AT&T Park was mostly empty in the top of the ninth inning Friday night when the hardy few fans who stayed through a stinker of game for the Giants started a “Let’s Go Giants” chant. Team executives should have walked through the stands shaking hands with all of them, the truest of the faithful.
The players in the orange tops showed their appreciation another way, tying the game with a three-run rally that began with two outs in the ninth and sent the game into extra innings. The crowning blow was Conor Gillaspie‘s pinch two-run homer, his first of the year.
A smaller but just as enthusiastic group saw the Giants lose anyway, 12-9, when three straight Padres (Matt Szczur, Jose Pierla and Carlos Asuaje) drove in runs with their fourth hits of the game. All were singles, two off George Kontos, who was pitching for the fourth time in five days and was supposed to be off.
When the game ended at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, the Giants had lost for the eighth time in 11 games this year to the Padres, who had 20 hits and lead the Giants by six games in the “race” for fourth place.
Nobody was more frustrated than Jeff Samardzija, who had leads of 4-0 after one inning, 5-1 after three and 6-2 after four yet had to be yanked before he even could qualify for a win.
“Your guys go out there and battle for you and give you a nice, comfortable lead,” Samardzija said. “That’s all you can ask for anytime as a pitcher. You want three, four runs and do your job. They did that and then some. To have it turn out the way it did, it’s not on my list of things I enjoy doing.”
Manager Bruce Bochy does not enjoy walking into the interview room after the Giants score nine runs, which sometimes amounts to two series worth of production, and talk about a loss. This was the third time he had to do it in 2017.
To expand that further, the Giants have lost nine games in which they have scored at least six.
The Giants have not had too many games when they have been terrible on both sides, but have had several like this: When they pitch they don’t hit. When they hit they don’t pitch.
“That’s why we are where we’re at,” Bochy said. “Long game. Long innings. We grinded all night. For our guys to come out for the ninth inning and make a comeback like that, it’s frustrating we couldn’t win.”
Wil Myers broke a 6-6 tie in the seventh with a homer off Hunter Strickland, who allowed two more in the eighth after allowing consecutive triples to start the inning.
The Giants were down 9-6 in the ninth against closer Brandon Maurer and rallied big-time after the first two Giants made outs.
Buster Posey walked and advanced on indifference. Brandon Crawford’s second RBI single scored Posey, and Gillaspie sent a slider high and deep into the night to tie it 9-9.
But they could not score in the 10th.. The Padres got their three in the 11th against George Kontos pitching for the fourth time in five nights. Bochy said before the game he wanted to stay away from Kontos, but he tried to squeeze an inning from the right-hander before going to his long man, Kyle Crick, the last reliever left.
When a game goes past midnight and 21 runs score, there is bound to be some strangeness, and there was.
Play momentarily was stopped in extra innings when an aggressive flock of seagulls commandeered the air space over the outfield and had Denard Span, who has a fear of birds, running several steps to safety.
The birds dispersed when the sound engineers played that “Everybody clap your hands” thing, and the fans did. For a minute.
Before the ninth inning, it was frustration after frustration for the Giants.
Letting Hector Sanchez kill them again? Samardzija getting walloped by the same team for the second time in six nights? Szczur standing at the plate in the ninth and 11th innings needing a homer for the cycle when he did not even play the first four innings?
Szczur would have been the first player in at least 104 years to have a cycle in a game he did not start. He needed a homer in the ninth and went for it, striking out against Steven Okert with a tremendous cut.
Sanchez hit his fourth homer of the year against the Giants, an RBI double and a single. Since 2015, his final year in San Francisco, he is hitting 11-for-22 with five homers and 13 RBIs against the Giants.
Against everyone else he has hit .193 with five homers in 88 at-bats.
The game pitted two starters who have attracted some interest in the trade market, Samardzija and Trevor Cahill. Neither finished five innings. Cahill allowed six runs, Samardzija five.
The game began so pleasantly for the Giants, too, with a four-run first inning.
Span continued his roll with a leadoff double. Brandon Belt flipped a single to right-center, his first hit in 10 at-bats, to score Span. After Posey’s walk, Crawford bounced a single to right that turned into a bonanza for the Giants because of a bad throw from Hunter Renfroe.