to argue. He was ejected and Samardzija was pulled after six-plus up-and-down innings. 

“It was just frustration,” Bochy said. “I told him he missed it. I still believe he missed it. That's a big out. We finally make a pitch and get the guy out. That’s a big out (he missed). They ended up putting up a crooked number in that inning.”

As Samardzija walked off the field, he had a few more words for Cederstrom. He later said the umpire had a good night overall. 

“We’re in the seventh inning — there are a lot of emotions,” Samardzija said. “I’m out there fighting. He’s a professional and I said what I had to say and he didn’t throw me out. The one pitch I was unhappy with was in a situation where I really needed it.”

The walk set off a comically bad stretch. A passed ball got LeMahieu to second and he scored when Carlos Gonzalez’s flare to right-center dropped just in front of Hunter Pence. That was only the beginning. Two batters later — after a sacrifice fly made possible by two defensive mistakes — Pence couldn’t handle Raimel Tapia’s single to right. It clanked off his glove and bounced toward the wall, Gonzalez scoring from first and Tapia ending up on third. He, too, would score, on a double to right that was just out of Pence’s reach. 

“The ball popped up on me,” Pence said. “There might be a small part of me trying to do too much because (other) balls seemed to be just out of reach. It’s unacceptable. I’ve got to make better plays out there.”

Pence is said to be healthy, and he said the lights were not a problem. The ball has been taking off in this series — five homers were hit Friday — but outfield defense has been an issue all year, not just in this series. Per FanGraphs, the Giants’ outfield has been worth negative 30 defensive runs saved, the worst mark in the big leagues. And that was before Friday’s mistakes. 

“We’ve got to clean it up a little bit here,” Bochy said. 

Pence said players might be trying to do so much because they want to turn this around so badly. The emotion showed earlier, particularly on Samardzija’s two-run homer. It was his first in four years and traveled 446 feet, the longest by a pitcher since Statcast began tracking it in 2015. 

Samardzija flipped his bat, held a wing up on his way around the bases, and shot out a Ric Flair scream as he crossed the plate. A few minutes later he gave up five runs, including a three-run homer to Ian Desmond that wouldn’t go out anywhere else. Samardzija wasn’t able to celebrate his homer very much, but he also didn’t blame the park for his eight-run night. 

“It’s a tough place, but listen, it’s even both ways,” he said. “It helps out both teams.”

On this night, so did the Giants. 

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' loss to Rockies in slugfest

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' loss to Rockies in slugfest

BOX SCORE

DENVER — A 93-degree night at Coors Field is an absolute nightmare for pitchers, and Friday night’s action certainly lived up to expectations. 

The Giants and Rockies combined for five homers, including a go-ahead three-run shot by Ian Desmond in the fifth. The Giants played sloppy defense from there, costing themselves a couple of crucial late-inning runs in a 10-8 loss. 

The Giants have dropped four straight and 13 of their last 17. Yikes. Anyway, here are five things to know so you can impress the person next to you at the bar on this Friday night … 

--- Samardzija is one of the few pitchers who can go toe-to-toe with Madison Bumgarner in batting practice, so it’s actually kind of a surprise that it took him 46 starts as a Giant to go deep. Samardzija hit a two-run blast in the fifth, his third in the big leagues and first since 2013. The ball went an estimated 446 feet and was the longest homer by a pitcher since Statcast started tracking them three years ago. It was also longer than any of Bumgarner’s in-game blasts. 

--- Samardzija screamed as he crossed the plate. The good vibes didn’t last long. The Rockies got two runs back right away and then three more on Desmond’s two-out homer. The ball looked to be a flyout to right, but kept carrying in classic Coors Field fashion. A livid Samardzija stormed off the field at the end of the inning. He was charged with eight runs. 

--- The Giants have taken a big step back defensively, and nowhere are the problems as glaring as in right field. Hunter Pence had a brutal stretch in the seventh as the Rockies tacked in three runs. He couldn’t catch up with a bloop to shallow right-center and also came up short on a liner to deep right-center. Both could have been outs. In between, a single bounced off his glove, allowing a runner to score all the way from first. 

--- Bruce Bochy took his first ejection of the year after Samardzija walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh. Ball four was right on the inside edge of the strike zone and Samardzija pointed at home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom. When Cederstrom started walking toward the mound, Nick Hundley got in the way and then Bochy came out to have a few heated words. 

--- Joe Panik had a homer and two doubles. He raised his slugging percentage 29 points in one night.

Giants Notes: Blach pulls a Bumgarner; Moore rocked on road again

Giants Notes: Blach pulls a Bumgarner; Moore rocked on road again

DENVER — In the seventh inning Thursday, manager Bruce Bochy walked out to see the home plate umpire and signaled for his rookie left fielder to play third base for the first time as a professional. It kept getting weirder from there. 

In the top of the eighth, with two on, Bochy called on rookie left-hander Ty Blach to pinch-hit for reliever Josh Osich. He was out of bats on the bench, having used Aaron Hill and Kelby Tomlinson as pinch-hitters and Nick Hundley and Gorkys Hernandez as injury replacements. What did Bochy tell Blach? 

“We just want you to get a base hit,” he said, smiling. “You don’t need to hit it out.”

Blach obliged, lining an RBI single up the middle at 100 mph. An inning later, Bochy again had to turn to the rarely seen move. This time it was Jeff Samardzija pinch-hitting for Bryan Morris, and that led to a more urgent conversation between a coach and player. Denard Span was on second and third base coach Phil Nevin got his attention. 

“Phil gave me a look like, ‘Come right now.’ (Greg) Holland is slow to the plate and we’ve got Shark up there. Let’s try to make something happen,” Span said. 

Span immediately took off for third, stealing without a throw. When he got there, Nevin told him they would still have to be aggressive. Span took off on a ball in the dirt and was thrown out on a play so close that a long replay was needed. The call was confirmed. Span said he thought it was a coin flip at the plate. 

It was the right move, and it very nearly put a lead in Mark Melancon’s hands. As with most plays recently, the Giants just came up an inch short. 

--- From last night, updates on Buster Posey and Eduardo Nuñez. The news was mostly good, but you have to figure the Giants will make a move or two today. With Posey and Nuñez likely out a couple of days, they’re down to two healthy bodies on the bench. The Hunter Strickland suspension should begin any day now, so the bullpen will be short, too. 

On that note, it’s worth writing here that Joan Gregorio, a starter at Triple-A, was a late scratch Thursday night. Gregorio is on the 40-man roster and could serve as a long reliever this weekend. We’ll see if he shows up today. 

--- I wrote before the game about how Bochy is baffled by the delay with the Strickland ruling. He expressed his displeasure after the game, saying he was told a decision would be made two days ago. 

“This suspension thing is hanging over us,” Bochy said. “That’s disappointing.”

--- Early in the game, Span was robbed of a two-base bloop single by a diving Trevor Story. 

“It’s the story — pun intended — of how our season has been,” Span said of the unlucky play. 

--- Matt Moore was rocked, and he now has a 9.24 ERA on the road. 

“At times it felt they knew what was coming and that’s a bad feeling as a pitcher,” Moore said. 

He did not think he was tipping, but said he’ll review the tape as he always does. 

“It just wasn’t a good night,” Moore said. “I felt I did a decent job of getting ahead and there were some two-strike swings that weren’t defensive — they were big swings.”

Moore said he’ll try to be better about burying change ups and off-speed pitches with two strikes. 

“They were floating over the zone,” he said.