CHICAGO – Sergio Romo poked his head in Bruce Bochy’s office for a quick word. He emerged with a smile on his face.
There was no pouting. No dodging the media. No burying his head in his hands. For a pitcher who often became distraught after losing a lead, Romo’s first blown save as a full-fledged closer was accompanied by no swelling strings or self loathing.
It was just two mistakes up in the zone, a good gust out to Lake Michigan, and a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
[Baggs' Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Giants 3]
“No excuses,” said Romo, who gave away a one-run lead when his second pitch to Dioner Navarro landed in the bleachers, then lost it on Starlin Castro’s wind-blown drive that barely eluded Angel Pagan in deep center field.
“I made a good pitch and he put the ball in play. Good things happen when you put the ball in play. So no excuses.”
Romo was at his locker ready to answer the questions. There weren’t many to ask, really. He said, yes, he had enough time to get loose after Brandon Belt’s two-run double suddenly turned around a one-run deficit with two outs in the top of the ninth.
“I had plenty of time,” Romo said.
There is plenty of time left this season, and there will be days when Romo isn’t available to close. He was appearing for the seventh time in the Giants’ 11th game, which works out to 103 appearances at that pace. And those two pitches that were hit hard sure caught plenty of the plate. Giants manager Bruce Bochy might decide to stay away from Romo as a result on Saturday.
But the physical burden is one thing. The mental burden is another. At least based on appearances, Romo handled his first blown save well.
“He’s going to have to deal with the occasional hiccup,” Bochy said. “That’s the life of a closer.”
Navarro’s homer matched the number of home runs that Romo gave up to left-handed hitters all last season. Tyler Colvin was the only lefty to go deep on him in 2012. Alexi Casilla was the only lefty to homer off him in 2011.
So Romo has filled his quota.
The wind certainly was a factor. Matt Cain said he didn’t think David DeJesus’ solo homer in the third would’ve gotten out on its own. Cain and Bochy agreed that Navarro’s homer was obviously wind-aided, too. Pagan went so far to say that neither of those balls would've been home runs anywhere else in the major leagues. (Not sure I agree with that.)
But Romo had the final word on this subject: “He hit the ball out. End result. It was a home run. Nothing you can do about it.”
It’s not like there were 60-mph gusts and every pop-up became an adventure. It was a pretty typical day when the flags flap that way at Wrigley. And the Giants certainly benefit from the conditions and dimensions on fly balls 81 days out of the year at AT&T Park.
Maybe the better question is this: Should Pagan have caught Castro’s ball against the wall?
It would’ve been a tremendous play, but Pagan didn’t time his jump perfectly. The former Cub acknowledged he had to play it differently because the wall isn’t padded and the basket protrudes from the top of the wall.
“It was very close to the basket,” said Pagan, who also couldn’t hang on to DeJesus’ single that preceded Castro’s game-winning drive. “I didn’t want to go full speed into the wall. I’ve hit it before. It hurts. It doesn’t move. There’s no padding. I put my best effort. I couldn’t make the play.”
Pagan said he was playing deeper than normal most of the game “so I could get to the wall as quick as possible. The wind just took everything.”
Buster Posey said he was OK after getting hit on the left triceps by a Kyuji Fujikawa pitch in the ninth. What might have stung more: Fouling off the previous pitch, a fastball down the middle.
Posey doesn’t miss that pitch when he’s locked in.
Hunter Pence said he’d be faster this year and his speed certainly was a factor in the Giants’ comeback. In addition to a stolen base in the fifth inning, Pence beat out a double-play grounder that extended the game for Brandon Belt. And then Pence managed to score from first base on Belt’s double down the right field line.
“I don’t know how he did that,” Belt said.
I do know this: Based on the way he went berserk on his way down the dugout steps, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable sticking out my hand for a high five.