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July 7, 2013
Dodgers get to Romo in 4-1 win; Gaudin strong in return

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sergio Romo sat with his head hidden in his locker as reporters entered the home clubhouse following the Giants' 4-1 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday. Romo, the losing pitcher of record in the game, then dressed quickly and brushed past media without comment on his way out the door.

The Dodgers broke open a 1-1 game in the ninth against Romo on A.J. Ellis' three-run double with two outs, and while an ill-advised flip by Buster Posey -- playing first base on a day game -- played a part in the inning escalating, the Dodgers had already put a runner on in the form of Yasiel Puig, who led off the inning with a single.

Puig, who had struck out against Romo in the ninth inning on Saturday, flipped his bat as if the ball was headed for the seats before running to first. When Ellis' double cleared the bases, Andre Ethier crossed home plate and jumped into Puig's arms. This all came a day after Romo was seen on TV cameras copying Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez's "I see you" move while in the Giants' handshake line after saving Saturday's 4-2 win.

After Sunday's game, the L.A. Times' Dylan Hernandez tweeted this quote from Puig talking about Romo: "Yesterday, he struck me out, he controlled Hanley, and he celebrated. Today, it was our turn to celebrate."

Yes, the Dodgers, who weeks ago were floundering in the depths of the N.L. West, are playing with some fire right now, while the Giants are trying to bust out of a funk that has them seven games under .500 and a season-high 6 ½ games behind first-place Arizona, which beat the Rockies on Sunday.

The Giants have lost 11 of 13 and 16 of 21. After being held to one run Sunday by their nemesis Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen, who pitched the ninth, they have scored two or fewer runs in 12 of their last 16 games. They still own the majors' worst record (17-32) since May 14, when they were seven games over and in first place.

"We're definitely not playing up to our capability," Posey said. "Sometimes I feel like we say the same stuff all the time about sometimes trying to do too much or whatnot. But each guy's getting here and getting their work in. It's one of those stretches right now."

Manager Bruce Bochy took up the same tone after what he acknowledged was a "tough loss." Bochy said the Giants are a "tough group" and "handling this as well as you can." Chad Gaudin, who took a hard-luck no-decision Sunday, said the Giants have to "lean on each other."

"Teams go through slumps, it's just about how you come out of it," Gaudin said. "The best way I've seen to come out of it is to pull together and everybody start playing as one. And I think we're doing that. Everybody's out there working hard, busting their tails."

Bochy and Posey were both asked about the flashes of emotion from the Dodgers, and both said they didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Romo was his energetic self while pitching Sunday, bouncing off the mound and popping his glove after striking out Juan Uribe for the second out with the bases loaded. After Ellis' double, which came on an 0-1 slider that stayed up, Bochy brought in Jake Dunning to relieve Romo, who left the mound shaking his head.

Bochy was asked if he noticed any back-and-forth between Romo and the Dodgers and said he had not. "That's how he pitches, with a lot of passion and emotion. If we thought it was out of control on our side, we would say something about it. But I don't want to change this guy. He goes out there with a lot of fire and competes as well as anybody.

"He was a hitter away from getting out of it (Sunday). I don't want to take away, if it's under control, guys that play with emotion. That's who they are."

Right now, that applies to the Dodgers as well.

* Catcher Guillermo Quiroz said the pitch that Ellis hit for the double was "a slider that just hung up in the strike zone." It was the 12th slider Romo threw in his first 14 pitches, not including four intentional balls to Andre Ethier to load the bases and set up a double play with one out.

"Sergio had a really good slider today," Quiroz said. "That was the only one basically that he threw up in the strike zone."

Such was the margin for error Sunday in a game that had been tied 1-1 since the third inning, with Gaudin and Kershaw going back and forth through seven. After Puig's leadoff single in the ninth, Adrian Gonzalez hit a sharp grounder to the right of Posey, who knocked it down and tried a late flip to second. Puig likely would have been safe anyway, but the ball bounced away from Joaquin Arias, and Puig sped into third.

"That's a tough play for Buster," Bochy said. "We know he hasn't played a lot of first, but he does a good job over there. It's not an easy play."

Posey took responsibility for the flip: "Obviously it kicked off of me and I should've held onto it. But I didn't."

Romo got Ramirez on a comebacker and, after walking Ethier, struck out Uribe on a low slider. That brought up Ellis, who was 1-for-4 lifetime against Romo before the double.

"(The error) put us in a tough situation, sure," Bochy said. "But Sergio was doing a great job getting out of it. He just left the last pitch up there and Ellis took advantage."

* Gaudin didn't factor into the decision but shouldn't be overlooked. In his first game back from the disabled list, Gaudin struck out nine for the first time since 2009, showed no ill effects from the line drive off his pitching arm June 20, threw 92 pitches without appearing to tire and kept the Giants in a tight game.

"He gave us what we needed," Bochy said. "Impressive outing, especially with the layoff that he's had. He was locating well, threw strikes, looked sharp."

The Giants will take a boost anywhere they can get it right now, and Gaudin's return to the rotation certainly appears to be one. Michael Kickham, who was optioned back to Triple-A on Sunday to make room for Gaudin, was roughed up in his two starts and the rest of the rotation minus All-Star Madison Bumgarner has been mostly inconsistent.

Gaudin has now allowed two runs or fewer in four of his five starts, and if nothing else lends a little more stability with his experience. As for the Giants' rotation, the last time one of their starters other than Bumgarner was on the winning end of a decision was on June 13, when Matt Cain beat the Pirates.

* The Giants' offensive problems aren't difficult to quantify. They're 4-for-52 in their last 10 games with runners in scoring position. They only had two such at-bats Sunday. Pablo Sandoval is 3 for his last 42. Posey is 2 for his last 18. Hunter Pence hasn't had a hit in six games and is 2 for his last 37.

Bochy was asked specifically after the game about Pence, who went hitless in four at-bats Sunday and struck out to end the game. Bochy said he sees his right fielder struggling but doesn't think a day off is what Pence needs.

"He's such a big part of this club, he's so strong, I'll try to find a spot for him," he said. "He got some good swings off, he's just missing some pitches. ... At this point he's pretty important to the club, his presence, his energy. So he'll be out there tomorrow."

* It doesn't get any easier for the Giants tomorrow, when the Mets will throw their All-Star Matt Harvey, who has a 2.27 ERA and is a leading candidate to start for the N.L. in New York. He'll face Tim Lincecum, who's looking for his first win since June 4. First pitch at 7:15 p.m.

-- 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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