SAN FRANCISCO – There’s supposed to be a heat wave on the Bay Area’s doorstep this week. The Giants could have used a few extra degrees Monday night at AT&T Park.
Buster Posey missed a home run by a foot or two, Brandon Hicks took a potential grand slam as far as the warning track and Pablo Sandoval also just missed a two-run homer. Add it up and that’s seven runs the Giants didn’t get in a 6-4 loss to the San Diego Padres.
Michael Morse, who is strong enough to park them in an ice storm, had three hits but all were singles – including a two-run poke that gave the Giants a momentary lead in the fourth inning.
But Madison Bumgarner had another short, hittable outing that could’ve been much worse – and the infield made two errors behind him in the fourth.
This was a rare home night when the Giants needed to win a slugfest, and they couldn’t quite match backup catcher Rene Rivera and his career-best five RBIs.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner (2-3) was out of sorts all night, his fastball sailed out of the zone and he had trouble locating much of anything. For three innings, he made it work.
But two errors cost him two runs and a gob of pitches in the fourth inning. And in the fifth, Bumgarner went from effectively wild to ineffectively wild as Rivera followed a single and a walk with a three-run home run.
Rivera, a backup catcher, entered the day with 22 career RBIs over parts of six major league seasons. He was an unlikely candidate to become the first Padres player to record a five-RBI game at AT&T Park.
It isn’t just backup catchers that are finding Bumgarner more hittable. After four consecutive years of lowering his opponent’s batting average, including last year when his .203 mark trailed just Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez among NL starters, Bumgarner’s trend is reversing dramatically.
Opponents are hitting .310 against him and his 45 hits allowed are the second most in the NL. Cliff Lee, surprisingly, is the only pitcher to allow more.
As a result, Bumgarner isn’t pitching deeply into games. His 93-pitch night marked the third time in six starts that he did not pitch into the sixth inning. That’s something he failed to do just three times in 31 starts last season, as Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee noted.
Juan Gutierrez, Jean Machi and Jeremy Affeldt each threw a scoreless inning to keep the deficit at one run. The Padres created a bit of breathing room in the ninth when Will Venable doubled – the first hit by a lefty off Lopez this season -- and scored on a ground ball.
At the plate
It appeared Tyson Ross would have his way with the Giants for the second time in 10 days, as he faced the minimum and induced a pair of double plays over the first three innings.
But Hunter Pence hit an RBI triple, Brandon Belt walked and moved up on a wild pitch, then Michael Morse came through with a two-run single up the middle that gave the Giants a 3-2 lead.
After the Padres rallied back in front, Hicks made it a 5-4 deficit with a solo home run in the fifth. It was the second home run in as many days for Hicks, whose walk-off shot beat the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
The Giants knocked Ross (3-3) from the game in the sixth when Posey doubled on a drive that came within a foot or two of being a tying home run. Morse singled to right but Posey had to stop at third, and then Sandoval, turned around to bat right-handed, struck out swinging against hard-throwing lefty Alex Torres. Brandon Crawford worked a tough walk to load the bases and Hicks took a solid cut against right-hander Nick Vincent, but his fly ball only reached the warning track to end the inning.
Posey and Hicks weren’t the only ones who came just short of a home run. Sandoval crushed one to the track in center field in the fourth, too. Instead he was left with an 0-for-4 night in which he left four on base.
The Giants couldn’t get the tying run to the plate in the ninth against Huston Street, who recorded his 10th save.
The defense slipped behind Bumgarner in the fourth inning. Crawford bobbled Tommy Medica’s grounder to short for an error to start the inning. Consecutive doubles gave the Padres a 2-0 lead, with Rivera knocking in both runs.
Then Sandoval had trouble picking up Ross’s roller to third. Ross was called out by first base umpire Angel Hernandez, but the Padres challenged it and the call was overturned following a replay review. Bumgarner needed a lineout from Everth Cabrera to strand the bases loaded. The errors cost him an unearned run and a quiver of stressful pitches.
Hernandez had the worst of it, getting two calls overturned in a two-inning span. Giants manager Bruce Bochy, he improved to 4-1 in challenges after replays showed Xavier Nady did not beat out a chopper to short in the top of the third.
Although he’s much maligned by players and media, Hernandez’s previous two challenged calls had been upheld by replay entering Monday’s game.
The Giants announced 41,533 paid. At least the Sharks … ah, nevermind.
The Giants and Padres continue their three-game series at AT&T Park on Tuesday. Matt Cain (0-3, 4.35 ERA) takes the mound against left-hander Eric Stults (1-2, 4.15). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT.