Matt Moore was having a fine night throwing the ball overhand.
But when he tried to make an underhanded throw, the San Francisco Giants’ left-hander fell apart.
Through his first 4 and 2/3 innings, Moore had the Cleveland Indians largely figured out, but all it took was one errant throw to first base to undo what was shaping up to be a strong outing in the Giants’ 5-3 loss.
With the Giants ahead 3-1 in the top half of the fifth inning, Moore induced what should have been an inning-ending groundout off the bat of Cleveland center fielder Bradley Zimmer. But when Moore went for an underhanded toss to execute the final putout of the frame, the ball sailed over the head of first baseman Jae-gyun Hwang, costing Moore 12 additional pitches and two unearned runs.
“In the end, that wound up being what cost us the game,” Moore said. “It’s something, it’s hard to shake off right now, but with the other things that were going on in the game, honestly I was pretty happy with just my overall conviction and command. I think I was doing most of the things I was wanting to do out there but that is the big dark spot because it wound up costing us the game.”
Starting in place of Brandon Belt –who sat out for the second straight day with a sprained wrist– Hwang made his debut at first base and suffered through his own defensive struggles on Monday evening. Regardless, though, it didn’t matter if the Giants had Hwang, Belt or even Wilt Chamberlain manning the bag, no one was hauling in Moore’ lollipop.
“It’s been a tough go,” Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy said. “We get home. We want to get off to a good start and win the ballgame and to lose like that, sure, it’s always tough to lose and you hate shooting yourself in the foot, which we did.”
Monday night’s game at AT&T Park actually carried the rare potential of offensive fireworks, as Moore was matched up with Indians’ right-hander Josh Tomlin.Together, they entered the contest with a combined earned run average hovering just under 11.00. Individually, they carried two of the three worst ERAs among qualifying Major League pitchers, and at this point in the year, 70 different hurlers qualify. To put it bluntly, both pitchers are lucky to still have spots in their respective rotations.
Apparently, that prospective pitchers’ duel was enough to keep fans at home on Monday, as the Giants’ National League-record sellout streak of 530 consecutive regular season games came to an end. After officially selling out every home game since the end of the 2010 season, the Giants only sold 39,538 tickets to Monday’s game, which brought about the end of an era that unofficially ended much earlier.
Though Moore and Tomlin combined to set down the first 12 hitters they faced on Monday, the Indians struck first on a first-pitch mistake from Moore to open up the third inning. A 92-mile per hour fastball grooved over the heart of the plate to Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes landed in the left field bleachers, but San Francisco worked quickly to erase the deficit.
In the bottom half of the inning, Giants’ second baseman Joe Panik stroked a leadoff single that left fielder Gorkys Hernandez followed with an RBI double, but Hernandez was fortunate to collect the run batted in after an ill-advised send from third base coach Phil Nevin.
A picture-perfect relay from Michael Brantley to Francisco Lindor resulted in Gomes having the ball at the plate with plenty of time to spare, but the Cleveland catcher laid down a half-hearted tag that Panik slid past. Despite Panik initially being ruled out, a replay review overturned the call, and allowed the Giants to tie the game.
San Francisco went ahead on a single by the very next batter, Moore, who collected his third hit of the season with a bounding ball over the head of Lindor to plate Hernandez. Moore’s single helped him tie his career-high in hits in a season and pushed his career-high RBI total to four.
Though Moore helped himself with his bat and took care of business on the mound for most of the night, it was the third phase of the game that cast a pall over his outing.
After Moore’s error in the fifth allowed third baseman Giovanny Urshela to score, a Lindor single plated Zimmer to tie the game at 3-3.
In the top of the sixth, another Giants’ fielding error, this time from Hwang, cost San Francisco the deciding run. After a leadoff double from shortstop Jose Ramirez, a bunt attempt from right fielder Brandon Guyer was handled by Hwang, who tossed the ball past Panik covering first base which allowed Ramirez to score and put the Indians ahead 4-3.
“With Hwang at first, he just hasn’t played a lot at first,” Bochy said. “Belt is down right now and hopefully he can go tomorrow but he’s just not accustomed to making that throw that he had to throw there and that ended up being the winning run and it’s a shame that we ended up losing the game.”
Though Moore finished the night allowing just two earned runs over seven quality innings of work, it was the one throw he needed to make underhand that cost him a shot at a victory.
With the lead in hand, Cleveland allowed Tomlin to continue frustrating Giants’ hitters, before manager Terry Francona turned the game over to a bullpen that sent the Giants to their eighth loss in their last 10 games.