NEW YORK – Sometimes you don’t appreciate precision until it’s interrupted. You don’t notice the ointment without the fly.
And on a team guaranteed a losing season, as the Giants are in 2013, it’s all too easy to lose sight of a closer who is 35 for 40 in save opportunities.
That is Sergio Romo’s success rate after the New York Mets buzzed him and stuck fast for four runs in the ninth inning to steal a 5-4 victory Wednesday night at Citi Field.
Romo inherited a 4-1 lead along with two of Santiago Casilla’s baserunners, both of whom reached on walks. A double and two singles later, the Mets walked it off when Josh Satin lined a two-out, 2-2 fastball down the left field line with the bases loaded.
It was just the Giants’ third loss in 59 games when leading after eight innings. And it was just the fifth blown save all year for Romo, who otherwise has proven himself durable and effective in a role that most teams would’ve had a much more arduous time filling after the loss of highly visible right-hander Brian Wilson.
Romo is having a rare Wilsonian week. He threw a season-high 28 pitches in a rescue last Friday at Dodger Stadium, threw 20 more in another high-stress save on Sunday and needed 25 pitches to strand the tying runs on base in Tuesday night’s victory over the Mets.
No wonder Giants manager Bruce Bochy had Casilla start the ninth with a 4-1 lead on Wednesday. The manager had expected to make that move often this season, sprinking in save situations for Casilla and Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt, knowing that Romo has a history of elbow issues and he couldn’t be expected to go to the post every day. That was the plan in Scottsdale, anyway.
And true, the Giants haven’t had as many save situations. They wish they had more leads to protect this season.
Still, it’s been rare for Romo to be unavailable. He owns 35 of the 37 saves on the club this season.
“I’m very happy with where I’m at physically,” Romo said. “I don’t feel tired. It’s a long haul and I’ve learned a lot about myself in this role throughout this season.”
His durability is partly due to his efficiency. Roo has averaged just 14.6 pitches in his save conversions, and although he’s been more hittable this season, Wednesday’s outing was just the third time all season he’s given up three hits. He hasn’t given up four.
And his durability is especially noteworthy because he pitched for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. While it’s not related in all cases, and may be nothing more than correlation in others, five of the Giants’ seven major league participants – Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Ryan Vogelsong, Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval – spent time on the disabled list this season. Other than Romo, the only other Giant to avoid it was second baseman Marco Scutaro, and he’s played with a chronic back injury all year.
Of all those guys, the Giants were most concerned about Romo. And he stayed the healthiest.
“Very proud of that,” said Romo, who was a first-time All-Star and still has a shot to join Rod Beck, Robb Nen and Wilson as the only Giants to record 40 saves in a season. “It just shows the progression I did in the offseason. I had a lot of help from the strength staff and the trainers.”
Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada was diagnosed with a fractured fibula after crashing into left fielder Andrew Brown while making a diving catch in the ninth inning. Tejada actually stayed in the game as Gregor Blanco struck out for the third out but he was removed for a pinch hitter in the ninth. (It was Zach Lutz, who hit the double that put the spiced rum in the Mets' winning rally.)
Turns out Marco Scutaro's injured finger isn't the pinkie that he hurt when he was hit by a pitch in Pittsburgh in June. It's his ring finger, Giants trainer Dave Groeschner confirmed. An MRI showed inflammation and Scutaro will give it another day or two to calm down. He wants to play again this season.