Bay Area Baseball

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April 24, 2013
Another Giants comeback bid falls short, despite Belt's blast

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ultimately, the Giants' 6-4 loss to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night, a game that went 11 innings with plenty of twists and turns, came full circle in a way. On the first play of the game, sure-handed shortstop Brandon Crawford couldn't handle a tough hop off the bat of Gerardo Parra, who later scored. In the top of the 11th, two defensive lapses allowed the Diamondbacks to break a 4-4 tie on an unearned run.

That the game even got that far required another late-inning rally by the Giants, capped by another huge hit from Brandon Belt, who suddenly looks more like the spring version of himself than the one we've seen for the first three weeks of the season. The Giants in the 10th actually came within about 25 feet -- or the distance by which Cody Ross threw out Pablo Sandoval at home plate -- of winning the game on Hunter Pence's two-out hit.

"That's always a tough one to lose at home," manager Bruce Bochy said. "But you have to like the way they came back from being four runs down to tie that game. They had a great situation there, and we got a two-out base hit. They just made a great play there to throw out Pablo."

Bochy said there were no second thoughts about sending Sandoval from second base with two outs. Ross charged Pence's sharp single and threw home on a line with plenty of time to get Sandoval, who was being waved all the way by third-base coach Tim Flannery.

"You get a big hit there, a two-out hit, you're trying to score," Bochy said. "That's part of the game. They're going to execute and make good plays. We got the hit we were looking for. They just made a great throw."

* An inning before, the Giants got the hit they were looking for from Belt. Pinch hitting with one on and no outs in a 4-2 game for Joaquin Arias, who again started at first base against left-hander Patrick Corbin, Belt hit a 2-2 pitch from Arizona closer J.J. Putz onto the arcade seats in right-center to tie the game.

It was Belt's first home run of the season and the first pinch-hit home run of his career. It came a night after he delivered the walk-off hit in the Giants' win Monday, after working to address timing issues with his swing with Bochy earlier in the day.

"Good for Brandon, who's been working hard, and it paid off," Bochy said. "To hit a ball like that with two strikes was pretty impressive with what was on the line. Gave us a huge hit there."

Belt had swung and missed on two pitches earlier in the at-bat before putting a concise swing on Putz's 2-2 offering.

"When you're seeing the ball well, you don't worry about two-strike approach that much," Belt said. "I've felt like I've seen the ball well the past couple days, so I think that helps me stay calm up there in those situations."

Belt also singled leading off the bottom of the 11th but was tagged out on a double play. After coming off the bench the past two games, Bochy said Belt will be in the lineup tomorrow against Diamondbacks right-hander Ian Kennedy.

* After Sergio Romo came in for a scoreless 10th inning -- despite issuing a walk for the first time in 39 appearances, snapping a streak that was the longest for any Giants pitcher since 1921 and just shy of the longest in baseball since that season (Dennis Eckersley, 41 games for the A's from Aug. 17, 1989-June 10, 1990) -- the Giants lapsed defensively in the 11th.

With one out, Diamondbacks shortstop Didi Gregorius hit a line drive to left field that bounced in front of Andres Torres. Torres reached up to glove the ball on a hop, then hesitated and looked at Angel Pagan before throwing it in. Gregorius took advantage of the extra beat to leg out a double.

Bochy said Torres was "probably a little too conservative there" in charging the ball. But Torres said he lost the ball in the lights. He then reacted a little awkwardly when it landed in front of him. Torres said he apologized to reliever Santiago Casilla about the play.

The next batter, Alfredo Marte, hit a sharp grounder to Sandoval, who made a one-hop throw across the diamond that bounced off the heel of Belt's glove. Originally ruled an error on Sandoval, it was changed to an error on Belt. Belt agreed with the decision.

"It's definitely my fault," Belt said. "It was a long hop, you assume it's going to come down, but you've got to know the elements and know the grass is wet there and it skips. ... It stayed up on me and I didn't want it all the way into the glove.

"Pablo did the perfect thing right there because that's a very easy play for a first baseman to make. When he can give you that long hop, you can't ask for anything better."

That gave the Diamondbacks runners on first and third. Gregorius scored when Casilla's 1-0 pitch to Parra skipped through Buster Posey's legs to the backstop, ending a streak of 15 1/3 scoreless innings by the Giants' bullpen. Parra then doubled to drive in Marte and send most remaining fans for the exits.

* One thing the Giants did do with their late rally was help Matt Cain avoid falling to 0-3 for the first time in his career. Cain went six innings and had his first quality start since opening day but departed trailing 4-0 due to an unfortunate first inning and a mistake to Giant killer Paul Goldschmidt.

After Crawford's error in the first, Cain allowed a single to Martin Prado. Goldschmidt then hit a soft fly ball to right field that landed directly on the foul line and just out of the reach of a diving Pence for an RBI double. Prado scored on a groundout.

Cain regrouped except for a third-inning fastball that ran back over the inner part of the plate to Goldschmidt, who crushed it to left field for a two-run homer. Cain, who said he "felt better" Tuesday compared to previous outings, admitted that pitch was troubling.

"I really always throw four-seamers, and the ball usually just runs on me a little bit," Cain said. "It's just when it gets running too much I'm out of my mechanics and it's something that's not good. So it's something I have to pay attention to and constantly work on."

Bochy said he thought Cain threw well and "probably could have come out of that game two runs" but for the first inning. Cain, whose ERA is 6.59 and in whose starts the Giants are now 0-5 this season, didn't make excuses.

"I'm putting these guys in the hole, and a lot of times I'm doing it early," he said. "It's not something I want to do and it's not easy for these guys to have to come back like that.

"I want to go out there and put some zeroes on the board early, and I just need to do that."

* Quick turnaround for these two teams, who will play the rubber match of the series at 12:45 tomorrow afternoon. Bochy said he plans to use his normal lineup against a right-hander, meaning Belt at first base and Gregor Blanco in left field. He also said he'll talk with Posey before deciding who will catch Madison Bumgarner, though after Posey was behind the plate for all 11 innings Tuesday there's a "good chance he could get a day."

After tomorrow, the Giants leave for a six-game road trip to San Diego and Arizona. So as Angel Pagan likes to say, they'll be trying to ensure a "happy flight." Back in a matter of hours.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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