Giants & A’s

Matt Kawahara, Bay Area baseball beat writer

Giants squander chances in ‘disheartening’ 5-3 loss to Phillies

08/16/2014 12:24 AM

08/16/2014 12:26 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy could sense where the question was going and didn’t even wait for it to finish. Was the Giants’ 10-inning, 5-3 loss on Friday night one of the most difficult this season for the manager to swallow?

"Yeah," Bochy said. "No question."

The Giants have found plenty of ways to lose the past two months while dropping 37 of 58 games. Friday against the Phillies, they squandered a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning and multiple chances to pad that lead -- both before and after Cody Asche’s game-tying home run off of Jeremy Affeldt -- while leaving seven runners on base and allowing Madison Bumgarner’s best start at home in two months to go for naught.

"We had our chances to add on, and that’s what caught up with us," Bochy said. "Keep the game close like that and anything can happen."

The Giants put their leadoff hitter on in five of the first eight innings but turned that into runs just once -- in the fourth, when Michael Morse hit a three-run homer that accounted for all of their scoring.

The most frustrating missed chances came starting in the sixth. The Giants put runners on first and third with one out against Cole Hamels, but a squeeze attempt failed as Brandon Crawford bunted right back to Hamels, who caught Gregor Blanco in a rundown between third and home.

Bochy said the play was a safety squeeze, and that "both ends we didn’t execute." Blanco did not wait to see if the ball would get past the pitcher before breaking toward the plate. But Crawford was also unable to angle the bunt away from Hamels. "We have speed on third base, and his job’s to read it," Bochy said. "But the bunt was right back to Hamels, and it was an easy play for him."

Angel Pagan then led off the seventh with a double. But with one out and Buster Posey at the plate, Pagan was caught breaking for third base on a pickoff move by Hamels.

Asche’s two-run homer off Affeldt made it a 3-3 game in the eighth. Pablo Sandoval then led off the bottom of the inning with a single and took second with the Giants catching a break, as Blanco popped up a sacrifice attempt that still worked when catcher Carlos Ruiz couldn’t catch it in the air. With two outs, Joe Panik singled to right and third-base coach Tim Flannery waved Sandoval home -- where Marlon Byrd’s throw beat him by roughly 30 feet.

"We’re having a hard time scoring runs," Bochy said when asked if the play should have been handled more conservatively. "We’re doing all we can, the coaches. Pablo’s not a speed guy, the ball was smoked and (Byrd) ended up making a perfect throw. Hey, you move on after that."

Only the Giants couldn’t. Panik’s was their last hit of the night and Sandoval the last man in scoring position after a game full of them. To add insult, after loading the bases in the 10th, the Phillies scored the two decisive runs without the benefit of a hit. Javier Lopez hit Chase Utley in the leg with a pitch to force in the first run, and Ryan Howard drove in the second with a sacrifice fly.

"No question, disheartening," Bochy said. "Bumgarner, what a great job he did. This was a tough one, and we’ve had a lot of them here at home, and I wish I could tell you why. But they played well until late in the ballgame. We just couldn’t add on."

* Bumgarner made his first quality start at AT&T Park since June 10 against Washington by allowing one run (a Marlon Byrd solo homer) on four hits and striking out nine batters in seven innings. The left-hander, who entered with a 5.60 ERA at home, lowered that mark by nearly half a run, though he remains 4-6 at AT&T Park this season.

"It was nice to throw a good game at home," Bumgarner said. "It seems like it’s been forever."

Facing a Phillies lineup that featured five left-handed hitters, Bumgarner struck out five of the first eight batters he faced, retired the first 10 and did not allow a man past second until Byrd’s home run leading off the fifth. He recorded eight of his nine strikeouts on swing-throughs.

"It kind of felt like I did the last couple starts on the road," said Bumgarner, coming off back-to-back complete games in New York and Kansas City. "I had good command of all my pitches and just that’s really the only thing -- just making better pitches."

Bumgarner’s home struggles have been among the more baffling aspects of this Giants season, and his career numbers suggest he has simply experienced an aberrant -- though prolonged -- stretch of bad home starts. Four of his remaining eight projected starts will be at AT&T, so he and the Giants likely hope Friday was a regression toward the norm.

Still, as Bochy indicated, Bumgarner hasn’t been alone in his home problems. The Giants have lost 15 of their last 22 games at home and 23 of 31 since June 9. Their .258 winning percentage at home in that span is the worst in the majors. They avoided falling to 6 ½ games out in the division Friday night only by virtue of the Dodgers’ loss to Milwaukee.

"We’re definitely running out of time saying we’ll keep battling it out and get ‘em tomorrow," Bumgarner said. "But we’re not out of time yet. So that’s what we’re going to have to do."

* Asche’s two-run homer off Affeldt, coming after Darin Ruf led off the eighth against Affeldt with a single, was the first home run Affeldt has allowed since last June 18. It was also the first he has given up to a left-handed hitter in more than three years -- the Braves’ Jason Heyward was the last to take Affeldt deep, on April 24, 2011.

Affeldt appeared to land awkwardly on the home run pitch and grab the inside of his right leg grimacing, though he stayed in after a brief visit from a trainer. Bumgarner said that may have affected the location of the pitch to Asche.

"I would think there’s no doubt about it," Bumgarner said. "You don’t see him throw many fastballs up in the zone like that."

Affeldt’s answer, though: "I don’t really have an excuse for that (pitch). I just put the ball on a tee, and the guy hit it where he should’ve hit it, a belt-high fastball in the middle of the plate."

It was just the second time in his last 17 outings Affeldt has allowed a run. The Phillies’ first run in the 10th was charged to Santiago Casilla, who entered with a 1.48 ERA that ranked fifth among N.L. relievers but gave up Asche’s leadoff double in the inning,

"Our bullpen, as good as they always are, there’s going to be times like that," Bumgarner said. "It looked like (Affeldt) slipped, too, and that makes it harder. … We’re just happy he’s all right, and I think he was fine after that."

* Bochy said he spoke with Blanco on Friday night about the latter’s baserunning, which has been questionable at times recently, including some oddly timed stolen base attempts.

"There’s a fine line between being aggressive and being smart," Bochy said. "He can be a very good base-runner. He’s just got to keep his focus out there.

"Sometimes he tries to make things happen, as all of them do. They’re all trying to win the ballgame, and sometimes they probably push it a little too much. But you know, when he’s going right, he’s one of our better base-runners."

Blanco did successfully steal second Friday after entering as a pinch runner for Morse in the sixth, before the ill-fated squeeze play.

* On a positive note, Morse’s three-run homer in the fourth was the kind of hit he and the Giants have found far too rare recently. It was Morse’s 16th homer of the season, but just his third in his last 57 games beginning June 6.

In his first at-bat, Morse crushed a ball off Hamels into the gap in right-center -- Hamels’ immediate reaction was a frustrated jerk of the head -- only to see Byrd run it down, not even on the warning track. As the homer cleared the wall in left-center while he rounded first base, Morse pumped both his fists in the air.

"Big hit there, three-run home run, which we haven’t seen a lot of, especially at home," Bochy said. "Good at-bats by Morse tonight, and like I said, we did some good things through seven innings. It just got away from us."

* As a result, the Giants are still looking for their first consecutive wins at home since June 8, when they won the last of five in a row at AT&T Park. Game two of this series has Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick (5-11, 4.88) opposing Tim Hudson (8-9, 2.81). First pitch at 1:05 p.m.

About This Blog

Matt Kawahara has covered baseball for The Sacramento Bee for three years. Kawahara, a McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley graduate, joined The Bee in 2010. Before joining Sports, he was a general assignment news reporter. Reach Kawahara at mkawahara@sacbee.com. Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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