ATLANTA – If you glanced at the box score from the Giants’ 6-5 loss to the Braves at Turner Field on Saturday, you might assume that the closer succumbed to a fit of wildness.
That he didn’t know where his pitches were going. That he lost the handle on the strike zone and suffered a classic meltdown.
But that is not what happened to Sergio Romo. That is never what happens to Romo.
He entered Saturday’s game having faced 98 batters and issuing walks to just three of them. His 5.94 career walk-to-strikeout ratio leads all active relief pitchers – and that ratio was up to 8.67 this season.
Romo knew where his pitches were going. But in this game, even the greatest control expert cannot have total control over his fate.
Romo and the Giants took the loss when Justin Upton drew a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 slider that was open to interpretation, but probably too close to take. Then Freddie Freeman lined a single that delivered the Braves a comeback victory.
“It’s baseball. You can only control certain things,” Romo said. “Went out there and tried my best. Didn’t go so well. Never a good feeling when you let your team down.”
Romo roared at plate umpire Jerry Meals when he didn’t get the 3-2 pitch to Upton. The impassioned closer walked almost to the dirt in front of the plate, saying “That’s a strike!” before catcher Guillermo Quiroz rushed to turn him back toward the mound. Giants manager Bruce Bochy double-timed it onto the field to be sure Romo took a deep breath, too.
Afterwards, Romo called reporters to his locker and faced the music. Did he think the pitch was clearly a strike?
“Yeah, I mean, it really doesn’t matter what I think,” Romo said. “The outcome of the game is already settled.”
This one was settled, as Bochy pointed out, by so many details. There was Buster Posey’s double that missed being a home run by a foot or two. There was second base umpire Bruce Dreckman blowing the call on Gregor Blanco when he tried to steal in the ninth. Tony Abreu, who has been a dynamo the past few games, followed with a double that would’ve added to the Giants’ lead.
There was the three inches that third baseman Joaquin Arias left between his glove the dirt – just enough space for Andrelton Simmons’ ground ball in the ninth to sneak through for an error.
Simmons’ grounder came after Evan Gattis started the inning with a pinch walk – an understandable one, since he was 6 for 8 as a pinch hitter with four home runs, all of them coming in critical spots.
“I went at him to get ahead and I fell behind,” Romo said of Gattis. “He was able to work the count and get on base.”
And what about after the walk to Upton tied it? Did Romo have any trouble refocusing on Freeman?
“I was fine. I had the focus,” Romo said. “We’re still in the game. They tied the game but we’ve still got an opportunity to keep playing and you’ve got to dig deep a little there and stay focused. You’ve got to give them credit. Those were good pieces of hitting on their part. You can’t take that away from them.
“All in all, that’s baseball.”
There was one other detail: Bochy’s decision to stick with Chad Gaudin after he threw 79 pitches in five innings. The right-hander had thrown 79 and 84 pitches in his two previous starts, and he wasn’t exactly cruising despite leading 5-2. The Braves had hit several hard outs to the warning track or elsewhere in the outfield.
Gaudin didn’t get an out in the sixth. He faced two batters: Brian McCann doubled and B.J. Upton hit a two-run homer, his second of the game, to cut the Giants’ lead to 5-4.
“I wasn’t controlling my fastball,” Gaudin said. “I was behind in counts. It’s tough to pitch like that.”
Said Bochy: “He wasn’t quite as sharp, it’s fair to say. He was missing more than he had.”
The Giants were one double-play grounder away from clinching a winning record on their road trip. Now they’ll have to end up on the right side Sunday night, with Tim Lincecum on the mound, to go home with a 5-4 record against three tough opponents.
Romo said he’ll be ready. He can control his mindset and his preparation, at least.
“I’ll just to to come again and be ready for tomorrow with the group of guys that I get a chance to play with every day,” he said. “I will get another chance.”