SAN FRANCISCO–On most nights, nine consecutive innings of shutout ball is more than enough for a baseball team to ensure victory.
But in a 12-inning affair against the Colorado Rockies, the impressive efforts of the Giants’ pitching staff failed to hold up.
Thanks to a two-out, two-run single from Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez in the 12th, the Giants lost the series-opener of a four-game set 5-3.
In the bottom of the 12th inning, Brandon Crawford and manager Bruce Bochy were ejected by home plate umpire Chris Segal after Crawford took a called third strike the Giants felt was below the zone.
The shortstop thought the 3-2 offering was ball four, so he dropped his bat next to home plate. Then Segal tossed him.
“I got thrown out of a Major League baseball game for not picking up a bat,” Crawford said. “I’ve never heard of that before. That’s a first for me.”
The 95-mile per hour fastball from Wade Davis that ended the at-bat whizzed by Crawford, who said he would have been more likely to protect if the second pitch of the at-bat, which came in higher, was also called a strike.
“A ball that’s even lower than the ball you’re calling down initially, you call a strike to end my at-bat,” Crawford said. “That’s the biggest thing I have an issue with. If you call that first ball a strike then I know I have to protect on that.”
Thursday night’s ejection was the second of Crawford’s career and his first since 2012.
A day after first baseman Brandon Belt vehemently disagreed with a controversial called third strike that ended a game against the Reds, Bochy expressed his disappointment in the decisions that have hurt his club.
“It’s frustrating, these guys do a great job laying off pitches and they’re balls,” Bochy said. “It’s frustrating. Now we have the leadoff hitter on, yesterday we had the tying run up to the plate there. It’s frustrating. Those are balls.”
After starter Jeff Samardzija and relievers Will Smith, Sam Dyson, Hunter Strickland, Tony Watson and Pierce Johnson kept Colorado scoreless from the third inning through the 11th, Cory Gearrin allowed Gonzalez’s blooper in the top of the 12th.
Johnson opened the inning on the mound for the Giants and issued a pair of walks before Gearrin entered and induced a flyout. But after walking Nolan Arenado with two outs, Gearrin threw a 1-2 sinker that Gonzalez fought off and dropped over the head of second baseman Kelby Tomlinson.
“The walk set up that little blooper,” Bochy said. “He had two strikes, but they got the timely hit and we didn’t. We had a couple of chances there and we just couldn’t get that hit.”
The Rockies’ late rally crushed a comeback bid ignited by Belt, who has crushed 108 home runs in his career and never needed as much time to trot around the bases as he did after Thursday’s.
Belt launched a game-tying two-run shot in the sixth inning, but he was stopped in his tracks rounding second base.
His fourth homer in as many games caromed off of a green railing above the right field wall and dropped down to the outfield grass where the Rockies –and the umpires– treated it as a live ball. Catcher Buster Posey came around to score from first with two outs, but Belt stopped at second before Bruce Bochy emerged from the dugout to urge the umpire crew to convene for a replay review.
After a 1:50 pause in the action, Belt was finally allowed to jog the final 180 feet necessary for him to knot the score at 3-3.
After starting the season on the disabled list with a pectoral strain, Samardzija has struggled pitching out of the stretch this season as the right-hander has now allowed four separate three-run innings.
Of the four three-run frames Samardzija has suffered through this year, the top of the second against the Rockies should be the one that frustrates him the most.
Samardzija recorded the first out of the inning thanks to a tremendous running catch by left fielder Gorkys Hernandez who made a leaping grab at the wall to rob Carlos Gonzalez of extra bases, but after that, the Giants starter battled command issues.
Trevor Story, who entered with a .229 batting average, lined a one-out single before Samardzija issued a walk to Ian Desmond, who carried a .171 clip into Thursday’s game. After Tony Wolters popped out in foul territory, .148 hitter Daniel Castro snuck a two-run double just inside the third base line to open the scoring.
Losing a battle to Castro stung, but Samardzija followed it up by allowing pitcher Chad Bettis to drill a RBI single to center field to push Colorado ahead 3-0.
After allowing five earned runs in each of his last two outings, Samardzija’s early challenges figured to make his night a short one and turn the Giants’ evening into a long one. However, when two runners reached with just one out in the third, Samardzija reversed the trajectory of his outing and offered his offense an opportunity to claw back.
Samardzija retired 13 of the next 14 hitters he faced, tossing 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and the sixth while earning the right to start the seventh.
“It’s good to start pitching late into the game and start making that the normal feeling,” Samardzija said.
As their starter turned his game around in the third inning, the Giants’ lineup waited until the sixth to reward Samardzija for his efforts. That’s when Belt’s blast evened the score and breathed new life into the home dugout.
Belt’s streak of four straight games with a home run is his second of the year, as he also circled the bases in four consecutive contests between April 18 and April 22. His 10 home runs lead the Giants, and with 117 games left to play, Belt has plenty of time to surpass his career-high of 18.
Samardzija exited after 6 and 2/3 innings, which allowed Smith to nail down the final out in the seventh.
Dyson drew the unenviable task of contending with Arenado in the eighth, but Arenado hit a weak grounder to third baseman Evan Longoria to lead off the inning. The 2017 American League Gold Glove Award winner committed his team-high eighth error of the season with a low throw to Belt at first, allowing Arenado to reach with no one out.
Dyson, however, struck out the next hitter before inducing a 4-3 double play to escape the inning. Closer Hunter Strickland followed with a scoreless ninth, but the Giants couldn’t scratch across a run against Adam Ottavino in the bottom of the frame which sent the game to extra innings.