Now, that was a tough way for a six-game winning streak to end.
A two-out triple and error allowed Starling Marte to race around the bases and score the winning run in a 2-1 win for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.
To make matters worse, Marte was called out at the plate, but the call was reversed on replay — the first time that a game has been decided by a review reversal.
You had to figure it would happen to Giants.
There was a lot of conjecture and debate about the final play on talk radio and Twitter, as Giants fans were looking for someone to pin the blame on.
So let’s look at the suspects:
HUNTER PENCE: Some fans said that Pence could have played the ball better off the wall in right. The ball bounced away from Pence after hitting the wall, allowing Marte to take third.
I believe Pence misjudged the carry on this ball. When it came off Marte’s bat, I thought that Pence would catch the ball on the warning track. I think Pence thought the same thing, which put him in a bad spot to play the ball off the wall.
So could he have played the ball better? Yes. But really it would have meant the difference between Marte at second or Marte at third. And with two out, a base hit is the most likely way Marte would have scored with two out. And a hit to the outfield scores Marte from second or third.
TIM HUDSON: Other fans said that Hudson should have been in a better position to back up the throw to third.
Again, OK, fine. But as a veteran pitcher, I don’t really think that Hudson thought there would be or should have been a throw into third. Is that an excuse? Not really. On a play like that, there’s no other place a pitcher should be than backing up a throw into third on a ball hit to right. But I’m not about to pin this one on Hudson, given the way he pitched when the Giants needed him to give the bullpen some much needed rest.
PABLO SANDOVAL: Given his struggles at the plate, fans are just looking for a reason to make The Panda into The Goat. But not on this play. Fans said Sandoval should have done all he could to block the ball. But the throw was a bad one, forcing Sandoval to lunge for the ball. He actually did a great job to get up quickly, get to the ball and make a spot-on throw home. Sandoval was not at fault.
BUSTER POSEY: This one drove me the most nuts. Fans were howling that Posey should have blocked Marte’s path to the plate. Some were blaming the new rule on blocking the plate, in which case they were wrong TWICE. For one, the new rule does not prevent a catcher from blocking the plate once he has the ball, and on this play, Posey had the ball early enough to block the plate within the rules. Secondly, regardless of the rule and what it allows, the Giants have instructed Posey for more than two years to avoid contact at the plate. Even if it means allowing a run — even the winning run — to score, they would much rather have a healthy Posey. And that’s the right call. Other fans thought Posey should have made a better tag, placing the tag on the hand or arm and not on the body. Well, looking at the replay, Posey did attempt to tag Marte on his left hand or arm, but Marte alerted pulled that hand back to his body to avoid the tag, leaving Posey to tag his chest. That allowed Marte to slip his right hand onto the plate.
If there was a way to fault Posey, it was his positioning at the plate. When Posey took the throw, he was standing right over home plate. When Marte came in with his slide, Posey backed away from him to avoid contact, applying the tag in a matador-like style. Again, this is likely a by-product of the Giants telling him to avoid contact. But a better way of that to happen is for Posey to position himself in fair territory and up the line to third to shorten the length of the thrown from Sandoval. This would have given Marte a lane to the plate, as the rule stipulates, but would have allowed Posey to make the tag earlier. The only question here is whether Posey could have done that and still retained a line of sight from Sandoval.
THE UMPIRES: Other fans were screaming that they hate replay. But I can assure you, that if the replay had allowed the Giants to win, they would love it. Replay is here to make sure calls are correct. As Jon Miller said in the post-game, in the entire history of the game, that play would have been called out because the throw beat Marte to the plate. It wouldn’t have mattered where the tag was, unless Marte made a more obvious attempt to avoid the tag. But now, with replay, it matters where the tag is. And that’s the way it should be.
The Giants were saying afterward they thought the replay was inconclusive and should not have been overturned. That’s more their hearts talking. The Giants had a play reviewed earlier this season ruled inconclusive that the Giants felt clearly showed that the call on the field should have been overturned. But that was in the first couple of weeks of the season, when the replay ump was far more reluctant to overturn calls on the field. But now they are willing to make the closer calls on replay. And in this case, the replay showed he was safe.
EHIRE ADRIANZA: If you were looking for the real culprit, you should look no further than Adrianza. This was another case of situational baseball, much like the plays earlier this season by Sandoval when he charged a slow roller and made an ill-advised and errant throw to first, allowing a run to score. The best play here would have been to eat the ball. The situation would have been different had their been one out or no outs. A runner at third with less than two outs is a much different situation. It’s a risk vs. reward situation, and the reward goes up with less than two outs. But with two outs, you don’t need to be a hero. You need to trust your pitcher to get that third out. There really wasn’t a play on Marte at third, and the risk of something bad happening outweighed the reward.
The Giants had hit a home run in their last 11 consecutive games entering Monday’s game in Pittsburgh.
They had hit 21 home runs over that 11-game span.
Home runs had accounted for 30 of the 49 runs the Giants scored over that 11-game span.
Home runs had accounted for 32 of the last 38 runs the Giants had scored on the road since April 5.
But that all ended Monday in the most unusual fashion.
The Giants rallied from an 8-2 deficit and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-10 in 13 innings, extending their current win streak to six games.
They smacked out 20 hits — none of which were home runs.
It was the first time since July 25, 1961 that the Giants had 20 or more hits in a game without hitting a home run. That was a 16-7 win in, of all places, Pittsburgh.
Forbes Field was a monstrous field, nothing like PNC Park.
Bruce Bochy flushed his bench by the ninth inning, burning Juan Perez and Ehire Adrianza as pinch-runners. Perez stayed in the game for left-fielder Michael Morse.
Madison Bumgarner was used as a pinch-hitter. He grounded out. Santiago Casilla threw 40 pitches in two innings of relief, including a 14-pitch at-bat to Neil Walker that ended with a strikeout.
Angel Pagan had three hits, so did Hunter Pence, so did Buster Posey. Hector Sanchez had four hits.
And with all those hits, the Giants’ game-winning rally in the 13th produced a run without a hit. The key plate appearance was made by a relief pitcher — Jean Machi — who had just one previous plate appearance in the big leagues. That was last season. He struck out.
He only had two at-bats in the minors. But he got a hit — a double and an RBI.
The weirdness for Machi started on the mound.
Machi entered the game in the 11th inning. After allowing a single to Andrew McCutchen and striking out Pedro Alvarez, he fielded a comebacker by Sterling Marte. Machi turned and threw to second, but his throw hit umpire Jerry Davis for an error. Machi then got Ike Davis to hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the 12th inning, Gerrit Cole hit a comebacker to Machi, who deflected the ball to second baseman Brandon Hicks, allowing Cole to reach on an infield single.
After striking out Jose Tabata, Machi deflected another ball hit up the middle, one that would have been a custom-made double play to Hicks. Instead, the deflected ball allowed Jordy Mercer to reach on an infield single.
Then Machi got Chris Stewart to hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the top of the 13th, Hunter Pence started things with a one-out walk. Then Perez, and his whopping .059 batting average, received a gift. He was hit by a pitch.
Manager Bruce Bochy then left Machi in the game to sacrifice the runners over, something he’s never even attempted in 13 seasons of professional baseball.
Machi put down the perfect bunt. Pitcher Jared Hughes fielded the bunt, slipped a bit on the grass, then threw errantly to first, allowing Pence to score the go-ahead run.
Then after Sanchez struck out, Machi advanced to second on defensive indifference — not a stolen base. The rally ended after an intentional walk to Brandon Belt and a strikeout by Brandon Hicks.
After Sergio Romo locked down the save, Machi found himself leading the National League in wins by improving his mark to 5-0 on the season.
Jean Machi is now 5-0 with a 0.53 ERA. And one sacrifice bunt.
All this from a guy who was best known to Giants fans for breaking wind in the bullpen after getting called up to Triple-A last season.
SATURDAY: Pirates 3, Giants 1 — BOX SCORE
Not much to say about Saturday’s loss in Pittsburgh, other than it’s another quality start for Ryan Vogelsong.
So, with the Giants in Pittsburgh this weekend, it’s seems like the right time to send a big thank you to Freddy Sanchez.
Thanks, Freddy, for the 2010 season and the World Series championship. That’s about all the Giants got for the more than $18 million they spent on Sanchez since aquiring him during the 2009 season. For most of us, that was enough.
In a way, it was like the money we spent on Edgar Renteria, the money we’re still spending on Aubrey Huff. Really expensive lightning in a bottle.
Sanchez’s bid to return to the Giants this season ended Thursday when the team announced the second baseman would require back surgery.
So thus ends the Freddy Sanchez era, in all probability, in San Francisco. He won’t be back this season. Maybe he won’t be back at all, for the Giants or anyone else.
On July 29, 2009, the Giants acquired Sanchez in a trade with the Pirates for pitching prospect Tim Alderson. A couple weeks earlier, Sanchez had been the Pirates’ All-Star representative.
A couple of days after the trade, a friend came up to me and said, with a smile, “we got Freddy Sanchez!”
I responded with a little wince. “He’s a good player, when he can stay healthy. I’m just not sure he can stay healthy, and I’m not sure he’s worth giving up Alderson.”
Well, as it turns out, I was right about the first two points, wrong on the final one. Sanchez was worth giving up Alderson, who has barely made it above Double-A since joining the Pirates organization.
In what basically amounted to a little less than two seasons of playing time with the Giants, Sanchez hit .290 with 11 HRs, 78 RBI in 196 games.
Sanchez only played 25 games for the Giants in 2009, spending a stint on the DL with a strained left shoulder.
That offseason, facing a decision on whether or not to pick up Sanchez’s team option in 2010, the Giants signed him to a two-year, $12 million contract.
Later that offseason, Sanchez had surgery on that left shoulder, but hopes were that he’d be ready for the 2010 opener. He did not return until May 19.
But after that, he played in 111 games, hitting .292 with 7 HRs and 47 RBI. After slumping in the NL Division series against the Braves, he hit .320 in the NLCS vs. the Phillies and .273 in the World Series vs. the Rangers. He became the first player to double in his first three World Series at-bats.
Sanchez strained his left shoulder again late in the 2010 season, but played through it. He had another procedure on the shoulder after the 2010 season, but started the 2011 season on time.
During the season-opening series in Los Angeles in 2011, the Giants announced they were extending Sanchez’s contract by one more year for $6 million. It was a puzzling move because it came so early in the season, especially given Sanchez’s history with injuries.
He hit .289 with 3 HRs and 24 RBI in 60 games in 2011 before dislocating his right shoulder while attempting to make a diving stop at second base against the Reds on June 10. He had season-ending surgery two months later.
Sanchez came to spring training this year hoping to be ready to play by the time games started. But a back issue delayed his recovery. After returning to the field, Sanchez was not able to develop the arm strength to start the season with the Giants, and he remained in Arizona for extended spring training.
He began a minor-league rehab stint with the San Jose Giants on April 23, going 4 for 10 in three games. But that ended when his shoulder stiffened up. He returned to Arizona to work on his shoulder strength when his back flared up in mid-May.
Now, the Giants are left to decide what their future is at second base.
Ryan Theriot (.280) has done a solid job after spening 15 days on the DL in late May. Joaquin Arias (.244) and Emmanel Burriss (.210) are the other options.
If there’s a silver lining, Sanchez’s surgery does open up a spot on the Giants’ 40-man roster if they want to see if anyone down on the farm could give the Giants boost at second base.
In the minors, they have:
- Brock Bond (age 26) — 1 HR, 19 RBI, .332 AVG, .406 OBP in 56 games with Triple-A Fresno. Bats right.
- Nick Noonan (age 23) — 3 HR, 38 RBI, .297 AVG, .357 OBP in 78 games with Triple-A Fresno. Bats left. Playing SS for Grizzlies.
- Charlie Culberson (age 23) — 7 HR, 46 RBI, .251 AVG, .292 OBP in 74 games with Triple-A Fresno. Bats right. Had a brief stint with Giants earlier this year, going 3 for 22 (.136) in six games. On 40-man roster.
- Ryan Cavan (age 25) — 8 HR, 28 RBI, .234 AVG, .305 OBP in 81 games with Double-A Richmond. Bats right
- Bobby Haney (age 23) — 0 HR, 10 RBI, .322 AVG, .359 OBP in 35 games with Class-A San Jose. Bats left.
- Joe Panik (age 21) — 4 HR, 44 RBI, .263 AVG, .339 OBP in 82 games with Class-A San Jose. Bats left. First-round pick in 2011. Playing SS in San Jose.
Among potential free-agent second baseman this offseason includes Orlando Hudson (White Sox), Maicer Izturis (Angels), Jeff Keppinger (Rays), Marco Scutaro (Rockies), Placido Polanco (Phillies), Kelly Johnson (Blue Jays) and Skip Schumaker (Cardinals).
THURSDAY: NATIONALS 6, GIANTS 5 – BOX SCORE
FRIDAY: GIANTS 6, PIRATES 5 – BOX SCORE
When Brian Wilson went down for the season, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he would go with a closer-by-committee.
That committee quickly became Santiago Casilla.
Through June 18, Casilla had allowed four earned runs in his first 30 appearances, never allowing more than one run in any appearance. Only twice did he allow two hits or more in any of those appearances. He had 19 saves in 19 appearances with a 1.32 ERA.
But since then, Casilla has given up six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. He’s allowed at least two hits in four of his last five outings. He’s blown three of his last four save opportunities.
Is this a funk? Or is something wrong with Casilla?
The Giants said Casilla would not be avaiable Saturday because of a blister on his middle finger.
But if the Giants don’t make a move to Sergio Romo as their new closer, Giants fans may want to show Bochy THEIR middle finger.
Romo has been lights-out nasty this season. He’s 2-1 with a 0.72 ERA. He’s 5-for-5 in save opportunities.
In those save opportunties (all occurring since June 2), Romo has not allowed a hit or a walk in 4 1/3 innings. He has four strikeouts in those outings.
Romo locked down the save Friday in Pittsburgh.
Afterward, Romo said he doesn’t want or need the closer title, throwing his support behind Casilla.
“Casilla’s done a great job for us this year … Who doesn’t have a rough patch during the season?” Romo said.
Who doesn’t? Um, Sergio, you don’t. Or at least you haven’t the past two seasons.
“We have all the confidence in the world in him,” Romo continued. “He’s our closer. He IS our closer. I’m just another guy in the pen that’s trying to contribute.”
It’s a nice sentiment, Sergio. But it’s not your call. It’s Bochy’s. It’s his job to put the right people in the game that give the team the best chance to win.
And right now, it’s Romo.
Casilla may just need a breather. He’s pitched more innings up to this point in the season than he’s ever done in the past.
His season-high for innings was 55.1 in 2010. He’s pitched between 48.1 and 55.1 each of the past five seasons.
He’s pitched 31.2 innings this season. He had a 1.95 ERA in 2010, 1.74 ERA in 2011 in setup roles. He’s at 2.84 this season with his recent “rough patch.”
So we say move Casilla back into the set-up spot for now. Let him catch his breath and regain his confidence.
And let’s get Romolicious in the ninth
Well, we all knew the eight consecutive games of scoring 4+ runs was going to end.
We were hoping it might come against Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee. But Kevin Correia?
The Giants were held to one run on five hits by the Pirates in the series finale.
It wasted a solid outing by Ryan Vogelsong in his season-debut, giving up two runs on four hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out seven.
After failing to record a quality start in three games in Arizona, Giants pitchers have posted quality starts in five of their next six games.
- Barry Zito 9 IP, 0 ER in Colorado
- Madison Bumgarner 7 1/3 IP, 1 ER in Colorado
- Matt Cain 9 IP, 0 ER (1 hitter) vs. Pirates
- Barry Zito 7 IP, 2 ER vs. Pirates
- Ryan Vogelsong 6 1/3 IP, 2 ER vs. Pirates.
That’s more like it.
But the offense fell back to old habits on Sunday, including failing to get a runner home from third with no out in the eighth. But there were silver linings.
- They only had five hits, but three were extra-bases hits, including the second straight stand-up triple from Angel Pagan, who is start to swing the bat better.
- They made contact. They only struck out three times, and once was by Vogelsong. (The other two were from Buster Posey. What?!?)
- Brandon Belt got a start and went 1 for 3 with walk, stolen base and double. More importantly, he did not strike out. Unfortunately, he’ll undoubtedly return to the bench Monday against Halladay.
It’s Happy Lincecum Day, or at least we hope it is. Lincecum needs to fall in line with the rest of the rotation and give us a quality start. Starting at home should help things, but will it be enough to beat Halladay at 7:05 p.m. Monday? We’ll see.
The San Francisco Giants have lost a pitcher they will play $8.5 million this season.
On the flip side, they actually get something out of a pitcher they still owe $46 million to.
Barry Zito threw his second quality start of the season, giving up two earned runs in seven innings Saturday and giving the Giants the chance to rally and beat the Pirates in the ninth inning.
Emmanuel Burriss scored on an error in the ninth inning to give the Giants their first walk-off win and reason to celebrate after the news that closer Brian Wilson is likely done for the year.
With the Giants’ talented and deep bullpen, the loss of Wilson can be weathered. But getting something out of Zito is huge for the Giants’ prospects this season.
We’ve seen Zito put together decent first-halves of the season or decent second-halves. But never a full season of success. So we take the early success with a grain of salt. But what we have seen is very encouraging.
Zito will make his next start Friday against the Mets in New York.
As home openers go, that was about perfect.
Buster Posey spanked a first-inning pitch off the center field wall for a two-out RBI double in his first official at-bat at home since suffering a season-ending injury last season.
Aubrey Huff smacked a one-hop splash hit (you know, how we like splash hits, even though this wasn’t an official one) to give the Giants their seventh 4+ run game of the season.
And, of course, there was Matt Cain.
Cain has a losing record for his career, through no fault of his own as he’s been a historic victim of poor run support.
But on Friday, all the support Cain would need is the first-inning double by Posey. He faced 28 batters for the Giants’ second complete-game shutout in five days.
“What a day by Matt,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ve all seen him locked in like this. He was as good as he’s been.”
The lone blemish? A sixth-inning single by Pirates’ pitcher James McDonald, a career .069 hitter.
“You think about, it’s like ‘Man, the pitcher stood in his way for a perfect game,’ ” McDonald said.
Cain was thinking about it.
“I was definitely aware of it, but I’m thinking there, ‘I’m behind in the count 2-1, but I’m throwing something to the outer third of the plate,’ ” Cain said. “He put a good swing on it. He did his job. He can hit.”
After that his, Cain went back to work, setting down the final 10 Pirates for a 106-pitch complete game that was over in a litte more than two hours.
Barry Zito faces Charlie Morton as the Giants play the Pirates at 6:05 p.m.