SAN FRANCISCO — The three-ring dynasty was built largely on comebacks. The Giants became a team that was hard to bury in the late innings of a tight game and impossible to kill in a playoff series.
The 2016 version, made up of mostly the same players, entered Wednesday’s game with an 0-61 record when trailing after eight innings. Every team runs into a ninth-inning two-run shot occasionally, or a string of miscues from the opponent. The Giants shockingly have not, but late Wednesday night, it looked like they might have chosen the perfect time for that first comeback.
Kelby Tomlinson led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a scorched double. After a pair of strikeouts that looked all too familiar, Brandon Belt hit a grounder to deep first and reached when pitcher Boone Logan forgot to sprint to the bag.
In the dugout, players started to smile. The Giants blew a save earlier this month on a similar mistake, and it looked to be coming full circle. When Buster Posey just barely got his bat on a pair of 3-2 pitches from Adam Ottavino, staying alive, the ballpark roared.
And then … a soft grounder to third. Ballgame. A 2-0 loss to the Rockies.
Bochy knows the 0-for-62 number well. Of all the characteristics of this team, it’s one of the most disappointing. He started nodding when the number was brought up.
“I am a little bit (surprised),” Bochy said. “That’s kind of been our thing, coming back in the ninth and finding ways to win games. It hasn’t happened for quite a while. Like I said, we got things going there. Tommy, a great job with the leadoff double, and Belt, we got a break there when their pitcher didn’t cover first. We just couldn’t finish it up.
“That’s something that makes a season when you can pull games out like that in the ninth, and that’s been missing lately.”
The 62nd failure kept the Giants from a potentially huge swing. They got some help earlier in the day when former Giant Adam Duvall hit a two-run single off former Giant Mike Leake, leading the Reds to a 2-1 win over the Cardinals. The Giants had a chance to go two up on the Cardinals with four to play, all but clinching a play-in game at the very least.
Instead, they managed just five hits, three in eight innings against Tyler Chatwood. The right-hander is a relative unknown thanks to a 3.87 ERA, but away from Coors Field, that number is 1.69, a Rockies record by nearly a full run.
Bochy has always complimented Chatwood’s stuff, and his players did the same after Wednesday’s loss. Posey noted that Chatwood’s mid 90s fastball sinks in on righties and away from lefties. “He’s got electric stuff,” he said. Jeff Samardzija credited Chatwood for putting himself “on the map” with his performance this year.
Chatwood was good, but he got some help from a Giants lineup that could not carry over a 12-run performance. The Giants put the leadoff hitter on in each of the first three innings, but twice that man was caught stealing. Bochy said Denard Span had the green light, but noted that Conor Gillaspie “wasn’t supposed to go” with Samardzija at the plate. The miscommunication was unacceptable for a game of this magnitude, but sadly all too familiar in this second half.
Brandon Belt drew a leadoff walk in the seventh but Posey bounced into a double play. Brandon Crawford took a free pass in the eighth, but Angel Pagan hit into another double play. That effort wasted a very solid one from Samardzija, who set a season-high with 11 strikeouts on a night when he passed the 200-inning mark. Two short Rockies rallies cost him.
Samardzija continued his late-season surge — “it’s a tale of three seasons, I’d say, for me,” he said — but it’s still unclear if he’ll pitch again in 2016. He said he will start preparing for a potential tiebreaker game in St. Louis on Monday. He’ll also be ready to help out of the bullpen this weekend.
“I would love to be available and I will be available if they feel they need me,” Samardzija said.