DENVER — The secret about Coors Field is that often times it’s not the home runs that kill you. Oh they leave their mark, but it’s the bloops that turn into singles, the lazy fly balls that turn into doubles, and the gappers that go for three bases that really add up.
Because of that, this is a place where you can’t skimp on outfield defense. You will pay for your mistakes, and the Giants certainly did Friday. They might have actually completed the comeback this time, but a brutal stretch in the seventh put the finishing touches on a 10-8 loss to the Rockies.
Trailing 7-5 at the time, Bruce Bochy sent Jeff Samardzija back out on a batter-by-batter basis. Neither player nor manager lasted long. Samardzija’s 3-2 pitch to DJ LeMahieu appeared to catch the inner edge, but home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom disagreed. Samardzija felt Cederstrom gave up on the pitch too soon, missing out when it caught an inch of the plate. He pointed at Cederstrom and soon Bochy was running out to argue. He was ejected and Samardzija was pulled after six-plus up-and-down innings.
“It was just frustration,” Bochy said. “I told him he missed it. I still believe he missed it. That's a big out. We finally make a pitch and get the guy out. That’s a big out (he missed). They ended up putting up a crooked number in that inning.”
As Samardzija walked off the field, he had a few more words for Cederstrom. He later said the umpire had a good night overall.
“We’re in the seventh inning — there are a lot of emotions,” Samardzija said. “I’m out there fighting. He’s a professional and I said what I had to say and he didn’t throw me out. The one pitch I was unhappy with was in a situation where I really needed it.”
The walk set off a comically bad stretch. A passed ball got LeMahieu to second and he scored when Carlos Gonzalez’s flare to right-center dropped just in front of Hunter Pence. That was only the beginning. Two batters later — after a sacrifice fly made possible by two defensive mistakes — Pence couldn’t handle Raimel Tapia’s single to right. It clanked off his glove and bounced toward the wall, Gonzalez scoring from first and Tapia ending up on third. He, too, would score, on a double to right that was just out of Pence’s reach.
“The ball popped up on me,” Pence said. “There might be a small part of me trying to do too much because (other) balls seemed to be just out of reach. It’s unacceptable. I’ve got to make better plays out there.”
Pence is said to be healthy, and he said the lights were not a problem. The ball has been taking off in this series — five homers were hit Friday — but outfield defense has been an issue all year, not just in this series. Per FanGraphs, the Giants’ outfield has been worth negative 30 defensive runs saved, the worst mark in the big leagues. And that was before Friday’s mistakes.
“We’ve got to clean it up a little bit here,” Bochy said.
Pence said players might be trying to do so much because they want to turn this around so badly. The emotion showed earlier, particularly on Samardzija’s two-run homer. It was his first in four years and traveled 446 feet, the longest by a pitcher since Statcast began tracking it in 2015.
Samardzija flipped his bat, held a wing up on his way around the bases, and shot out a Ric Flair scream as he crossed the plate. A few minutes later he gave up five runs, including a three-run homer to Ian Desmond that wouldn’t go out anywhere else. Samardzija wasn’t able to celebrate his homer very much, but he also didn’t blame the park for his eight-run night.
“It’s a tough place, but listen, it’s even both ways,” he said. “It helps out both teams.”
On this night, so did the Giants.