SAN FRANCISCO — Major League players are conditioned to expect just about anything over a 162-game season, so it’s rare that any win or loss can surprise a clubhouse. Even so, Sunday’s defeat was a bit of a stunner.
The Giants handed a two-run lead to their lockdown closer and — even though he was struggling — would have walked away with a win had it not been for an error on a routine play to short. Brandon Crawford, one of the best defensive players in the league and a probable All-Star, muffed a grounder that would have been a game-ending double play. The Giants lost 7-5.
“I was trying to get two before I caught the ball,” Crawford said. “I came at it too hard and was trying to get two before I ever caught the ball. It’s disappointing with the comeback we had and with (Joe Panik’s) homer and battling back and coming back the way we did. Having it end like that is disappointing.”
For most of the day, this looked like this would be one of the most entertaining wins of the year. Madison Bumgarner took a perfect game into the fifth and Crawford teamed with Brandon Belt to hit back-to-back homers that shook AT&T Park and gave Bumgarner a lead.
The big lefty gave it back in the seventh, with the big coming on Juan Uribe’s two-run blast.
“I had some balls leak over the middle,” Bumgarner said. “You can get away with them here and there, but you can’t expect to against big league hitters. They’re going to make you pay if you make mistakes.”
Panik got Bumgarner off the hook and briefly got clubhouse bragging rights. The second baseman has the locker tucked between the Brandons and he equaled their combined shots with a two-run blast in the seventh.
When Hunter Strickland took the lead through the eighth, the Giants were looking at their first 22-win month since 1954. But trouble lurked. Bochy was short in the bullpen because Sergio Romo was too sick to pitch. When George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt and Strickland followed Bumgarner, that left Javier Lopez as the only reasonable line of defense if Casilla struggled. He did.
Freddie Freeman cut the two-run lead in half with a one-out homer and Casilla walked Andrelton Simmons. Lopez started to warm up, but Bruce Bochy knew he couldn’t fully commit to the lefty because the Braves had the right-handed-hitting Pedro Ciriaco and switch-hitters Eric Young Jr. and Todd Cunningham on their bench.
Plus, Bochy said: “I had my closer out there.”
“He got the ground ball,” Bochy said of Casilla. “There’s nothing he can do, he made a great pitch.”
Crawford rushed forward, thinking he was about to flip the ball to Panik for the game-ending double play, but he couldn’t scoop it up cleanly.
“It just looked like he rushed it a little bit,” Bochy said. “We had a tough time getting that double play today. That was part of the inning. The walk didn’t help and then the blooper fell. That’s a tough one.”
A.J. Pierzynski hit the flare to right that nicked Panik’s glove and loaded the bases. Knowing the Braves could replace Jace Peterson if he called for Lopez, Bochy stuck with Casilla. Peterson hit a three-run triple.
“They can make changes too,” Bochy said. “I didn’t have someone behind him.”
The loss was the second straight after 13 wins in 15 games and kept the Giants from moving past the Dodgers and back into first in the National League West.
“You can’t dwell on the last two days given what we’ve done and what we’ll continue to do,” Bumgarner said.