SAN FRANCISCO -- With runners on first and third and one out in a tie game, Bruce Bochy saw his dream come true. But only for a moment.
There was nothing Bochy wanted more in Monday's biggest spot than a grounder to Brandon Crawford. Hunter Strickland got one, but Crawford couldn't turn two, throwing the ball away after he spun at second base. The Cardinals scored the go-ahead run and won 2-1, handing the Giants a loss on the first night of their toughest road trip.
"He's the best (shortstop) in the game, I think," Bochy said. "He made a nice play on a tough hop and the throw just got away from him. The hitter hit it at the right guy."
Indeed Mark Reynolds did, at least as far as the Giants were concerned, but that dream scenario came with a few nightmarish wrinkles. First, the ball was hit hard enough that Crawford had a shot at ending the inning with a double play rather than trying to get the out at home. Then it short-hopped Crawford, riding up on his hands as different scenarios flashed through the Gold Glove candidate's head. The hop kept Crawford from getting a clean grip, and that kept him from having much of a shot at shoveling a perfect feed to Kelby Tomlinson. Instincts took over.
"I thought the fastest way was to take it myself," he said. "We needed a double play."
Crawford got to the bag quickly and touched it with his right foot as Brandon Moss came in at him hard. He spun and fired for first, but the throw was off.
"I just didn't get all the way around," he said. "It was one where I'm trying to use my instincts. Most of the time it works out, unfortunately it didn't."
It also wasn't the only reason the Giants fell Monday, far from it. Crawford drove in the only run with a scorched double to the gap, but the Giants lost a chance at another run when Hunter Pence hit into a double play a batter earlier and Brandon Belt couldn't avoid the tag by second baseman Kolten Wong. They lost their best early chance when Gregor Blanco popped up a bunt with two runners on and one out.
"I'm sure Gregor would like to take that bunt back," Bochy said. "We're in a pretty good situation there."
Despite all that, the Giants came inches from getting a lead to their closer. Buster Posey pinch-hit in the ninth and hit a blast to center with a runner on. It was caught at the wall.
"I thought it was out," Bochy said. "He gets such good carry on the ball. I don't know who didn't think it was going out, to be honest."
It really was a game of inches tonight. If Crawford gets a cleaner bounce, maybe the game is still going on. If Posey gets a tad more on that final pitch, maybe the Giants get the win. Afterward, they were ready to move on, especially from an in-between play Crawford said is "not one that's made (in practice) a whole lot."
"I'll have to practice it tomorrow," he said, smiling.
--- Chris Heston gave up only one run, but he's not right and he knows it. Heston lasted 4 2/3 innings and has failed to get through five in three of his last four starts. In August, he has 13 walks and 11 strikeouts.
"I think finding the zone is kind of an issue right now," he said. "I need to get back to being aggressive in the zone."
Heston will check to see if the issue is mechanical, but he feels fine physically. He had so much success early on by having quick innings and letting his defense work, but right now he can't even get hitters to put the ball in play at times. "I'm kind of trying to figure it out myself," Heston said, when discussing what's going wrong.
Heston had a few early clunkers mixed in with that hot start, identified the problem, and moved on. The Giants are hoping the same happens this time around, but if Heston can't turn it around this weekend, they do have an option that might buy them some breathing room as they try to figure out this roster. Heston has minor league options and could potentially be sent down to work on his mechanics and get a little rest (he's on pace for the longest season of his career) until rosters expand. Of course, that depends on Matt Cain pitching well and Mike Leake being ready to return at some point soon.
Late Monday, we found out Leake isn't ready to pitch tomorrow.
Anyway, the hope down there is that Heston finds a quick fix and returns to being the guy who battled Madison Bumgarner for first-half bragging rights. His next start is Saturday in Pittsburgh.
--- The silver lining tonight for the Giants? They didn't have to face this version of Michael Wacha last October. With a healthy Wacha and Yadier Molina, this is a different team than the one the Giants beat on Travis Ishikawa's Wach-off. That led to a funny moment post-game when a local reporter asked Bochy to name some of the differences between the Wacha he saw tonight and the one he saw in October. There was a long pause.
"Well," Bochy said. "He started tonight."