SAN FRANCISCO – It’s hard to put together a more painful game than Friday’s 3-2 come-from-ahead loss to the Chicago Cubs, but the Giants gave it their best effort on Saturday.
The Giants wasted a bases-loaded no outs situation in the eighth, watched a former teammate break a scoreless tie in the top of the ninth, then blew another chance with the bags juiced in the bottom half of the inning for a 1-0 final score.
San Francisco now stands 11 games under .500 at 46-57 and is on the verge of getting swept by the ‘Lovable Losers.’
Starting pitching report
For the 28th time in his last 32 home starts, Madison Bumgarner kept the opponents to two runs or less. On Saturday, he kept the Cubs in check for eight innings before leaving a scoreless game.
Bumgarner threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of the first 19 Chicago batters and threw 116 pitches, 76 strikes, over his eight shutout innings. He also recorded at least one strikeout in every inning except the fifth and finished with seven. He allowed four hits and walked two.
Even after leaving the game, Bumgarner looked poised to pick up his 11th win of the season when the Giants loaded the bases in the bottom half of the eighth. See below for how that worked out.
Less than 24 hours after taking the loss in Friday’s game, Sergio Romo was back on the mound for the Giants in a scoreless game. It didn’t stay that way for long, though, as former Giant Nate Schierholtz turned on a Romo fastball with one out and lifted it just high enough to clear the arcade wall above the out-of-town scoreboard in Triple’s Alley.
With new circumstances, Bruce Bochy turned the ball over to left-hander Javier Lopez, who got two quick outs to send the game to the bottom of the ninth.
At the plate
Cubs rookie Chris Rusin made the Giants look antsy to erase the memory of Friday night’s loss. He needed just 27 pitches to get through three perfect innings without reaching a three-ball count.
Leadoff man Andres Torres started the fourth by working a 3-0 count before Rusin retired him on the first of three groundouts in another 1-2-3 inning.
Hunter Pence’s one-out walk in the fifth gave the Giants their first baserunner and Joaquin Arias got the Giants in the hit column with a two-out single, moving Pence to second. But Brandon Belt, the goat on Friday, rolled over the first pitch he saw from Rusin for a routine 4-3 groundout to end the threat.
The Giants found themselves in the same situation, runners at first and second with two outs, an inning later. Just like Belt in the fifth, Pablo Sandoval chased the first pitch for a routine fly ball to center to keep the Giants off the board.
Belt got another chance at redemption in the seventh. Pence led off the inning with a ground-rule double to Triple’s Alley and moved up to third on Jeff Francoeur’s groundout to the right side. After an Arias groundout kept Pence 90 feet from scoring the game’s first run, Belt stepped into the box. Belt had to foul off four tough pitches from Rusin to work a 2-2 count following an 0-2 start to the at-bat. Rusin’s ninth offering, a slider at the letters and over the heart of the plate, looked like it would end up in right for an RBI single until Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, listed at 6’3”, snared it to end the inning. Belt stopped dead in his tracks just a few feet up the first-base line and slammed his helmet into the dirt in frustration.
The Giants’ offensive woes hit a new ‘rock bottom’ when they loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth in front of the heart of the order and couldn’t score.
Gregor Blanco pinch-hit for Bumgarner to lead off the bottom of the eighth and worked a walk against Cubs reliever Pedro Strop. Torres followed with a sacrifice bunt that led to no outs when Strop tried to get the lead runner but short-hopped Starlin Castro at second base. Scutaro followed with a perfect bunt up the third-base line and, once again, Strop blew the chance to get an out. While the bunt was exactly where it needed to be, Scutaro’s lack of speed would’ve made for a close play at first base. Instead, Strop took a brief peek at Blanco heading to third, and his hesitation allowed the Giants to load the bases with no outs for Buster Posey.
The reigning N.L. MVP fouled off six Strop pitches, but broke his bat on the ninth, hitting a weak ground ball into the Cubs’ drawn-in infield defense for a 5-2 fielder’s choice that forced Blanco out at home. Sandoval followed with a similar 3-2 fielder’s choice to keep the game scoreless and the bases loaded. Both Posey and Sandoval barely beat out Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro’s throws to first to avoid double plays, allowing Pence an opportunity to pick his teammates up. But Pence saw four straight sliders from Strop, three of which he swung at, including a 1-2 pitch out of the zone for an inning-ending strikeout. The aborted rally, capped by a terrible swing on a low and away slider, elicited groans from the AT&T Park crowd not seen since the days of Aaron Rowand.
The Giants wasted another bases-loaded situation in the ninth as pinch-hitter Tony Abreu grounded into a 3-1-3 double play, letting Cubs closer Kevin Gregg dance out of danger. The Giants finished with just five hits on the evening. They went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left ten on base.
Posey, Pence and Belt left three men on each and Sandoval was on the hook for another five.
In the field
The Giants took over sole possession of first place in the wrong category. Pablo Sandoval and Marco Scutaro both booted routine grounders for San Francisco’s 75th and 76th errors, respectively.
Andres Torres made up for some recent defensive struggles with a run-saving catch on Nate Schierholtz’s sinking line drive with Cubs at first and second to end the top of the sixth inning.
Attendance The Giants announced a crowd of 41,953 for their 218th straight regular-season sellout.
The Giants conclude their series with the Cubs Sunday at 1:05 p.m. with LHP Travis Wood (6-7, 2.95 ERA) opposing RHP Tim Lincecum (5-10, 4.73 ERA).