Giants' failures leave Bochy frustrated

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Giants' failures leave Bochy frustrated

Rael Enteen
CSNBayArea.com staff writer 

SAN FRANCISCO – Brandon Crawford’s glove giveth, and Brandon Crawford’s glove taketh away.

The Giants and their fans have been blessed to witness the amazing feats Crawford performs with the leather on a daily basis. Monday’s game was no difference, as San Francisco’s shortstop maintained a tie thanks to a diving backhand stop and strong throw with the potential go-ahead run at third base in the 11th inning. But the Giants’ offense didn’t do enough to end the game in time for Crawford to avoid a costly error that led to the New York Mets’ game-winning run in the 16th inning.

[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants fall in 16 innings

“He made that one play to save us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s so good over there, he just didn’t come up with it.”

“These things happen,” Hunter Pence said. “He makes it look a lot easier than it is. It’s going to happen every now and then and it just happened to come about at a bad time like that.”

It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Giants, who have lost six of their last seven games and 12 of their last 14 to fall to 40-48.

But while Crawford’s error will be the lasting memory of a five hour and 26 minute marathon game, his game-saving play in the 11th would’ve lingered longer if not for the Giants’ woes with runners in scoring position.

Brandon Belt, batting in the three-hole in Bruce Bochy’s lineup for the first time in his career, is an easy target (0-for-8 with five strikeouts) but it’s truly a team-wide failure.

The Giants left 13 runners on base in extra innings and 18 total, the most since June 6, 1998, and finished 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position, giving them three hits in their last 51 at-bats in such situations.

“That’s as frustrating a game as we’ve had,” Bochy said. “I think it’s caught up to all of us. We had so many chances and just couldn’t get a hit.”

Even after Crawford’s error gave the Mets a 4-3 lead, the Giants had an opportunity in the bottom half of the 16th, an inning that serves as a solid representation for San Francisco’s struggles of late. Mets closer Bobby Parnell gifted the Giants a leadoff baserunner when he walked Marco Scutaro, but Belt couldn’t even make a productive out, striking out on a foul tip. After Buster Posey picked Belt up with a sharp single up the middle for his career-best fifth hit of the evening, Pablo Sandoval struck out swinging on a pitch out of the zone, leaving him with just four hits in his last 48 at-bats. The game ended one pitch later when pinch-hitter Guillermo Quiroz rolled over a Parnell curveball to strand Scutaro at second.

“We had a lot of runners on, we just couldn’t get the final big hit,” Pence said. “There’s frustration. We want to stay as positive as we can, but we gotta get it done. We’ve got to keep pushing to find a way to turn it around.”

Pence, who snapped a career-long 0-for-24 slump with a seventh-inning triple and almost ended the game with an opposite field line drive in the 10th that required a running catch from Mets rightfielder Marlon Byrd, owned up to his own issues with situational hitting.

“Me personally, I haven’t gotten much done with runners in scoring position,” Pence said. “Part of it is maybe being too aggressive, trying to do too much. But there in the 10th, I hit a ball hard, just right at them. So it’s tough when it’s going like this.”

Bochy now has to go back to the drawing board to decide how to jumpstart a team that looks less and less like the defending World Series champions. It will not be an easy task Tuesday, as Bochy said he would have to rest Posey, who caught all 16 innings, and likely keep Belt in the No. 3 spot, despite the first baseman becoming the first Giant to go hitless in eight at-bats since Jose Uribe on June 11, 1985.

The Giants’ inability to get consistent offensive production from anyone not named Buster Posey overshadowed Tim Lincecum's start, which by game’s end felt as ancient as his long hair and Cy Young Awards.

Lincecum struck out a season-high 11 and was done in by some shoddy defense in the sixth, the inning that he has most frequently failed to post zeroes in. After the Mets scored twice in the sixth, Lincecum owns an 8.44 ERA and .429 opponents batting average in the fateful frame.

“Timmy threw well, we just had a tough time making a play there in the sixth inning and let them take the lead there,” Bochy said.

George Kontos, who took the loss after being charged with an unearned run due to Crawford’s error, was impressed with what he saw from Lincecum.

[RELATED: Giants notes -- Bochy's sense of urgency, Belt's opportunity]

“He came out and looked like he had a really good tempo going,” Kontos said. “He was locating everything, throwing that nice slow breaking ball. He looked really good. That’s definitely one of the big positives from the game is him looking like his old self.”

The other positive is what Kontos and the bullpen did for Bochy, despite the eventual outcome.

“One unearned run in nine innings is pretty good,” Kontos said. “It’s definitely a positive. Anything we can take away right now in the skid we’re going through. You just gotta look at the positives. You can’t really focus on the stuff that’s not going right. We’re a much better ballclub than the last 10-to-12 games that we’ve played. I definitely think just keeping our heads down, playing the game the right way and doing the things that we’ve been doing, we’ll come out of it.”

There’s nothing wrong with Kontos’ optimism, but it came just eight hours after Bochy’s pregame proclamation that certainly bears repeating:

“At some point, you have to turn it around and get clicking as a club.”

It didn’t happen Monday night, or even Tuesday morning, but part of the beauty of baseball is the prospect of a new game tomorrow. Or in this case, today.

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

The Giants look to win two straight against the Braves and Bruce Bochy has made a few changes to the lineup Sunday.

Atlanta Braves (21-26)

1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
3. Nick Markakis (L) RF
4. Matt Kemp (R) LF
5. Matt Adams (L) 1B
6. Kurt Suzuki (R) C
7. Rio Ruiz (L) 3B
8. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
9. R.A. Dickey (R) P

San Francisco Giants (21-30)

1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P