For six innings Sunday, the Giants built a sizable lead over the Baltimore Orioles by playing the type of baseball that made them the best team in the majors for much of the first half.
The ensuing collapse served as a sobering reminder: Since the All-Star break the Giants have lost two-thirds of their games, and their 9-18 record is the worst in the majors.
Sunday’s loss was especially painful as the Giants gave back a six-run lead over the final three innings, with Jonathan Schoop’s two-out, three-run homer in the ninth inning off Santiago Casilla proving the decisive blow in an 8-7 loss. It was the largest lead the Giants have blown this season in a loss.
The Giants have lost seven of their nine series since the All-Star break and have not won consecutive games in August. They also have not won back-to-back starts from Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, who pitched Sunday, since June 30-July 1.
Cueto exited after allowing an RBI double to Hyun Soo Kim with two outs in the seventh that made it a 7-3 game. The Orioles then scored two runs in the eighth charged to Hunter Strickland, who had not allowed a run in his past nine appearances, and three in the ninth off Casilla, who had converted 15 of his previous 16 save chances.
“Our bullpen, which has really done a terrific job, just had a little hiccup today,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Those are always tough, to have a lead like that, can’t hold onto it.
“I don’t care what kind of bullpen you have – you get a 7-1 lead, you like to think you’re going to hold it. This game, that’s where it gets you sometimes. You like to think you’re going to win that ballgame.”
A target of fan scorn during a rough stretch in June, Casilla has been much better of late, allowing no runs and two hits in his past seven outings. He gave up a one-out single to Manny Machado, who took second when the ball skipped past Angel Pagan in left field, but struck out Chris Davis looking for the second out.
That brought up Mark Trumbo, who in the eighth hit his major-league-leading 34th homer. Casilla walked Trumbo on five pitches.
“I was aware of the power Trumbo has,” Casilla said through an interpreter. “I was trying to work him on the corners, knowing very well that first base was open.”
It brought the go-ahead run to the plate in Schoop, who swung mightily through a first-pitch fastball, then got a curveball that stayed up in the zone. Schoop hit it several rows deep into the left-field bleachers as Pagan leapt and hung atop the wall in vain.
“I just made a mistake,” Casilla said, “because the ball didn’t break.”
That left the Giants in the difficult position of having to score against Orioles closer Zach Britton, who had not allowed an earned run in 40 consecutive appearances. They put runners on first and second with two outs, but Denard Span’s chopper up the middle was fielded by J.J. Hardy, who stepped on second base for the final out.
The Giants wasted a balanced offensive outburst that recalled the earlier part of the year. Hunter Pence hit his first home run since May 18 in the fourth and the Giants made it 3-0 later that inning on a two-out RBI single by Cueto, one of his two hits. Trevor Brown, catching in place of Buster Posey, had two run-scoring singles among his three hits.
Posey was scratched from the lineup about 30 minutes before the first pitch because of lower back tightness he said has bothered him for the past few days. He pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth and was intentionally walked. Afterward, Posey said he likely wouldn’t know until Monday his availability for the Giants’ series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Cueto allowed eight hits over 6 2/3 innings but managed to keep the Orioles, who lead the majors in home runs, in the park after allowing four home runs in his previous two starts. The Giants fell to 2-4 in his starts since the All-Star break.
“There is no reason for us to be walking with our heads down,” Cueto said afterward. “This game is over with.”