SAN FRANCISCO -- It was just before 1 a.m. Tuesday when Bruce Bochy walked into his post-game press conference, sat down and began rubbing his eyes. They had just watched the Giants strand 18 runners, go 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position, and lose a 4-3 game to the New York Mets on an unearned run in the 16th inning.
"That's as frustrating a game as we've had," Bochy said.
The Giants put two runners on with one out in the bottom of the 16th against Mets closer Bobby Parnell, but Pablo Sandoval struck out and pinch hitter Guillermo Quiroz hit into a fielder's choice to end the game. That was only the last of it. The 18 runners left on were the most the Giants have left in a game since June 6, 1998 when they left 19 men on in a 14-inning game -- and won.
Monday night, they left 13 runners on in extra innings alone, including the bases loaded in the 13th and the 15th. The lack of clutch hits is a big reason why the Giants have lost 12 of their last 14 games -- they've been held to two runs or fewer in 10 of them -- and they're now 3 for their last 51 with runners in scoring position.
"I think it's caught up with all of us," Bochy said. "We had so many chances and just couldn't get a hit."
Hunter Pence almost came through with it in the 11th inning. But the Mets' Eric Young ran down Pence's drive to right field on the warning track with runners on first and second and one out, and Brandon Crawford then popped out to end the inning. Pence was asked how the Giants can dig themselves out of this stretch of offensive futility.
"Find a hole," he said. "Keep competing, keep fighting, just battling. Me personally, I haven't gotten much done with runners in scoring position, and part of it is maybe trying to do too much. But there in the 11th, hit a ball hard, just right at him. So it's tough when it's going like this."
There was more to compound the frustration. The Mets scored the winning run without getting that clutch hit themselves, when Brandon Crawford, who had made the defensive play of the night in the 11th inning to preserve the tie, couldn't handle a more routine grounder in the 16th. The Giants took an early lead against Mets ace Matt Harvey but saw it disappear in the sixth thanks in part to more defensive miscues. Tim Lincecum struck out a season-high 11, but his outing went for naught.
Ultimately, the Giants dropped yet another game in the standings and fell to a season-high eight games under .500. But after five hours and 26 minutes, and a multitude of squandered chances, this one seemed to burn a little bit more.
"I mean, there's frustration," Pence said. "And we want to stay as positive as we can. But we have to get it done. We have to keep pushing to find a way to turn it around."
The game probably doesn't get to the 16th without Crawford making a backhand dive in the hole and popping up to throw out Marlon Byrd to end the 11th with runners on second and third. Byrd yanked his helmet off in disbelief as he crossed the bag.
In a relative sense, the grounder from pinch hitter Anthony Recker that Crawford bobbled in the 16th was a much simpler play. Bochy and Pence adopted the same attitude after the game -- it happens.
"He makes it look a lot easier than it is," Pence said. "It's going to happen every now and then and it just happened to come about at a bad time."
In case you forgot by early Tuesday morning, Lincecum started this game and pitched really well. Lincecum held the Mets hitless for the first four innings and recorded his first double-digit strikeout game since last July 14 (also 11).
Lincecum wasn't around afterward -- a Giants media relations staffer said Lincecum had to leave because the game had gone so late -- but reliever George Kontos said that one of "the big positives of the game was him looking like his old self." Lincecum cruised for much of his seven innings, mixing pitches and maintaining a good tempo. His second time facing David Wright was a good example -- he started Wright with a curveball for a strike, then threw two fastballs, the second of which Wright watched for strike three.
Bochy indicated Lincecum ran into some hard luck in the Mets' two-run sixth, with little help from the Giants' defense. Eric Young's leadoff triple was a well-hit line drive, but Andres Torres was slow digging it out of the corner, letting the speedy Young take third. Daniel Murphy's sinking liner to left then bounced off Torres, who tried to catch it on a slide, for an RBI single.
Wright followed with an infield single and Marco Scutaro's errant throw to first base let Murphy go to third, which proved costly when the next batter, Ike Davis, grounded into a double play. Lincecum was suddenly down 3-2.
"That's kind of been an issue at times this year and it was in that inning," Bochy said. "It's hard to explain sometimes ... especially two or three balls that you don't handle. But I did think Timmy, he handled it well."
Lincecum gave up a two-out triple to Byrd but struck out Kirk Nieuwenhuis to end the inning and retired the side in order in the seventh. He's still looking for his first win since June 4, but his competitiveness Monday was maybe just as evident in his at-bats against Harvey, clearly the more-hyped pitcher coming in. Lincecum saw eight pitches in his first at-bat before lining out to left and then eight more in his second at-bat before striking out swinging. He competed Monday like he had something to prove.
Speaking of Harvey, who allowed three runs in seven innings while taking his 10th no-decision in 19 starts this season, his stuff was as advertised -- fastball consistently in the mid-90s and breaking pitches in the mid- to high-80s.
"He's got phenomenal talent, pretty good control with the fastball," Pence said. "All I really saw form him was the fastball and the cutter, but you can see why he's had the success he's had."
Still, the saying is that any big league hitter can hit a fastball, and you saw it in the first inning, when Posey got ahead 3-1 and crushed a fastball up and over the plate for his 13th home run of the season.
Harvey didn't allow another hit to anybody except Posey until the seventh, when Pence tripled off the top of the wall in right-center and scored on Crawford's single back up the middle, which almost took Harvey's head off.
"I thought the guys battled well off him," Bochy said.
Bochy said his All-Star starter decision has probably already been made, and it's a good chance Harvey will be taking the mound first next Tuesday at his home park. One thing that stood out Monday -- the Mets seem to want the game in his hands. He came out to start the seventh at 107 pitches and, even after allowing the tying run, stayed in to finish the inning with two relievers warm and watching from the bullpen. That's a staff ace.
Posey came into the game on a 2-for-18 skid and came a triple short of the cycle in his first three at-bats against Harvey. He also shot a 97 mph fastball down the first-base line for a double and hit a sharp single back up the middle in the sixth, and finished the night 5-for-8 while catching all 16 innings. That's a batting champion.
It would have been a good night to have runners on ahead of Posey, and that was Bochy's intention moving Brandon Belt into the No. 3 spot for the first time in Belt's career. But it was not a good night for Belt, who went 0-for-8 and struck out five times. Per the game notes, Belt is the first Giant to go hitless in eight at-bats in a game since Jose (not Juan) Uribe on June 11, 1985. He's also just the third Giant in the San Francisco era to strike out five times in a game.
Still, Bochy said he thinks he'll probably keep Belt in the third spot Tuesday against Mets right-hander Dillon Gee. "You don't want to keep mixing it up too much," Bochy said. "So I'd say more than like that's the way it's going to be tomorrow."
One thing that will be different -- Bochy said Posey will need a night off after catching all 16 innings. He said the Giants should be covered in the bullpen, though, without having to call up a fresh arm from the minors.
Pence did snap an 0-for-24 streak with a triple off Harvey in the seventh. The ball hit off the very top of the wall in right-center, bouncing off the light gray stripe above the bricks on the wall, and Bochy asked umpires to review it as a potential home run, which they did before telling Pence to stay at third.
It'll be a footnote in the box score, but with two scoreless innings, rookie reliever Jake Dunning has now allowed no runs in 12 of his 13 outings. He has also held left-handers to one hit in 17 at-bats -- Kirk Nieuwenhuis' single leading off the 12th was the first, and Dunning retired the other three lefties he faced Monday.
In terms of positives for the Giants in this game, the bullpen's performance overall was one to which they could cling. All seven relievers pitched and combined for nine innings with one unearned run, three hits allowed and eight strikeouts.
"They did a great job," Bochy said.
Kontos took the loss after throwing 2 2/3 innings, though he left with the game still tied and two outs in 16th, and said the bullpen's performance overall was "pretty good, I'd say. ... Anything positive you can take in the skid we're going through right now, I think you have to."
No doubt Kontos will be off limits tomorrow -- or later today, that is, when Barry Zito (4-6, 4.44) takes the mound for the Giants against Dillon Gee (6-7, 4.45).
-- Matt Kawahara
BOX SCORE: To view the Giants - Mets game summary...click here.