Surkamp's first big-league start in nearly two years starts well, ends badly

07/24/2013 12:00 AM

07/24/2013 6:36 AM

SAN FRANCISCO – The closest thing the Giants had to a positive in Monday night's blowout loss to the Reds was ushered out Tuesday morning.

George Kontos, who threw a career-high 63 pitches to help preserve the bullpen ahead of Tuesday's doubleheader, found himself headed to Triple A with the Giants wanting to make sure they had enough usable relievers to complete two games.

It turned out to be a more prophetic decision than the Giants would've liked. By the third inning of the first game, Yusmeiro Petit, the pitcher called in to replace Kontos, had already relieved starter Eric Surkamp, whose road back to the majors from Tommy John surgery ended on a sour note in the Giants' 9-3 loss to the Reds.

Petit, a starter all season in Triple A, entered with a similar job as Kontos the night before and got the Giants to the ninth, allowing two runs and striking out seven over 5 1/3 much-needed innings. That allowed Bruce Bochy the full complement of his bullpen in the late game, which the Giants won 5-3 despite Barry Zito not making it out of the fifth inning.

Five relievers combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings and the Giants took a 4-0 lead in the second against Reds starter Greg Reynolds. It was the Giants' first win against Cincinnati this season in six games and the 1,500th in the managerial career of Bochy, who becomes the 21st manager to reach the milestone. Twelve are in the Hall of Fame.

Surkamp, pitching nearly a year to the day after his surgery, retired the Reds in order on nine pitches in the first inning before the wheels fell off. The left-hander recorded five more outs while allowing seven runs on nine hits, the last an RBI single by counterpart Tony Cingrani that ended Surkamp's first major-league start since Sept. 28, 2011.

Petit had been an option to start the first game before the Giants opted for Surkamp, who was pitching on regular rest and whom Bochy called the "best option."

Surkamp was 2-0 with a 4.79 ERA in four starts for Fresno in July, but said command was an issue at times, and indicated Tuesday he is still not entirely back to where he was before the surgery – the pitcher who went 2-2 in six starts for the Giants in late 2011.

"I feel like I'm close," Surkamp said. "Trying to describe it it's almost like you've done so many shoulder exercises and stuff like that, your arm doesn't have that whip-back (motion).

"For me right now, it's just I feel a little herky-jerky. I'm just not as fluid, I guess, as I was before."

Surkamp said he "surprisingly" wasn't nervous returning to the mound at AT&T Park, and located pitches well to the corners of the plate in his 1-2-3 first inning. That changed in the second, which built following a one-out double by Jay Bruce and a bloop single by Todd Frazier that second baseman Marco Scutaro got a glove on before it dropped.

Two batters later, Surkamp left a slider over the plate to Devin Mesoraco, who crushed it for a three-run homer that gave the Reds a 4-1 lead. Joey Votto led off the third with a home run as Cincinnati added three more runs off Surkamp before his exit.

"The last year's been a long year for me," said Surkamp, who underwent Tommy John surgery last July 24. "So it was just exciting to get back out there.

"Unfortunately it didn't turn out better. But if I get a chance to throw up here again, hopefully it goes better."

Zack Cozart homered off Petit in the fifth was the sixth Cincinnati homer in the first two games of this series.

Before Tuesday's nightcap, the Giants had been outscored 34-6 in five games against the Reds this season. They got halfway to that total in the first inning of the second game Tuesday, staking Barry Zito to a 3-0 lead before he threw a pitch, with the Reds batting last in the makeup format.

Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence each had run-scoring hits in the inning – something that eluded the Giants in the first game. The Giants actually led the opener briefly after Andres Torres led off the first with a walk and scored on Sandoval's sacrifice fly.

Et cetera – Kontos was optioned to Triple A and likely will not pitch for two or three days following his long outing Monday, Bochy said. While the three runs Kontos allowed in 3 1/3 innings brought his ERA with the Giants to 5.05 on the season, Bochy said the Giants "look at George as a guy that can be back up here soon to help us out."

To make room on the 40-man roster for Petit, the Giants designated minor-league right-hander Hunter Strickland for assignment..

Joaquin Arias (appendicitis) will begin a rehab assignment today with Fresno.

The Giants announced right-hander Chris Heston, who was designated for assignment to make roster room for Jeff Francoeur, cleared release waivers and is a free agent.

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.


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