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Giants come up short in 13, drop three of four to Braves

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The Giants appeared to have embraced the amnesia all successful athletes need in boatloads to succeed. They shrugged off Wednesday’s ugly 9-2 loss and came into Thursday’s Oracle Park series finale against Atlanta with their chins held high.

Despite a late lead in a tight ballgame San Francisco (21-28) couldn’t hold on, falling 5-4 to the Braves (28-23) and a lineup studded with young stars-in-the-making in an extra-inning scrap that lost them the series.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at Oracle Park.

Madison Bumgarner (ND, 3-4, 4.10 ERA) and Braves starter Kevin Gausman (ND, 2-3, 4.33 ERA) each tossed quality starts, but they hit the showers long before this one was decided. 

For Bumgarner, it was his fourth quality start in his last five appearances. With six innings pitched, he allowed just two runs on six hits with six strikeouts.

He kept San Francisco in the ballgame and it looked like he was set up for a win until an eighth-inning bomb off the bat of Austin Riley (5) sent the Giants and Braves into extra-innings and gave Riley the opportunity to play the hero again in the 13th.

Bumgarner said he felt like all his pitches worked Thursday. And though he wasn’t familiar with many of the young Braves he faced, he felt his outing went well, even if the team didn’t pull through for the win. He also defended the bullpen’s role in the loss:

“You know, regardless of personal results and all that, it’s just about giving your team a chance to win. And you know, almost always our bullpen’s been really good and they hold the lead, [Atlanta] just got to us today.”

The Giants got on the board in the second inning, scoring before their opponent for just the thirteenth time in 2019 — they are now 9-4 in such situations.

Brandon Belt led off the second with a single to right and moved to third on an Evan Longoria double that pinballed around under the out-of-town scoreboard in right. 

With Kevin Pillar at the plate, Gausman threw the kind of wild pitch that actually warrants the adjective “wild,” or perhaps something stronger. He bounced a 1-2 splitter off home plate and the ball screamed in a steep arc over the netting behind home plate for the rarest of RBI balls to make it into seats in foul territory. Belt scored, Longoria moved to third and Donovan Solano added one more with a sac fly deep enough to score the San Francisco third baseman.

Bumgarner breezed through the first three innings on 40 pitches, inducing mostly ground outs and strikeouts.

He allowed orphan runs in the fourth and fifth innings, allowing a walk and pair of singles in the fourth and a Tyler Flowers big fly (5) in the fifth, tying it up at 2-2.

But Joe Panik, who had a .458 OBP in his last 14 contests with 12 walks and nine runs going into Thursday’s tilt, continued his hot streak in the fifth. With two outs he slapped a double off the wall in center field and Steven Duggar sent him home when he got a hold of an 82-mph cutter that caught too much plate for a go-ahead single that dropped in front of Ronald Acuña Jr. in center.

Alternatively, one Giant who has been struggling mightily is Mac Williamson, who struck out five times against the Braves Thursday, becoming the fifth Giant dating back to the team’s beginnings in New York to strike out five times in a game. Belt was the last to do it on July 18, 2013.

Williamson is hitting .128 after being called up May 7 and is 1-for-20 in his last seven games.

He said he’s been working diligently to solve the problem. He’s spent time checking in with his private hitting instructor and has had recent heart-to-heart talks for advice and support from teammates like Tyler Austin, Derek Holland and Stephen Vogt.

When Williamson left Sacramento he was on a tear, hitting .378./459/.756 with a 1.215 OPS. But he’s been ice cold since joining the big league club and manager Bruce Bochy said he doesn’t think Williamson’s pressing, he knows it. He said the Giants want to do whatever they can to get him right.

“He’s fighting a little bit. It’s a tough game when you get in a rut like he was in today. I know he’s battling his tail off to make something happen but you just look for hard contact and that has not been there for a while with him. You know he’s a streaky guy and he came up on a good streak and had a nice early start, but he’s been fighting.”

Williamson said when he was going good in Sacramento he often did less work. Less work in the cage, less early work and had less concern about every little detail, but he said it feels counterintuitive to make less of an effort when he’s struggling in the big leagues. Williamson said:

“Sometimes down there, less is more for me. Sometimes I’ll show up later and not take any swings, but when you’re hitting a buck 50 or 40 or worse–especially up here– I want to help the team so bad that I feel like it’s disingenuous to work less. And maybe I’m working against myself in that way but I’ve always been the guy that doesn’t really take no for an answer. So I work even harder and think even more which is probably to my detriment. I just have to trust that I’ll eventually [get my timing back].”

The Giants made it 4-2 in the seventh when manager Bruce Bochy pinch-hit Austin for Mark Melancon and Austin swatted a cookie from reliever Sean Newcombe that he parked directly above the 399-marker in the netting over Oracle Park’s Garden.

But Thursday afternoon’s matchup was extended when Swanson led off the eighth with a single and two batters later Riley hit his two-run dinger off Tony Watson to knot it up, 4-4.

Bochy defended Watson and the other five relievers who took the mound Thursday.

“Riley had a big series against us and he tied the game there. It’s gonna happen occasionally with these guys. If you look at what the bullpen’s done, they’ve done a tremendous job of winning those type games, those close games, those one-run games, and this one just got away from us.”

Giants closer Will Smith pitched a shut down ninth inning, and when he struck out Charlie Culberson, who led off the, he set a new SF-era record. Culberson was the 12th consecutive out he recorded via strikeout, which he did across outings from May 12 to May 23. The previous record-holder was Sergio Romo who recorded 11 consecutive outs via the strikeout during the span of August 9 through August 18, 2016.

There was hope that a conclusion to the game could be had within the standard nine innings when Buster Posey came up in the bottom of the ninth with two on and two out, but he grounded out and it would be another four innings before the Braves could claim victory.

Swanson and Riley worked together again in the 13th to finish the Giants off when Swanson became the first batter to make it past first base since the eighth. After singling off Reyes Moronta (L 1-4, 3.86 ERA) Swanson stole second and Riley knocked him home on a single to right, giving Atlanta a 5-4 lead.

The Giants failed to answer back in the bottom of the 13th as Luke Jackson (W, 3-1, 3.12 ERA) pitched around a Pillar single to take the win. 

Up Next

Drew Pomeranz (1-4, 5.66 ERA) is set to open the series against Arizona at Oracle Park Friday. Pomeranz will face Robbie Ray (3-1, 3.25 ERA) and first pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Notes

Brandon Crawford had the day off Thursday because he developed conjunctivitis (pink eye). Bochy expects he will be out of the lineup for one to two days, but he said Crawford is available off the bench for pinch-hitting duties.


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