PHOENIX — Aaron Hill stood in the visiting clubhouse of a park he long called home, smiled, and pointed out that the Giants have 158 games left.
“Didn’t we sweep them one year and they went out and won the World Series?” he asked.
Hill’s Diamondbacks did, in 2012, taking three straight games from a Giants team that then went to Coors Field and watched Barry Zito throw a shocking shutout in the season's fourth game. This series left a similarly bitter taste, as the Giants dropped three of four in strikingly similar fashion.
On Thursday they again jumped out to a lead, only to see the Diamondbacks charge forward with another stretch of seven unanswered runs. A second straight night of that led to a 9-3 loss for the Giants, who managed just four hits in a park where that’s hard to do.
“You’re trying to limit the damage,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “When they scored, they put up crooked numbers. When we scored, we put up one. We’ve had success here by answering back and scoring lots of runs. Their guy (Robbie Ray) had good stuff, but still, we scored early and it got away from us. It comes down to pitching better.”
Jeff Samardzija couldn’t have thrown any better in the first couple of innings. He had five strikeouts, and he followed that with an easy third. In the fourth, David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt hit solo homers to tie the game. Samardzija wasn’t particularly bothered by that inning, but the sixth inning ticked him off.
Peralta drew a leadoff walk ahead of the dangerous Goldschmidt, who singled. Samardzija tried to sneak a fastball past Jake Lamb and it ended up bouncing onto the pool deck in right-center field. A 3-2 Giants lead turned into a two-run deficit.
“The sixth inning bothers me,” Samardzija said. “We were going heating in. We had thrown a few in there and had success. It ran back over the plate and he got good wood on it.”
Samardzija gave way to the bullpen, and Ty Blach — pitching for the second time in an unfamiliar short-relief role — couldn’t keep the game close. Blach gave up three runs with two outs in the eighth, walking a pair before two hits to left that gave Hill, an infielder his whole career up until Wednesday, trouble.
“They’ve got to bring their closer in (for the next inning) and there are two outs and nobody on, and they put up a crooked number,” Bochy said. “We’ve got to clean it up and stay away from that.”
--- Bochy said Buster Posey will get a planned day off Friday, with Nick Hundley catching Matt Cain. Hunter Pence will also get a day off. The Giants had planned to rest Pence more often this season and they are reacting in part to four very long games (they weren’t thrilled by the pace of play this week). Jarrett Parker will start in right and Hill, who homered early Thursday, seems headed for his first career start in left.
“It’s about getting in there and getting experience,” he said. “I’m comfortable. But it’s a new position … I want to see those line drives and hard fly balls.”
Hill came up just short on a diving attempt in the eighth Thursday. He got turned around a bit on an RBI double to the warning track.
The Giants are hopeful that Denard Span (hip) can start Friday. If not, Gorkys Hernandez will get another day.
--- Hunter Strickland was stretched out on Thursday, getting five outs. Bochy knew he wouldn’t have Strickland this weekend. The reliever and his wife, Shelley, are expecting their first child. Steven Okert will replace Strickland while he’s on paternity leave.