LOS ANGELES — Alejandro De Aza hoped to make an impact on his first night in orange and black. This wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.
De Aza flashed a sad smile as he joked that he didn’t anticipate getting his manager ejected in his debut. Bruce Bochy couldn’t help himself after the top of the seventh, when De Aza took a 2-2 changeup off the outer edge and got called out with two on and one out in a one-run game. Bochy spent the commercial break arguing with home plate ump Mike Winters, and when play resumed the manager’s night was done.
“The call, I just … man, that’s frustrating,” Bochy said later. “You put a ball in play and you get a run there. There’s nothing De Aza can do with that pitch. It’s the worst call at the worst time. That’s baseball, you hate to see it, but that changed everything.
“There’s a lot at stake. That’s frustrating. We’re fighting and fighting hard and of course, that happens. That changes things. De Aza, I thought, threw out some pretty good at-bats. There’s nothing he can do with that pitch. You just want a chance, and he couldn’t touch that one.”
It’s rare that Bochy is so public with his displeasure over a call, but the Giants understand that every moment is magnified this week. They never got the tying run across and lost 2-1 to Zack Greinke and the Dodgers, falling 5 1/2 games out of first for the first time since July 10. Oh, and Clayton Kershaw takes the mound Wednesday.
“It’s a larger gap than we wanted, that’s for sure,” Buster Posey said. “Having said that, I’m not sure how many games are left, but there’s still a month left of baseball.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Bumgarner loses duel, Giants fall to Dodgers again]
The Giants have 30 games left, to be exact, but only a fifth of those will be pitched by Madison Bumgarner. That was the problem Tuesday. A loss hurts, but losing a Bumgarner start when there are so many other issues on this roster stings quite a bit more. Bumgarner was good Tuesday, allowing two runs over seven innings. Greinke, a near-lock to win the Cy Young Award, was a tad better.
“He’s having a special year, no doubt about it,” Bumgarner said. “It's the kind you don’t see very often.”
Greinke lowered his ERA to 1.59 and won his seventh consecutive start against the Giants. He has held his opponent to fewer than two runs in 19 of 27 starts, and the Giants had little hope early. Greinke had allowed just one hit when Brandon Belt smacked a single to right in the seventh. Posey followed with a walk but Marlon Byrd was thrown out on a bang-bang play at first. Replay upheld the call, although Bochy said he thought there was one angle that showed a tie, which would go to the runner.
That would have loaded the bases. Instead, De Aza came up with the tying run on third. Greinke froze him and De Aza immediately started arguing.
“To me, it wasn’t a strike,” he said. “I saw a pitch away. It was away. Honestly, I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing I could do. I was surprised he called that pitch on me.”
These things tend to even out. Sergio Romo appeared to get away with what would have been a game-ending balk on Monday, but the Giants couldn’t find a way to turn that break into a win. They couldn’t come back on Tuesday, either. The Dodgers made it 2-0 when slumping rookie Joc Pederson jumped on a 3-2 fastball from Bumgarner.
“It’s 3-2 right there and I don’t want to walk him,” Bumgarner said. “I feel like I’ve got the advantage lefty on lefty. I went after him and he jumped on it.”
The Giants got a run back in the eighth, but Jose Peraza started a spectacular double play that ended the inning. After winning nine of their first 12 games against the Dodgers, the Giants have dropped two straight. How’s the clubhouse handling it?
“I feel like we’re fine,” Bumgarner said. “The only choice we have is to come in tomorrow ready to play.”
--- Greinke vs. Bumgarner was a ton of fun for a different reason. Opposing pitchers entered a combined 0 for 85 against the two, and neither No. 8 hitter picked up a hit. Greinke certainly treated Bumgarner like a threat, especially in the second matchup when he threw a high and slow curveball that Bumgarner had no shot at driving. Greinke made Bumgarner work, too, and he couldn’t hide a smile in the sixth after swinging through a nasty 3-1 slider in the dirt. Then he smelled his bat.
“I've seen hitters do it, so I always try to remember to do it,” he said, according to True Blue LA. “But I've never smelled anything."
Bumgarner threw him two more sliders and finally got a strikeout. How many pitchers get that kind of respect from him?
“There’s not many,” Bumgarner said. “He’s a tough out, for sure. There’s no doubt about that.”
--- It was odd, to say the least, when Tim Hudson started the eighth instead of Javier Lopez, who was warming up. Hudson gave up a double to Adrian Gonzalez and then got a grounder in his second career relief appearance. Lopez didn’t come in against Andre Ethier, either. Bochy said he wanted to give Lopez and Josh Osich (who pitched four of five games) a break.
“We’ve got to do something to save this pen and we’re down a run,” he said. “We got out of that inning. That’s what you’re hoping.”
It was still a strange sequence, in large part because Bochy has already said publicly that Hudson will get at least one start this month. The assumption was that it would be Friday in Denver, but that’s up in the air now.
Of course, Don Mattingly wasn’t immune during that exchange. Hudson was pulled when Ethier was sent up to hit for Justin Ruggiano.
Ruggino happens to be 5 for 10 against Hudson.
--- A bright spot tonight: Per Christopher Kamka of CSN Chicago, Bumgarner became the first left-handed pitcher in MLB history to reach 200 strikeouts in a season and also hit five homers.