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July 21, 2013
Flannery shoulders the blame after Giants' 3-1 loss to D-Backs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner, not one prone to hyperbole, said Sunday that Giants third base coach Tim Flannery "takes his job as seriously as anybody I've ever seen." And indeed, after Flannery's decision Sunday to send Buster Posey home on a double by Pablo Sandoval with nobody out in a 1-0 game backfired with Posey being thrown out, nobody took it harder than Flannery.

"I feel terrible," Flannery said. "With nobody out that can't happen. I feel responsible for the game, I feel responsible for Bum not getting a win and getting a loss. It comes with the territory over there.

"There's days you have a moment that you help win games and then occasionally you're in the middle of helping to lose a game. And that's how I felt today."

While the timing was questionable, the decision gained some weight in retrospect from the fact that the Giants managed little else in the way of offense in their 3-1 loss to the Diamondbacks on Sunday. They scored their lone run in the ninth inning by way of two Diamondbacks errors, an infield hit and a fielder's choice, and couldn't capitalize on four walks by Arizona starter Randall Delgado, who pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings.

Moreover, nobody questioned about the game afterward placed the onus for the loss on Flannery. Manager Bruce Bochy said it "looked like Buster was going to make it" and credited Arizona shortstop Cliff Pennington for "a great relay throw." Posey said he hadn't re-watched the play yet, but "that's the way it goes sometimes -- they made a good relay and a good throw to the plate."

Bumgarner, who subsequently took the loss despite allowing one run over seven innings, offered maybe the strongest vote of confidence in Flannery.

"I don't think anybody's blaming it on him except maybe himself," Bumgarner said. "He's a great third-base coach. I'm just thankful that he's part of this team. He takes it personal, but you're not going to be right every single time. (Pennington) had to make a perfect throw, and he did."

Catcher Miguel Montero also made a very athletic play to field the relay and tag Posey on a dive. It illustrated the narrow margin for error Sunday. The Diamondbacks scored their lone run off Bumgarner in the first when Martin Prado tripled into the left-center gap just out of the reach of Kensuke Tanaka, the converted second baseman, who said afterward he "thought there might be a chance to catch it."

Bochy said he wasn't so sure. "Where we were playing, we have a guy (in Tanaka) who can run well, he just couldn't quite get to it. It was a gapper. Where we were, (Prado) just hit it where it was too far to go to make the play."

Prado wound up scoring on Paul Goldschmidt's sacrifice fly. The Diamondbacks didn't score again until the eighth, when Cody Ross singled with the bases loaded and two outs off Jean Machi, just recalled from Triple-A with Jeremy Affeldt lost for four to six weeks to a strained left groin.

That proved the difference as the Giants pushed across one run in the ninth. But it didn't make the loss any easier to swallow for Flannery. Had Posey held up at third, the Giants would have had two runners in scoring position in the sixth with nobody out and Hunter Pence coming up in a 1-0 game. It might have changed the outcome of the game -- but then again, it might not have. The hypothetical was what stung.

"When I made the decision I thought it was going to be a no-brainer," Flannery said. "But then when I saw the two great throws, and when Buster came around, with nobody out you've got to almost say ... you've got to hold him.

"I got too aggressive in that situation, but it comes with the territory. I work without a net."

* The Giants seemed a little torn on just how to feel about this weekend. On one hand, they won a series from the division-leading Diamondbacks and picked up a game in the standings. On the other, they put themselves in position to sweep and possibly take a big three-game chomp out of their deficit in the West, but couldn't capitalize on Bumgarner's strong outing and still trail Arizona by 5 ½ games (with the streaking Dodgers now just a half-game out of first).

"Disappointing with the job that Bumgarner did," Bochy said. "You take that anytime, the job that he gave us, and you like to think you're going to score a run. ... He went out there and gave us a chance to get the sweep, we just couldn't get this offense going."

Bumgarner gave up a first-inning run for just the third time all season but recovered to record his seventh consecutive start in which he has gone at least seven innings while giving up two or fewer runs. His ERA against the Diamondbacks in four starts this season is 1.71 -- but he's 1-1.

"I mean, we are (a little disappointed)," Bumgarner said. "We had a chance. But it's big to win the series against them, so we'll take that."

Maybe the most encouraging sign for the Giants in the series was the performance of the starters -- Chad Gaudin, Matt Cain and Bumgarner combined to allow three runs over 19 innings. The rotation ended the first half with the third-highest ERA in the N.L., and the Giants need them -- Cain in particular -- to regain their past-season form if they're going to make a run in the second half.

"It's tough when you can't pick (Bumgarner) up with a good outing like that," Posey said. "Obviously we would've liked to win this one as well. But just try to carry some momentum into the next series."

That's where it gets tricky. The Reds come in Monday night for four games -- including Tuesday's doubleheader making up the rainout in Cincinnati -- starting a stretch of 33 games in a row the Giants play against non-division opponents. The Giants are 29-21 against teams in the N.L. West this season, and 16-31 against everybody else.

"We won the series," Bumgarner said. "If you just go into every series thinking of winning the series, we should be sitting pretty good in September."

* The Giants' other baserunning miscue Sunday belonged to Tanaka, who was thrown out trying to take second base on a throwing error in the ninth. Instead of having a man on with one out in a 3-1 game, it left the bases empty with two outs. Brandon Crawford singled to get the tying run to the plate again, but Jeff Francoeur grounded into a fielder's choice to end it.

Tanaka did not represent the tying run at that point, so the difference between his being on first and second base was minimal. He acknowledged afterward, through interpreter Taira Uematsu, that: "Thinking about the score, maybe it was a good idea to stay at first base."

Bochy said the Giants' "baserunning at times has not been what it should. But they're trying, they're running hard, and that's all you can ask."

* Bochy and Posey both said the pitch from Jean Machi that Cody Ross hit for a two-run single in the eighth, giving the Diamondbacks a 3-0 lead, was not a bad pitch. Posey said it was changeup in a decent location that Ross just fought off the other way for a soft line drive.

It wasn't an easy situation for Machi to step into in his first game back from Triple-A -- bases loaded and two outs in a one-run game. But it's a place the Giants may need help until Santiago Casilla is completely eased back into things from his injury layoff.

Machi was very good for the Giants early on -- he had a 1.80 ERA in his first 14 games -- before hitting a rough patch in June, and Bochy said Machi's workload in April and May might have caught up to him. Before Sunday's game, Bochy said he valued Machi's past contributions and feels comfortable using Machi against both lefties and righties. So it likely won't be the last time Machi finds himself in a high-leverage situation.

* Bochy didn't say who the Giants will bring up to start Tuesday against the Reds in the doubleheader. He also left open whether Barry Zito will start the afternoon game or the nightcap, though he strongly indicated Zito could start the night game, in which the Giants will bat last as the home team.

Here, then, is the incomplete set of pitching probables for the Cincinnati series (with Zito listed for the first game Tuesday, just for placement's sake):

Monday: RHP Bronson Arroyo (8-7, 3.42) vs. RHP Tim Lincecum (5-9, 4.26)
Tuesday Game 1: LHP Tony Cingrani (3-1, 3.23) vs. LHP Barry Zito (4-7, 4.88)
Tuesday Game 2: RHP Greg Reynolds (season debut) vs. TBA
Wednesday: RHP Mike Leake (9-4, 2.79) vs. RHP Chad Gaudin (4-1, 2.15)

Back tomorrow.

-- 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.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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