NEW YORK — Technically, the Giants lost when Michael Cuddyer jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Sergio Romo and lined it into center field. But the seeds for the first walk-off loss of the season were planted in the first inning, and again in the fifth.
The Giants loaded the bases with no outs and a run already across in the first and only managed a 2-0 lead. They would come to regret that. Four innings later, Tim Lincecum wilted in the humidity and left a heavy load for the bullpen. That kept manager Bruce Bochy from matching up late in the game, and meant Romo had no wiggle room in the final frame of a 5-4 loss at Citi Field.
“There were a few keys,” Bochy said. “A couple of double plays didn’t help us.”
The first one came in the first, when three singles and a walk put Jonathan Niese in the danger zone. But Justin Maxwell bounced into a double play and Brandon Crawford grounded out. Niese would get through seven.
[Instant Replay: Giants blow chance at sweep, lose on walk-off]
“You want to take advantage of that situation,” Bochy said. “Bases loaded and we only get one (more) run out of it. Their guy made a pitch to get the double play.”
Lincecum made plenty of good pitches early, no-hitting the Mets through three. But his pitch count got into the 50s early in the fourth and his jersey was soaked as he tried to get deep into the game. He wasn’t able to. Cuddyer’s RBI double ended Lincecum’s night after 4 2/3 innings. After such a strong start to the season, Lincecum has thrown 20 total innings in his past four starts and allowed 15 runs.
“I just need to find a better way to get out of those jams and make good pitches,” he said. “I’m just not finishing guys off.”
Lincecum threw 102 pitches, only 58 of which were strikes. He said he needs to go back to challenging guys in the strike zone, particularly down in the zone.
Lincecum’s latest short night put a heavy load on a bullpen that has been turned to way too often through 61 games. Yusmeiro Petit, the long man, was used after Lincecum, and Hunter Strickland’s struggles meant Javier Lopez and George Kontos had to come on in the seventh. Bochy had three relievers left as a tie game entered the ninth and he turned to Romo, who struck out John Mayberry Jr. but then hit Curtis Granderson on an 0-2 pitch.
When Juan Lagares grounded out, Bochy opted to intentionally walk lefty Lucas Duda, the No. 3 hitter. If Lopez had been available, Duda would have been his. Jeremy Affeldt was in the bullpen but he had to be saved because he became the long reliever once Petit and Kontos pitched.
Cuddyer didn’t wait around for Romo’s slider, smoking an elevated fastball into center as Granderson scored easily.
“He’s trying to be careful there with Cuddyer,” Bochy said. “That pitch got away from him.”
A second shot at a sweep on this road trip got away from the Giants. They took the first two in Philadelphia and the first two in New York, and Bochy felt that all in all it was a good road trip. He was able to take a positive out of this night: It took 61 games for the bullpen to give up a walk-off hit. The Giants had been 3-0 when tied after eight innings.
“Everyone has trust in each other,” Kontos said. “Nobody has an ego … whenever you’re called, you go in and do the best job you can.”
On this night, it wasn’t quite enough.
--- Jake Peavy threw 83 pitches for Triple-A Sacramento tonight, allowing four runs on seven hits. He struck out eight in 4 1/3 innings. Bochy said before the game that Peavy will get one more start for the River Cats and then they’ll make a decision.
We thought we might get some roster move hints from the River Cats lineup, but Juan Perez, Adam Duvall and Travis Ishikawa all played in the game in El Paso. Duvall, however, did play in left field.
--- Deeper in the minors, the San Jose Giants put a league-high six players on the California League All-Star team: Tyler Beede (since promoted to Double-A), Hunter Cole, Chase Johnson (huge arm, remember this guy), Keury Mella (scouts love his right arm, too), Dan Slania and Austin Slater.
--- Nori Aoki went 8-for-14 in the series, scoring four runs. He's 17-for-35 during an eight-game hitting streak.
--- Joe Panik extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games and he now has reached base in 23 straight games. Brandon Belt was one ahead of him in that category, but Belt flied out as a pinch-hitter so Panik has the longest on-base streak in the majors.