SAN DIEGO – There isn’t a more delicious way to gain ground in the standings than when Brian Wilson, a vision in black and Dodger blue, surrenders a home run in the late innings.
The Giants had a chance to gain precious and unexpected ground in the NL West race on Saturday, courtesy of the Chicago Cubs’ five-run comeback win over the Dodgers at Wrigley Field.
But Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner overwhelmed the Giants with his right arm, and his legs did a fair amount of damage as well as Bruce Bochy’s team went too quiet for too long in a 3-2 loss at Petco Park Saturday night.
The Giants tried but could not complete their own rally against a bearded reliever, as Brandon Crawford flied out against Kevin Quackenbush with the tying run at third base.
One night after the Giants had just three hits in a 5-0 loss, they needed a rally in the ninth to avoid a two-hit shutout. With Angel Pagan and Michael Morse not expected back anytime soon, Bochy tried Hunter Pence in the leadoff spot again. Expect a new configuration on Sunday as the Giants try to avoid getting swept in the three-game series.
They would still be looking for their first run in the series if not for a two-run rally in the ninth, which Pence began with a solo home run. It was the first of four hits in the inning, including Gregor Blanco’s two-out, two-strike, RBI single. Their comeback came up just short.
The Giants remained 3 ½ games behind the Dodgers and retained their one-game edge over the Pittsburgh Pirates for the top wild card spot. But the Milwaukee Brewers won to get within 4 ½ games of the Giants.
Still, the Giants need to merely finish 4-4 over their last eight games to ensure they’ll be one of the two NL wild card teams.
They’ll have to face Cashner one more time back at AT&T Park, though.
Starting pitching report
Yusmeiro Petit didn’t make it through the sixth inning, he issued two walks in the third inning and he couldn’t retire the opposing pitcher. On the basis of those facts, you might surmise he had an off night.
But the strike-throwing right-hander actually did a remarkable job minimizing damage, and had to throw stressful pitches after second baseman Joe Panik made a very big mistake.
Petit (5-5) retired the first six hitters before Abraham Almonte started a weird third inning in very odd fashion: by spraining his ankle out of the batter’s box while hitting a broken-bat, ground-rule double.
Then for the second time in barely three weeks, Petit had an impressive streak broken up by the opposing pitcher. It was the Rockies’ Jordan Lyles who doubled on Aug. 28 to break up Petit’s major league record of 46 consecutive batters retired. This time, Cashner drew a one-out walk in the third – the first time after a run of 70 batters that Petit went to a three-ball count.
Yangervis Solarte followed with a sharp grounder to second base and Panik made a nice stop to his left. But Panik might have rushed his spin and throw to second base in the hopes of turning two. His throw skipped well wide of shortstop Brandon Crawford as a run scored and the Padres had two runners in scoring position.
Petit walked Alexi Amarista to load the bases but avoided what easily could have been a wipeout inning when he struck out Jedd Gyorko and Yasmani Grandal, pumping his fist as he walked off the mound.
Petit pitched out of more trouble in the fifth after Cashner, who might be the fastest pitcher alive, hit a one-out triple but did not score.
Perhaps those stressful pitches took a toll on Petit by the sixth, when Grandal hit a one-out double. Seth Smith drew an intentional walk and backup catcher Rene Rivera made the Giants pay with a booming, two-run double into the left field corner. Rivera also had a five-RBI game against the Giants in April, you might recall.
That was it for Petit. He was charged with three runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks (one intentional) in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out seven.
The Giants barely avoided another knockout inning in the sixth. Javier Lopez got Will Venable to hit a grounder to Crawford, who alertly threw out Venable at third.
Juan Gutierrez entered and intentionally walked No. 8 hitter Cameron Maybin, but Cashner weaponized his speed again by dropping a perfect bunt to the third base side of the mound for a single that loaded the bases. The Giants were caught totally unprepared for the bunt, but Solarte grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Jeremy Affeldt and Hunter Strickland combined for a scoreless eighth.
At the plate
Ever since their 9-0 victory over the Dodgers on Sept. 12, the offense has gone cold. The Giants have scored 12 runs over their past seven games.
Cashner allowed just two baserunners in the first eight innings, and neither of them advanced past first base. Buster Posey hit a two-out single in the first inning and a leadoff single in the fourth.
Cashner recorded 12 of his 24 outs in the air while recording seven strikeouts. But the 28-year-old wasn’t able to finish off his third complete game of the season. Pence homered leading off the ninth, marking his seventh consecutive season with 20 home runs. Then Panik singled to knock Cashner from the game.
Posey greeted Kevin Quackenbush with a deep drive to right field that was caught at the warning track. Pablo Sandoval followed with a single to put the tying runs on base and Belt took a high fastball for the second out. Blanco worked the count full before spraying an RBI single to left field, with pinch runner Chris Dominguez stopping at third base. But Crawford couldn’t find a hole when fed a 3-1 fastball.
Panik committed his eighth error and Giants second basemen have made 18 this season. Only the Braves and Mets have committed more at the position among all major league teams.
The Padres announced 40,660 paid. The Swingin’ Friar gave the photobombing a rest for one night.
The Giants and Padres finish their three-game series at Petco Park on Sunday. Ryan Vogelsong (8-11, 3.98 ERA) takes the mound against Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy (11-13, 3.80). First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. PDT.