SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner showed why he will be part of the National League All-Star team next week in San Diego. The Giants’ bullpen showed why, going into the All-Star Break, it remains an area of concern for a first-place team.
Nolan Arenado continued his one-man demolition of Giants pitching. And it all added up to another blown late lead for the Giants, who fell 7-3 to the Colorado Rockies on a chilly night at AT&T Park.
Bumgarner threw six scoreless innings and got the Giants to the seventh with a 2-0 lead, but his exit had the effect of a switch flipping. The Rockies scored seven runs in the next two innings as the Giants’ bullpen blew its 17th save opportunity this season, tied for the most in the majors with the lowly Cincinnati Reds.
Six of those blown saves have come in their last nine opportunities, and the bullpen owns a 6.98 ERA in its last 10 games.
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Manager Bruce Bochy said he intends to talk with pitching coach Dave Righetti, bullpen coach Mark Gardner and possibly a few relievers to "try to get this thing sorted out."
"At times they’re really good," Bochy said of the bullpen. "You’re sticking with them. Then they have their hiccups. It’s a matter of somebody stepping up and taking over a role. That’s what you’re looking for at this point.
"We’ve had some guys really good at times and really spotty at times. That’s what makes it tough. That’s why I’m trying to get matchups as best I can. Like I said, I’ll take every matchup I had tonight. It just didn’t work out."
George Kontos had allowed one run in his previous 16 outings, but he gave up back-to-back singles to start the seventh inning. Kontos retired Brandon Barnes on a fly-out and Javier Lopez came on to strike out Charlie Blackmon.
Cory Gearrin induced a slow chopper from D.J. LeMahieu that Conor Gillaspie fielded on a bare-hand. But Gillaspie’s throw to first pulled Brandon Belt off the bag, allowing LeMahieu to reach on an infield single and a run to score.
"The infield hit killed us," Bochy said. "That kept things going."
It kept things going for Arenado, whose penchant for Giants-slaying has led the Rockies to title his section in their game notes simply: "David." Gearrin got to two strikes against Arenado, but hung a 2-2 slider, and the Rockies’ third baseman hammered it halfway up the bleachers in left field.
In 31 games since the start of last season, Arenado has 14 home runs and 45 RBIs against the Giants alone - the most by any major-league player against one opponent in that span. He already has 21 RBIs against them in 12 games this season, with seven meetings left.
"We seem to make mistakes to him," Bochy said. "And some things are hard to explain. He hits well against a lot of clubs. But he’s really hit us well. And we’ve just got to make better pitches."
Gearrin and Hunter Strickland combined to allow three more runs in the eighth on four singles and two walks, one to D.J. LeMahieu with the bases loaded. That gave Arenado the chance to do more damage, but Strickland retired him on a pop-up.
It was little consolation as Tuesday also continued a troubling recent trend for the bullpen of giving up game-changing late home runs. In the last nine games, Strickland, Lopez and Gearrin (twice) have all surrendered homers with men on base that either tied the game or gave their opponent a lead in the seventh inning or later.
"It’s hard to change much," Bochy said. "We’re trying to mix it up."
This meltdown wasted a strong, if shorter than normal, outing from Bumgarner. The left-hander, named earlier in the day to his fourth consecutive All-Star team, left the mound after the sixth inning at 96 pitches and hit for himself in the bottom of the inning, but did not return for the seventh.
"We’ve been working him pretty good," Bochy said. "We said that’s enough for him. He is human. We gotta take care of him. We need him all year. He was done at that point."
Bumgarner’s line might have been messier if not for Mac Williamson, who saved at least two runs with a sprinting, sliding catch of Trevor Story’s slicing fly ball to the right-field corner with the bases loaded and two outs in the third.
"I was kind of gauging how close I was getting to (the wall)," Williamson said. "That’s why I chose to slide instead of dive. Didn’t really feel like going headfirst into the wall."
The catch, from a player who hasn’t spent much time roaming AT&T Park’s tough right field, earned Williamson a hug from Bumgarner when he got back to the dugout.
"That’s a tough catch, and he made it look relatively easy," Bumgarner said. "That was the difference in three runs early right there."
But the catch, like Bumgarner’s outing, ultimately went for naught. And afterward Bochy was left answering questions about another bullpen failure.
"You’re throwing guys out there with experience, too, that’s what’s frustrating,’ Bochy said. "And it is for them. We had it set up pretty good."