Bullpen blows lead as Rockies storm past Giants

Nolan Arenado went 2-for-4 without an RBI in the Giants’ Fourth of July win. Madison Bumgarner held him hitless with a walk through six innings.

A storm was brewing; this was too easy.

The Arenado lightning struck at just the right time. Down two runs, two outs with two runners on, he blasted a hanging slider deep to left field to hand the Rockies their 7-3 win over the Giants Tuesday night.

The slider came from Cory Gearrin with two strikes already tacked against the slugger. The homer marked the Giants bullpen’s 17th blown save — they’re now tied with the Cincinnati Reds for most in the Majors.

Arenado’s blast was his 14th, the runs tallied for his 45th against Giants dating back to the beginning of 2015.

So is it a bullpen problem, or an Arenado problem? Bruce Bochy said after the game that he likes the look of his ‘pen’s numbers, they’ve just been inconsistent:

“That’s all it is. You look at the numbers on our guys they’re actually doing pretty good. They’re good against lefties, righties.”

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the ‘pen, and Tuesday they took a nose dive, blowing a shaky 2-0 seventh-inning lead preserved by starter Madison Bumgarner.

George Kontos — who had allowed just one run over his last 16 appearances and held righties to a .163 average — gave up consecutive singles to righties Mark Reynolds and Nick Hundley to lead off the inning. Jarrett Parker made a nice catch off Brandon Barnes to keep runners on the corners.

Javier Lopez took over and continued his hot streak — lefties are 3-for-their-last-24 against him — striking out Charlie Blackmon with three two-seamers for out number two.

Then, Gearrin took over. D.J. LeMahieu chopped a ground ball to Conor Gillaspie, who’s throw forced Brandon Belt off the bag and allowed the Rockies to cut the Giants’ lead in half. The glass had cracked, said Bochy:

“That infield hit, it killed is, it kept things going and of course the big home run.”

Said Buster Posey:

“Little bit of tough luck there, with Gearrin and the tough chopper. That woulda got us in the dugout with a 2-0 lead.”

Arenado, the next batter, shattered the window.

The bullpen let them run away with the game in the eighth, allowing three more runs on four hits and a walk-in run, Posey added:

“[The Rockies] got guys that, if you make mistakes, they have the ability to drive the ball in the gaps or out of the park.”

Yes, Sergio Romo is back to attack, but the Giants bullpen needs help. They’ve found a way to do quite a bit of damage while only pitching a collective 244 innings–ranking among the fewest in the NL.

Bochy said he’d stick with every match-up he paired out of the bullpen tonight, but he knows there’s some sorting out to do:

“I’m going to get with Rags (Dave Righetti) and Gardy (Mark Gardner) and myself and we’ll talk about the bullpen. We’re trying to get these things sorted out…Times are really good, so you’re sticking with them, and then you have your hiccups.”

It may be easier for the bullpen to transition out of match-ups with Romo back in the mix. These hiccups may become less frequent once relievers can be trusted to take over entire innings.

Having to take the mound in so many close games, too, doesn’t help a whole lot. The Giants bats couldn’t break away in this one, collecting two runs made possible in part by a fielding error and a pass ball.

Mac Williamson tacked another one on in garbage time, capitalizing on base hits from Brandon Crawford and Ramiro Peña.

The Giants wasted another Madison Bumgarner gem; he dealt six scoreless innings, giving up four hits and striking out six on 96 pitches.

Perhaps the bullpen was thrown off by Bumgarner’s relatively early departure — he would typically have at least one more inning in him. Bochy said after the game that his early departure was nothing big, just trying to rest an overworked pitcher:

We’ve been working him pretty good. We said that’s enough for him and he’s human. We had to take care of him.”

Bumgarner will never say he needs a rest, though:

“I’m probably never going to tell you I can’t keep going, so.”

Silver linings

Mac Williamson made two web gem catches in right field. The first helped Bumgarner escape a bases-loaded jam: Williamson chugged from center-right all the way to the right field corner, making a sliding catch off Trevor Story‘s high fly ball.

Bumgarner gave Williamson a big old bear hug in the dugout after:

“That was a big spot in the game for us right there. Off the bat I was hoping it would go foul…he made it look relatively easy.”

Williamson robbed Story again in the eight with a diving catch in shallow right for the first out.


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.