SAN FRANCISCO – It takes a lot of faith to intentionally walk a batter to face the major league home run leader. That’s what Bruce Bochy did in the tenth inning Friday night.
But Adam Jones is not left-handed. Chris Davis is. And no matter where the Giants might be in the standings, Bochy trusts Javier Lopez with any left-handed matchup.
Like so much else for the Giants this season, it didn’t work out this time. Davis sent a booming double to a spot in deep right-center field where nobody could catch it. The two-run, tiebreaking hit sent the Giants to a 5-2 loss at AT&T Park.
Davis was batting nearly 100 points lower against lefties (.243 to .333), but he had 11 homers and seven doubles among his 35 hits. But Bochy chose the Davis-Lopez matchup instead of having Santiago Casilla enter and pitch to Jones. Perhaps Casilla feared a Casilla-Davis matchup even more.
The Giants probably lost the game an inning earlier, anyway. Brandon Belt, who hit a 430-foot home run in the sixth, singled to start the tying rally in the ninth against Orioles closer Jim Johnson. The Giants had runners at the corners with one out after Hunter Pence’s tying single up the middle.
But the Giants couldn’t get Buster Posey home for their first walk-off win since June 22. Roger Kieschnick struck out and Gregor Blanco lined out to second base.
At least the rally in the ninth took Ryan Vogelsong off the hook for a loss after he held the Orioles to two runs in six innings, marking a successful return after missing nearly three months because of a crushed right pinky finger.
Starting pitching report
Vogelsong has had much better velocity and stuff, but he hasn’t lost his ability to compete while gutting through six innings and departing with a 2-0 deficit.
His fastball velocity wasn’t much more than his 85 mph slider by the third inning, which usually spells doom for a pitcher. But Vogelsong used his cutter, curve and kept enough pitches on the periphery to keep the Orioles off the board after the second inning.
Some well placed line drives helped him out, too – including a floating one that shortstop Brandon Crawford snagged like a tight end across the middle to end the first inning, and another that Marco Scutaro caught to start a double play in the sixth.
The Orioles got to Vogelsong early. Manny Machado, the second batter he faced, came within a few feet of hitting a rare right-handed home run into the right field arcade. It hit near the top of the bricks for a double and Adam Jones’ two-out single brought him home.
But that was the Orioles’ only hit in five at-bats with runners in scoring position against Vogelsong. He stranded two runners on Matt Wieters’ floater to Crawford.
He only paid for one more mistake, when J.J. Hardy started the second inning by turning on an 0-1 curveball for his 20th home run of the season.
The Orioles only advanced one more runner into scoring position the rest of the night.
It was just Vogelsong’s second quality start of the season; he had contributed just one in nine outings before fracturing his pinky finger May 20.
Jose Mijares made it six up and six down to get through the seventh and eighth. He punctuated his night with a called fastball to strike out Davis.
Sandy Rosario flashed impressive stuff in a scoreless ninth.
But Machado hit a line drive that ticked off Brandon Crawford’s glove for a hustle double, Jones drew the free pass with two out and Davis blew up Bochy’s strategy. Matt Wieters followed with an RBI single.
At the plate
Chris Tillman might not be a household name in NL cities, but he’s a 2013 All-Star and he set a career high with nine strikeouts.
He got three of them in the second inning, after Hunter Pence singled and Pablo Sandoval, standing more upright at the plate, laid off two high fastballs to draw a walk. The bottom of the order couldn’t keep the rally going, though, as Tillman struck out Roger Kieschnick, Gregor Blanco and Vogelsong.
Those were the first of 14 consecutive batters retired by Tillman, a streak that Belt interrupted with his impressive drive in the sixth inning. He crushed a 3-2 fastball over the 421-foot marker where the fence crowns in right-center. The ball smacked off the bricks to the left of the yellow line and took a pinball bounce into the stands – the kind of home run you might see in batting practice, but seldom in the sixth inning of a cool night here.
It was Belt’s 13th homer of the year, putting him one behind Pence and Buster Posey for the club lead.
Getting the tying run across proved tricky. Blanco singled off Tillman to start the eighth, but pinch hitter Andres Torres’ sacrifice attempt was too hard and Machado, the Orioles’ gifted third baseman, threw easily to force Blanco.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter employed a Barry Bonds shift on Belt, and he avoided it just like the all-time home run leader used to do – with a deep amd majestic home run.
In the third inning, Belt was robbed of a single in the third inning when Machado, the third baseman, played right field rover and scooped up a ball that got past another diving infielder.
The Giants announced 41,434 paid. For once, Orange Friday was a friendly concept whether you were cheering the home team or the visitors.
The Giants and Orioles continue their three-game interleague series at AT&T Park on Saturday. Chad Gaudin (5-2, 2.56 ERA) takes the mound against left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (6-4, 2.95). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PDT.