Perhaps the Giants grew a little too comfortable on the road. What, with the crisp, thin desert and mountain air ushering their hard hits over fences and into corners.
Finally home after 11 days, the Giants took on the San Diego Padres using the same power-happy approach. But AT&T Park fought back.
Denard Span, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence and even Jeff Samardzija hit balls that looked like no-doubters as they flew off the bat. But the marine layer stifled them all and sent them crashing into the Padres’ gloves.
Samardzija dropped his bat with satisfaction after his, but then he remembered:
“Here, at night, man, you never know.”
Added Bruce Bochy:
“We hit the balls hard, we just missed.”
Blame the marine layer, blame the 5.44 ERA-wielding pitching juggernaut Paul Clemens (W, 3-5, 4.94 ERA) and his suddenly unhittable curveball. Any momentum the Giants accrued from that three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks got stifled in Monday night’s 4-0 loss to the San Diego Padres.
So the upstream battle in this tight postseason race gets a little dicier for the Giants. The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Yankees 8-2 to jump to a four-game lead in the NL West. The Mets and the Cardinals both lost, keeping the Giants atop the Wild Card by 1-1/2 games.
The Giants could have used a little four-game win streak. They haven’t had one since the first half.
This one’s on the offense. Despite their recent promising show of power, San Francisco mustered only five hits and left six runners in scoring position. Said Bochy, again:
“We just couldn’t get that big hit.”
Those big hits came easy to this lineup in Arizona — they tallied 23 runs in those three games — but Clemens had this team on lock, dealing five innings of three-hit ball.
Still, the game felt in reach through those five innings. Samardzija (L, 11-10, 4.07 ERA) was dealing the same, solid stuff he’s had through his last six starts.
The Padres scored first when Angel Pagan tried to make a shoelace play on Luis Sardinas‘ line drive in the fourth, turning a simple single into a triple. Sardinas scored on an easy Yangervis Solarte single.
Samardzija even pitched out of a dangerous fifth inning, limiting San Diego to one run on three hits.
They got the third out twice, those over-achievers.
There’s one pitch Samardzija wanted back: a hanging splitter that old friend Hector Sanchez pummeled for a two-run homer in the sixth inning that put the game completely out of reach. Samardzija wanted it to go in, instead it leaked over the plate:
“That two-run homer put a sour taste in my mouth.”
Bochy hinted at a change after the loss, which might mean a shift atop the lineup. Eduardo Nuñez was scratched from Monday’s lineup with a stiff neck, but he is expected back for Tuesday’s game. With Denard Span in a big funk–leadoff home run against Zack Greinke aside–it wouldn’t be surprising to see Nuñez take over the leadoff spot for a while.
Hunter Pence seems to be the only hitter who’s remained hot. He went 2-for-4 Monday, pushing his average to .650 over the past five games.