Ball lost in lights, failure to execute late haunt Giants in loss to Rockies

Ball lost in lights, failure to execute late haunt Giants in loss to Rockies

DENVER — There were a lot of plays that decided Friday’s game, including a Johnny Cueto pitch that sailed over the the right field wall for a grand slam and a liner to right that got away from Hunter Pence and turned into an inside-the-park homer. But the play that seemed to stick with manager Bruce Bochy the most was one the Giants didn’t make at the plate. 

With two on and no outs in the eighth, Bochy sent Gorkys Hernandez up to bunt. Hernandez couldn’t get one down and instead flied out. Two batters later, the Rockies were out of the inning with their one-run lead intact, and they held on for a 6-5 win at Coors Field, a place where execution isn’t often talked about, but still matters the same. 

The Giants lost a one-run game for the sixth time this season. Bochy knows what the issue is.

“If you look at them there’s something where you didn’t execute,” he said. “It probably caught up with us, not getting the bunt down.”

The rhythm of an inning changes when there are runners on second and third instead of first and second, but it’s not hard to imagine the Giants getting that tying run home. Denard Span came up next and flied out to deep center, but there was no runner on third to jog home. 

“We’re having a tough time scoring runs,” Bochy said. “We’ve got to execute and do the little things.”

In a park that plays small, the Giants paid for several mistakes. The one that put them behind came on defense. Cueto had already given up a grand slam in the fourth and put another runner on when Charlie Blackmon hit a two-out liner to right. Pence chased it but lost it in the lights, falling awkwardly as the ball shot to the outfield wall. Pence got up and limped after the ball as Blackmon raced home for an inside-the-park homer. 

“It was in the lights the whole time,” Pence said. “There are a lot of balls in the lights and you’ve got to fight your way through it, and I wasn’t able to do that.”

To add injury to insult, Pence twisted his left knee as he went down. He paced around in right and then showed a slight limp when the inning was over. When he got back to the dugout, Pence was checked by trainer Dave Groeschner. He appeared to be fine the rest of the game. 

“It feels alright,” he said. “For now, I’m pretty sure it’s fine.”

After speaking to reporters, Pence went off to the training room for a second check-up. He was confident that the knee wouldn’t be an issue, and the Giants could certainly use the good news. In the last week, they’ve lost Jarrett Parker and Madison Bumgarner for extended periods. Bochy missed two games this week after a minor heart procedure. 

“You keep doing what you’re doing,” Cueto said. “We’re playing very hard and trying to win every game. Eventually we’re going to find a way to win games.”

Instant Replay: Giants' offense comes alive, but Cueto allows six to Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' offense comes alive, but Cueto allows six to Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — A day after the Giants lost their left-handed ace, their right-handed ace took his first loss of the season. 

Johnny Cueto gave up a six-spot in the fourth and the Giants never quite bounced back, losing 6-5 to the Rockies. They have lost two of three to kick off the road trip and dropped to 6-11 on the season, five games behind the first place Rockies. 

Early on, it looked like Cueto would make the Giants temporarily forget about the pain of Madison Bumgarner’s injury. Cueto opened with three scoreless frames and the lineup batted around in the second, getting four singles and an RBI double from Eduardo Nuñez. 

It all fell apart in the fourth. 

Cueto gave up five straight hits, including a Trevor Story grand slam on a ball that got up in the thin air and kept carrying out to right. Story became the first player to hit a grand slam off Cueto in the big leagues. Two batters later, Charlie Blackmon added an inside-the-park dinger. Blackmon hit a two-out liner to right and Hunter Pence lost it in the lights, slipping as he held his arms up. Blackmon raced all the way home, sliding in just ahead of a relay throw to give the Rockies a six-run inning. The Rockies became the first National League team since 1950 to hit a grand slam and inside-the-parker in the same inning. 

In the bottom of seventh and top of eighth, both teams missed out. The Rockies loaded the bases with two outs when Cory Gearrin walked two and hit one, but Story popped out. In the next half-inning, Joe Panik drove a run in but the Giants couldn’t get him in from second with no outs. Gorkys Hernandez failed to get a bunt down and then flied out. Denard Span flied out to center. Belt popped up to third. 

Starting pitching report: Before Story knocked one over the out-of-town scoreboard, Cueto had faced 146 hitters with the bases loaded without allowing a homer. He had actually been very efficient in the worst situation, holding opposing hitters to a .167/.247/.230 slash line.

Bullpen report: Ty Blach made what might be his final relief appearance for months. He retired all three batters he faced in the sixth. He'll start Tuesday. 

At the plate: Belt’s homer went 456 feet, according to Statcast. His three longest homers have all come at Coors Field: 475 feet, 457 and 456. 

In the field: Panik gave a reminder of why he’s the reigning Gold Glove winner. He made a leaping catch of DJ LeMahieu’s liner in the third and a diving stop to rob Blackmon in the sixth. 

Attendance: The Rockies didn’t announce a number, but a bunch of gamers stuck it out through the 40-degree weather and relentless drizzle. 

Up next: Matt Moore makes his second Coors Field appearance as a Giant. The first one: 2 2/3 innings, six earned runs. 

Marrero, Crawford help Cueto become first pitcher to three wins

Marrero, Crawford help Cueto become first pitcher to three wins

SAN FRANCISCO — Chris Marrero has been dressed early all week, smacking balls in the cage with hitting coaches, taking fly balls in left with instructor Cody Ross, and doing swing drills by himself on a patch of grass alongside the dugout. 

Marrero entered play Friday in a 1-for-18 slump to start the season, his first as a semi-regular in the big leagues. A 28-year-old veteran with more than 4,000 minor league plate appearances on his resume, Marrero admitted he was pressing. But he did not press to make changes. 

“Did I want to start the season this way? No,” he said. “But I tried not to change anything. How are you going to change if what you worked on in spring training worked?”

That eight-homer spring earned a first opening day nod for Marrero. His first regular season homer doubled as the first of his big league career, and it gave Johnny Cueto a 2-0 lead that would only grow as the Giants pounded the Rockies 8-2. 

Cueto improved to 3-0 on the season and showed some of his trademark fire as he halted a mid-game rally that could have wiped away Marrero’s work. It was a night full of emotion for the Giants. Marrero was still trying to settle himself as he jogged out to left minutes after his blast to the bleachers. Brandon Crawford, who lost his sister-in-law this week, added a homer of his own, one he dedicated to Jennifer Pippin.

There was little doubt Marrero would be in the lineup Friday against lefty Tyler Anderson. Manager Bruce Bochy has stuck by him during the early struggles. But Bochy wasn’t sure he would have his shortstop. The two spoke after Thursday’s game. Bochy told Crawford he could take a couple of days off.

“He said, ‘I want to play,’” Bochy said. 

Crawford’s homer in the fourth rocketed out of the ballpark. As he always does, he pointed to the sky as he touched the plate. Crawford's wife, Jalynne, took to Twitter and wrote, "I know she's screaming in heaven right now! She would be so proud of that!!"

AT&T Park shook and later it lit up.

Fans took out their cell phones as Brandon Belt worked a 13-pitch at-bat in the seventh, culminating in a single. Belt saw 35 pitches in five at-bats, and his lone hit of the night kicked off a string of five straight singles that broke the game open.

The sudden blowout allowed the Giants to relax a bit after a couple of stressful weeks. Derek Law and Cory Gearrin took it home, clinching a second straight 3-0 start for Cueto. He’s the first Giant to do that in back-to-back years since Rick Reuschel in 1988-89. 

When the final pitch was thrown, Marrero went off in search of a baseball. The fan who caught his blast wanted just one thing: Dodgers tickets. Marrero took care of that on a night that he won’t forget.

“You think about these moments when you first start playing baseball,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in my career. It was a battle early in the season but I didn’t lose confidence.

“This game is a grind, man. It’s tough mentally and physically. It’s tough to get out of a hole. You’ve got to believe in yourself and keep fighting.”