Bochy: 'We're getting tested like we've never been tested before'
The Mets scored five runs on seven hits and four walks in six innings against Barry Zito. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants reached into the “why not” bin and called up Kensuke Tanaka, hoping he could provide a spark.
The former Nippon Ham Fighters star did more than that. He put smiles on faces and brought cheer to the dugout -- and more than once, too. That’s almost as rare for the Giants these days.
But warm fuzzies do not win ballgames. And any good vibes from Tanaka’s leaping catch at the wall in left field, or the way he grinned infectiously and bowed after his first big league hit, dissipated in a disastrous eighth inning.
Jeremy Affeldt’s erratic season continues to get worse. He retired only one of the four batters he faced, Jake Dunning served up a grand slam to Marlon Byrd that broke the game open and the Giants lost 10-6 to the New York Mets at AT&T Park.
Daniel Murphy hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth off Affeldt before Byrd found the left field bleachers on Dunning’s first-pitch slider. The Giants’ 13th loss in 15 games dropped them to 40-49.
The issue du jour: Giants pitchers walked eight batters (four by Barry Zito and two by Affeldt) and five of them came around to score.
And there’s the familiar: The hitting with runners in scoring position, or lack thereof. A night after the Giants stranded 18 and went 1 for 15 with RISP, they followed up by stranding 11.
Rock bottom? Wasn’t that supposed to be last week?
Starting pitching report
For all Barry Zito’s struggles on the road, where he’s winless with a 9.38 ERA in seven starts, there’s nothing wrong with the way he’s pitched on the shores of McCovey Cove. The left-hander entered with a 1.98 ERA in 10 home starts.
But his sanctuary wasn’t so safe. The Mets scored five runs on seven hits and four walks in six innings against Zito – including a two-run home run by .164 hitter Anthony Recker in the sixth, shortly after the Giants had rallied to tie.
It was the first time Zito had allowed at least five earned runs at home in 17 regular-season starts. (You can add in his victory in Game 1 of the World Series if you like, too.) The last time was Aug. 2 of last season – also against the Mets.
Of course, that Aug. 2 start was also the last time the Giants lost in a Zito start in 2012. They went 11-0 over his final 11 regular-season starts, then won in all three of his playoff starts, too.
The Giants might need something similar to happen if they hope to remain relevant this season.
Zito’s problem Tuesday was a familiar one. He issued too many walks and three of the four came around to score. Andrew Brown’s seeing-eye hit snuck through the left side to score a pair in the fourth inning, then Omar Quintanilla found a seam up the middle for a single that gave the Mets a 3-2 lead.
Zito did not pitch a shutdown inning after the Giants rallied to tie in the fifth. He walked Cal alum Josh Satin to start the sixth, then served up Recker’s fifth home run of the season.
A night earlier, the bullpen pulled a collective hero act and held the Mets as long as possible in a 16-inning loss.
But Jose Mijares nearly folded in the seventh. The Mets loaded the bases with one out after a single, a double and an intentional walk to Byrd. Mijares fell behind 2-0 to Satin, which prompted Scutaro to the mound for a quick chat. Whatever he said worked, as Mijares began pumping strikes. Satin struck out looking and Brown struck out swinging as Mijares roared on his way off the mound.
But Quintanilla reached on an infield single with one out in the eighth, and Affeldt could not control the situation. He wasn’t out there long but packed a lot in -- a wild pitch, a single, two walks and a sacrifice fly.
Affeldt has 18 strikeouts and 15 walks this season. He’s hit four batters, too. By far, it’s the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio he’s had since 2007.
At the plate
The Giants aren’t getting clutch hits, so they used their hustle and moxie to score a pair of runs in the second inning. Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt started the rally with singles to put runners at the corners. Then Belt stole second base, and Pence jogged home when Recker’s throw bounced into center field. Belt took third on the error and scored on a ground out.
They tied it in the fifth after Gregor Blanco beat out an infield single and Tanaka found a patch of grass in center field for his first career hit, almost looking embarrassed and elated at the same time as he acknowledged the standing ovation.
Scutaro’s sacrifice advanced both runners and Pablo Sandoval grounded out to plate a run.
Belt and Brandon Crawford walked to start the sixth and Tony Abreu cut the Giants’ deficit to 5-4 with an infield single. But Gregor Blanco lined back to pitcher Dillon Gee, who doubled off Abreu to end the inning.
The Giants completed their comeback in the seventh. Tanaka drew a leadoff walk, went from first to third on Scutaro’s single and scored on Sandoval’s sacrifice fly. Amazingly, it marked the first time since May 30 that Sandoval had two RBIs in a game.
They added a run in the ninth when Hunter Pence singled and scored on Nick Noonan’s single. But the Giants got star-crossed when Brandon Crawford’s single hit umpire C.B. Bucknor, which likely prevented Noonan from scoring.
Noonan ended up being one more runner left on base. The Giants have 29 of them in two losses against the Mets.
The Mets completed an impressive relay to prevent a run in the first inning. Brown fielded Sandoval’s double in left field and connected with Quintanilla, the shortstop, whose on-target throw nailed Scutaro at the plate. Recker held his ground as Scutaro tried to slam on the brakes before running into him.
But the play of the game belonged to Tanaka, who had played just 10 games in left field since 2006. He owns five Gold Gloves in Japan, but those were all as a second baseman. No wonder he looked more surprised than anyone in the second inning, when he leapt at the wall to take a double away from Andrew Brown.
Tanaka pumped his fist and was all smiles as he ran back to a welcoming dugout.
The Giants announced 41,534 paid. At least they got home before midnight this time.
The Giants and Mets finish their three-game series Wednesday afternoon. Matt Cain (5-5, 4.85 ERA) takes the mound against rookie right-hander Zack Wheeler (2-1, 4.29), a former No. 1 prospect whom the Giants dealt to rent Carlos Beltran in 2011. First pitch is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. PDT.