What saved the Giants is suddenly killing them.
The same bullpen that led them to an 18-9 ledger in one-run games in the first half has twice let them down through two games of the second, Saturday’s eighth-inning meltdown putting them in a hole they climbed out of – until the bottom of the ninth proved deadly.
First Sam Dyson crumbled, and then Reyes Moronta couldn’t escape his frame, letting Ben Gamel hit a walkoff double as the Giants fell, 5-4 to the Brewers at Miller Park in a loss they will regret.
With each game’s importance magnified as the trade deadline nears, the Giants blew a 2-1 lead in the seventh, then Moronta watched Brandon Crawford boot a grounder, Keston Hiura walk and Gamel line one to right as the Brewers celebrated.
Madison Bumgarner encouraged, as did the San Francisco defense and late-game hitting. But many of the positives were erased by four straight hits off Dyson. Mike Moustakas, Jesus Aguilar and Keston Hiura launched consecutive doubles before Eric Thames contributed a measly single, chasing Dyson without recording an out. Orlando Arcia added a sacrifice fly against Derek Holland and pushed the Giants’ hopes further away a day after Will Smith blew his first save of the year, though the Giants recovered in that one.
The Giants climbed back in the top of the ninth, when Crawford walked against Jeremy Jeffress, closing because Josh Hader pitched a pair of innings Friday. Austin Slater contributed his second big hit of the game in as many at-bats, slapping a single to right, before Stephen Vogt looped a single just over the shortstop’s head. Lorenzo Cain was slow to recover the ball, and Slater scored all the way from first to (briefly) tie the game.
The defeat bumps the Giants to 42-49 and muffles all those cries against selling at the deadline. They fell to five games back of the second wild card, unable so far to yank the “Going Out Of Business Sales!” signs from outside Farhan Zaidi’s office.
Bumgarner, too, may have made the decision easier. There was no scare this time, and while Bumgarner neither plunged nor soared his own trade value, he showed he was OK. He lived around the plate but was unable to finish Brewers hitters off. Milwaukee fouled off 24 of Bumgarner’s 103 pitches, peskiness paying off when actual run-scoring wouldn’t.
Bumgarner was forced out after five innings, allowing an unearned run on seven hits, one walk and six strikeouts. If he was not great, he was good enough, showing the elbow that Jose Martinez tattooed last week is healthy. With a couple starts left before the deadline, he’s given up four earned runs in his past 20 innings (1.80 ERA).
The Giants took a 2-1 lead in the seventh when, on paper, it was Donovan Solano and Slater coming through with key hits to drive in Brandon Crawford. But it was Zaidi’s moves and Bruce Bochy’s decisions that get assists.
With Crawford on, Brewers manager Craig Counsell went to Junior Guerra to get Joe Panik, but Solano entered instead and singled. Then the lefty Slater got a chance, pinch-hitting against the righty, and knocked a double to left to boost the Giants ahead for the moment.
If the 29-year-old Bumgarner were the main attraction, the Giants’ defense was, while he was on the mound, the star that stole the show. Bumgarner easily could have let a few more slip in, especially when Manny Pina launched a double to deep left-center in the fourth with Moustakas on first. But Kevin Pillar played it well off the wall and relayed it to Brandon Crawford, who turned and unleashed his cannon in one motion. Buster Posey then caught the short-hop and applied the tag to Moustakas.
It was Posey’s second save of the game. Lorenzo Cain was on third in the first inning when Bumgarner bounced a curveball that strayed a few feet away from Posey. Cain danced off third just far enough, and Posey came up with it and pegged him out.
The Giants’ defense rescued Bumgarner until it let him down. The Brewers tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth, when, with pitcher Zach Davies on second, Christian Yelich hit a rope on the ground to Panik. The second baseman booted it, the ball bouncing a few feet into the outfield, as Davies came around to score and Yelich was safe at first.