PITTSBURGH -- George Kontos felt better than he has all year, and it showed. Kontos, who is having a breakthrough season, struck out the first two batters he faced in the ninth on six pitches.
And then Starling Marte ended the game.
"I think he might have been sitting on it," Kontos said. "I think he went up to the plate thinking first-pitch cutter."
Marte got a cutter and blasted it to left, giving the Pirates a 3-2 walk-off win at PNC Park. That was the kind of day it was for the Giants. They felt they did good things -- a lot of good things -- but they still fell to 2-4 on this road trip.
Manager Bruce Bochy ticked off some of the positives after the game, but every one came with a caveat. Mike Leake was dominant in his return, allowing one run over six innings, but he hadn't pitched in nearly three weeks and that led to the decision to pull him early. Brandon Crawford showed off the opposite-field swing that has made him an MVP candidate, but Marte reached over the short wall in left to pull a homer back in the second inning. The Giants rallied in Gerrit Cole's final two innings but couldn't get the big hit. Their best chance -- a Kelby Tomlinson liner with a runner on third in the seventh -- was hit right at second baseman Neil Walker.
"Just too many missed opportunities," Bochy said. "We couldn't get the hit when we needed it."
The Giants had just four hits but scored in postseason Giants fashion, getting one run thanks in part to a throwing error and another on a wild pitch. The Pirates took the opposite approach, hitting three solo homers.
Rookie Jung Ho Kang might be Matt Duffy's greatest threat in the Rookie of the Year race and he took Leake and Hunter Strickland deep. Both homers were no-doubters on two-strike pitches.
"They're not trying to do it," Bochy said of a staff that has given up a lot of big two-strike hits recently. "It comes down to execution."
Leake executed flawlessly in the early innings of his return from a hamstring strain. He said he felt fine while chasing a bunt and fielding his position, and he didn't allow a hit until Kang's homer in the fifth. It was a sinking fastball that he said he "yanked ... left right over the middle."
Still, Bochy was thrilled with his newest starter. He stopped by Leake's locker after the game to tell him he did a great job.
"He threw great," Bochy said. "That one (pitch) got away from him. He gave us what we were hoping for."
[RELATED: The file on Mike Leake]
Leake was at just 77 pitches through six but he hadn't started in 20 days and still has that hamstring wrapped, so Bochy turned to Tomlinson when the pitcher's spot came up in the seventh. Leake is a good hitter for a pitcher, but Bochy felt he had "gone far enough."
"It's been a while since he pitched," Bochy said. "He did his job. He did a terrific job for us."
Leake said he spoke with Bochy and Dave Righetti and he felt he probably had just one more inning left in his arm. He was starting to feel the effects of the long layoff.
"I took a couple weeks off, so my arm wasn't used to it," he said. "I told them my arm was getting a little close to being done. It wasn't a surprise (that I was pulled)."
Bochy had two good arms lined up, but the Pirates kept coming. Kang took Hunter Strickland deep on a two-strike, 98 mph fastball that was down but not far enough. Marte hit the cutter that Kontos said he left up just a little bit.
The ending left the Giants looking back at a trip that could be so much better to this point. Buster Posey's would-be, go-ahead homer on Monday was caught at the wall with two outs in the ninth. Gregor Blanco lined out with the bases loaded in Thursday's loss here. The Giants have dropped the four games on this trip by seven total runs.
"Each game feels like we should win it," Leake said. "They're so close. You just want to grab it and keep it. We're playing a really good team and you can't expect to win games, but we're fighting. We're trying."
--- If you missed it earlier, I caught up with Michael Morse, who talked about his own oblique injury and his 24-hour run with the Dodgers.
And if that doesn't cheer you up, check out this amazing Vine from the Little League World Series.