SAN FRANCISCO – Tim Flannery didn’t wait for a PR staffer to seek him out.
He stood in the middle of a clubhouse hallway, in his undershirt, sliding pants and black socks, hands on hips and head solemnly downcast. Ready to be approached by one and all.
He knew what the question would be. He knew what his answer would be.
“I feel awful about it,” said Flannery, who waved Buster Posey into a disturbance of dust and a very unsettling out in what would become a momentum-stopping 3-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.
“I feel responsible for Bum getting a loss, for all of it. I feel terrible. With nobody out, that can’t happen. I feel responsible for the game and for the loss. … With nobody out, you’ve got to hold him.”
More went into this loss than one aggressive mistake from a 55-year-old third base coach. Flannery’s mea culpa aside, other failures prevented the Giants from sweeping a series and announcing themselves as a firm presence again in the gooey soft NL West.
--Kensuke Tanaka made a zero-excuse baserunning mistake in the ninth inning, when he was thrown out trying to advance on an overthrow. You cannot take any risks when you've got the tying run coming to the plate.
--Tanaka couldn’t catch Martin Prado's deep drive in the first inning, which ended up being scored a triple. The play required a long run and Tanaka had the legs to cover the ground, but not the experience to haul it in as the wall neared.
--Cody Ross hit a well-placed, two-run single on a changeup from Jean Machi, which both manager Bruce Bochy and catcher Buster Posey considered a pretty good pitch.
--And while it wasn’t a failure, the Giants could lament Pablo Sandoval’s 420-foot out to right-center that would have cleared the fence in 29 other major league parks, and perhaps a few national monuments as well.
But it was Sandoval’s other barreled-up drive – his double in the sixth – that led to the game’s flashpoint moment. Flannery sent Buster Posey from first base. Posey slowed a bit around third, as catchers are wont to do. And the Diamondbacks executed.
Center fielder Adam Eaton didn’t fumble the carom or airmail the cutoff man. Shortstop Cliff Pennington made a smoother connection than you’ll ever find at O’Hare. Catcher Miguel Montero made an athletic, twisting tag on Posey, who slid feet first.
And the Diamondbacks retained their 1-0 lead.
They would have had runners at second and third and no outs for No.5 hitter Hunter Pence. Instead, they didn’t score until the ninth, and only after Arizona already had padded its lead with Ross’s hit.
Flannery said he has all the information at his disposal, he knows the arm strength and accuracy of every fielder and he is fully aware of Posey’s top speed after the first 180 feet.
He had the backing of his boss, too. Bochy didn’t cast any blame at the feet of his longtime friend.
“They just made a great relay throw,” Bochy said. “I don’t know what else to tell you. It looked like Buster was going to make it and the shortstop came up firing and made a great throw. You hate to see that happen but give them credit for executing.”
Still, Flannery knew. His mantra to players is “let the scoreboard be your guide.” Scoreboards do not deflect blame or grant absolution.
“There are moments when you help the team win and there are moments when you lose,” he said. “If anything, I got caught up the line. If I’m a little further maybe I buy myself another second.
“But … with nobody out, you’ve got to hold him. I got too aggressive in that situation and that comes with the territory. I work without a net.”
Sometimes, the gamble works out. On Friday, the ball beat Gregor Blanco to the plate but the throw deflected off Montero’s cleat. Angel Pagan’s inside-the-parker – the play of the first half, according to many national pundits – doesn’t happen without Flannery’s windmill arm.
This time, the trapeze slipped.
Although Bochy did not blame Flannery, he did make one pointed statement after the game while discussing the team’s mindset to scratch and claw for runs.
“I will say our baserunning at times has not been what it should, but they’re trying,” he said. “They’re running hard and that’s all you can ask.”
Bumgarner, who has a 1.71 ERA yet just one victory in four starts against the Diamondbacks, said Flannery was being too noble by falling on his sword.
“He can’t do that,” said Bumgarner, who lost for just the second time in eight starts. “He takes his job as serious as anyone. I’m glad he’s a part of this team. He takes it personal but you can’t be right every time. It took a perfect throw.”
Just my thinking here, but chalk up Tanaka’s bad decision in the ninth to a lack of familiarity with AT&T Park. There isn’t much foul ground here, and if Tanaka knew that, he would have understood the risk he was taking when he took off for second base.
Asked about it after the game, Tanaka told bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu in Japenese that given the score, and the fact he wasn’t the tying run, he should have stayed at first base.
Again, just my thinking here … If this game got Brian Sabean riled up to trade for anything, it’s a left fielder.
A few players were asked after the game if they can view taking two of three as a positive, or if given their position, they couldn’t be satisfied with anything less than a sweep.
I’m not sure there’s a right answer. I’m also not sure it matters.
There’s another game Monday and two more Tuesday and they’ll keep coming after that. And they’re all outside the division. The Giants will play 33 games before they see an NL West opponent again.
Remember, the Giants are 29-21 against the NL West. At no point could you watch them head to head against the Diamondbacks this season and say, `Well, clearly Arizona is the superior team.’ The Giants are 8-4 against them.
But the Giants are just 16-31 outside the division – and that absolutely must change. They’ve got the Reds, Cubs, Phillies, Rays, Brewers, Orioles, Nationals, Marlins, Red Sox and Pirates to play before they’ll end the season with 26 of their last 32 within the NL West.
Some of those teams are under .500. But the Giants have struggled against them, too. The Marlins even won three of four when they came to AT&T Park.
Believe this: If the Giants maintain their .340 winning percentage outside the division over the next 33 games, then September isn’t going to contain anything significant. Except some exorbitant room service bills from that week in New York, maybe.
The Giants are just 2-6 in interleague play, too, and as much as I don’t want to frighten you, they’ll play three games on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay on the next road trip.
Given how they looked on the surface in Toronto, as if they were playing in hockey skates, you can bet Bochy will bring the boys out for early infield and extra work before that series opener Aug. 2.
Pablo Sandoval absolutely should be accountable for not reporting to spring training in better shape. But it’s only fair to point out that he’s been working hard and making good progress on his conditioning in the last few weeks. He has dropped weight, I’m told. And even though he’s battling a cold that had him almost hacking up a lung, he still did a half-hour of aggressive cardio after Sunday’s game.
I’m going to predict a much more productive second half from the Panda.
Yes, Tanaka really picked Toby Keith’s “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” as his walkup music.
He had the same walkup song in Fresno. And that is awesome.
Hector Sanchez was at AT&T Park to get his shoulder checked on Saturday and he was back in the lineup at DH for Single-A San Jose on Sunday. One other injury note: Joaquin Arias (appendectomy) said he was pleased with how he felt after fielding grounders Sunday. He’s three or four days away from being activated.
Still no word on the Giants’ pitching plans for Tuesday’s doubleheader. Bochy said he would announce it after the game but then changed his mind, saying he had to get with the staff.
You’d be wise to expect Barry Zito in Game 2 and a roster move to bring up Eric Surkamp for the “road game” in Game 1.
A reminder: Because Tuesday’s doubleheader is a scheduled makeup, both the Giants and Reds can add an extra player to the roster for that day only. So assuming it’s Surkamp, the Giants won’t have to demote anyone to bring him up.
Another reminder: Tuesday’s ticket is good for both games. Tickets are still available, too.
Also, some have asked, and … no, the Giants do not have to share any part of the gate with Cincinnati. The Reds missed out on a big July 4 payday, but they’ll be compensated out of Major League Baseball’s general fund. I think G. Gordon Liddy is overseeing it these days.