DENVER – What happens when you field two double-play grounders and record one out between them?
A lost night. A lost season. That’s what.
Jhoulys Chacin took a no-hit bid deeper than any Rockies pitcher ever had at Coors Field Wednesday night, getting within seven outs of one before Brandon Crawford lined a clean single to center field.
But that wasn’t the main reason the Giants lost 5-4 and dropped yet another road series. They shot themselves in the foot again, and the blood trail led back to the sixth inning, which imploded on a couple of soft hits, then one mangled double play, then one really bad give-in fastball from right-hander Jean Machi.
It added up to the Giants’ seventh loss in Madison Bumgarner’s eighth start since the All-Star break, even though he’s pitched poorly maybe once over that span (and has a 2.63 ERA).
“You try to separate it, but it’s definitely been a rough patch here,” said Bumgarner, who fell to 11-9. “I felt good, OK, decent. I felt like I made some pitches and they just happened to find a hole. I feel I’ve been through times like this already. I know how to prepare mentally and what to do.”
How can the Giants make that claim at large? How could the same team that played so crisp in Tuesday night’s victory break down one night later? How could the defending champions be guaranteed their third consecutive losing month?
Over a 162-game season, you cannot paper over inconsistency. You will be punished for it. And the Giants have spent most of this season in a wall sit.
Bumgarner exited after retiring just one of four batters in the sixth, with Wilin Rosario’s RBI blooper giving the Rockies a 2-1 lead. Bumgarner didn’t think the pitch to Rosario was a bad one, nor the one that D.J. LeMahieu hit for a single to start the inning. And in between, the walk to Troy Tulowitzki, the only one Bumgarner issued in the game … well, as Bruce Bochy said, “Talk about a great pitch, and he didn’t get the call.”
Then, as Bochy said, “It just got ugly.”
Machi snared a comebacker from Nolan Arenado that should’ve ended the inning. The pitcher whirled, made a quick throw to second base – and it glanced off shortstop Brandon Crawford’s glove for an error.
“I don’t think I took my eye off it,” Crawford said. “I’m going hard one way and the throw is the other way. I just didn’t catch it.”
If the throw was behind Crawford, it was maybe a few inches at the most. It’s certainly a throw that any shortstop should have handled, especially one with his athleticism.
Good defense shuts down innings like this, as the Giants did a night earlier when the Rockies rustled in the reeds. Bad defense prolongs these innings. And the Rockies made the Giants pay when Yorvit Torrealba hit a two-run double on a 3-1 fastball.
“Machi laid it in,” Bochy said.
Another double play was minimized later in the inning when Chacin, who impressively didn’t try to conserve energy with a no-hitter intact, grounded to short. Crawford didn’t double-clutch and neither did second baseman Marco Scutaro, but the entire turn wasn’t as tight as it should’ve been and Chacin beat the relay throw as another run scored.
(Earlier in the inning, Buster Posey threw way off line to third base as LeMahieu stole it. That was one more play the Giants couldn’t execute.)
Even with their fate known for weeks, it’s no less frustrating for the defending champions to follow a crisp game with another limp one.
“Last year we played so well defensively,” Crawford said. “We really didn’t have any stretches like we’ve had this year where we haven’t played good defense. So hopefully the next month or so we’ll clean it up.”
Prior to the game, Bochy was asked if there's merit in climbing out of last place, maybe moving past the Padres and Rockies to finish third. The manager blanched as if served a fish head.
"It's not something you set out to do, but considering where we are ..." said Bochy, whose club could join the 1998 Marlins as the defending champs to finish in last place. "I don't think anyone wants to finish in the cellar. That's not something we've talked about or discussed, as much as we've got to give it our all every day. You should still play the game that way."
After Wednesday's loss, the Giants are 12-15 with two games remaining in August -- guaranteed their third consecutive losing month.
On the positive side, at least they didn’t get no-hit in Coors Field. Now that would’ve set a new low in the summer-long search for #RockBottom.
“It’s a good park to hit in, but we got no-hit in Cincinnati,” said Crawford, who didn’t appear to take much pleasure in busting up Chacin’s bid. “So it can happen anywhere. I don’t think any of our guys felt we weren’t having good at-bats. His slider was obviously pretty good tonight.”
Some nights, you’ll run into a pitcher with a great slider, like Chacin, or a fastball that just keeps getting firmer each inning, like Homer Bailey. You can’t control that.
But defense should be there every day. And so often this year, the Giants let innings, let games, let a season get out of control.