Giants

Rewind: Casilla's balk-off gives Giants 18th blown save

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Rewind: Casilla's balk-off gives Giants 18th blown save

SAN DIEGO — Try to wrap your heads around this one: The team with the best record in the Majors also has the most blown saves. 

One part of that sentence allows the Giants to sleep easier on nights like this. They are still, even after a 7-6 balk-off loss to the Padres that clinched a series loss here in San Diego, the best team in baseball record-wise. The other part of that sentence keeps the staff up at nights.

The Giants continually walk a tight rope in the late innings, and Santiago Casilla stumbled off of it Saturday, balking home the winning run and giving the Giants 18 blown saves in 92 games. 

Casilla’s night would have stood out regardless. He gave up three singles and two runs in the 10th. But it was magnified by what Sergio Romo did an inning earlier. The former closer struck out two in a perfect inning, throwing an unfair slider to Wil Myers and freezing Matt Kemp with a clever two-seamer. 

Afterward, Bochy tried to quiet any talk of switching roles. He said the Giants had this night set up just the way they wanted.

“One guy threw well, the other guy struggled,” Bochy said. “I don’t want to get in a situation where you’re flip-flopping guys. If you have to tweak it, you do. But Santiago, it’s been a while since he’s had a hiccup. He’s had a lot of rest (the last week), maybe too much, to where he wasn’t sharp.”

Casilla had locked up nine straight save opportunities and he had given up a run in just once of his previous 11 appearances. But this one was off the rails from the start. 

Casilla fell behind Alex Dickerson 2-0 and then gave up a single. Derek Norris lined a 2-1 fastball for another single. Casilla lost track of Norris, and he alertly stole second. 

“You get behind that first batter, that’s always tough,” catcher Buster Posey said. “The ball that Noris hit was a little more on the plate.”

Adam Rosales fell behind 0-2 but Casilla threw two straight in the dirt before Rosales poked a single past a drawn-in infield. With Alexei Ramirez up, Casilla came toward the plate and stumbled, his cleat sticking in the dirt. He tried to throw the ball anyway but the damage was done.

“It looked a little discombobulated on that balk,” Bochy said. “He’s going home and gets caught. He did the right thing and threw the ball. But he stutter-stepped and that was it, a balk.”

Casilla said his mechanics were fine on the pitch. His foot simply caught.

“It’s always frustrating,” he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “What’s more frustrating is I felt really good.”

What was more frustrating for the Giants was that they spent hours trying to fight back from a rough start. Jeff Samardzija gave up two homers and five runs in the first three innings, but he settled in near the end of his start and the bullpen let the lineup catch up. Angel Pagan hit a big homer and Mac Williamson and Ramiro Pena went deep in the sixth to tie it. 

Posey hit a high shot to right in the top of the 10th, his first career extra-innings homer. The Giants looked headed for a thrilling win, but it wasn’t to be. They have lost two in a row to a team they beat nine straight times in the first half. 

“Yesterday we seemed a little sluggish, but I thought today everything seemed normal,” Posey said. 

--- The Giants got good news on Hunter Pence. He came out of his rehab game after just three innings and was holding his right hamstring, but he might actually play on Sunday as planned. Bochy said Pence told trainers that the problem actually occurred when he was hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance, not on his single in the third. 

“He was trying to get out of the way and he thinks he aggravated,” the hamstring, Bochy said. “It got a little sore. We were being cautious.”

The Giants will reevaluate Pence on Sunday and he might be cleared to play. Originally, he was scheduled to play five innings Sunday and then take Monday off.  

MLB Rumors: Phillies owner's jet is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

MLB Rumors: Phillies owner's jet is in Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas

One team reportedly might be making their final push to sign Bryce Harper, and it's not the Giants. 

Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton's private jet was in Las Vegas -- hometown of the free-agent outfielder -- on Friday, a "person in that city" told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury. 

This does not, however, mean the Phillies and Harper are quite ready to complete a deal, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Friday night.

Hours earlier, the Washington Nationals ruled themselves out of signing Harper. The Nationals drafted Harper No. 1 overall in 2010, and he has played all 927 games of his major league career in a Nats uniform to this point.

MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported Friday night that the Nationals want Harper to sign anywhere but with their NL East rivals. 

Although the Giants are one of the last remaining teams in the mix, NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported Friday that San Francisco doesn't "intend to do dollar-to-dollar" with Philadelphia. 

[RELATED: When Giants' spring training competitions will start]

Yet, that doesn't mean this all comes as a surprise to the Giants. They already saw the Phillies as the favorites to land Harper. 

If Middleton's presence in Las Vegas leads to something larger, the Giants might not have to wait for Harper's official decision all that much longer. 

Giants' spring competitions set to really get going on Saturday

Giants' spring competitions set to really get going on Saturday

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Real baseball gets closer by the day, and on Friday morning, we finally got a 2019 Giants lineup. 

Well, kind of. 

The group that will take the field Saturday against the Angels includes potentially just one starter, depending on who you think will win the jobs in left and right. But there still will be plenty to watch. 

Cameron Maybin and Yangervis Solarte will make their Giants debuts, hitting first and third, respectively. Mac Williamson, Austin Slater and Henry Ramos, all fighting for outfield jobs, will start. Drew Ferguson, the Rule 5 pick, is starting in center. Aramis Garcia, who hopes to win a backup job, will catch Chris Stratton. 

Stratton may be in the toughest spot. He is out of options and seventh on the starting depth chart. 

"He's a guy we look at as a starter and a long man," manager Bruce Bochy said. "The guys that are out of options, we've got to make a call there for sure."

Stratton has had some dominant stretches at the big league level but hasn't shown consistency. Ditto for Ty Blach, who will be stretched out this spring but profiles as a reliever moving forward. Although you never know ...

"You saw what happened last year," Bochy said, smiling. "He ended up being our Opening Day starter."

Bochy plans to have Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik in the lineup Sunday for the home Cactus League opener. He had previously said that Buster Posey, coming off hip surgery, will not play until March 1. On Friday, Bochy said Steven Duggar (shoulder surgery) and Ryder Jones (knee surgery) will also be held out until March 1. 

Duggar still should have plenty of time to try to win the job in center. 

"This was the plan," Bochy said. "But he's doing well. He's doing just about everything. We just don't want him diving for a ball."

--- The main story today is on Mac Williamson, who battled a concussion last season. He opened up about how difficult the summer was. 

--- Nick Vincent passed his physical last night and is officially a Giant. 

"A good arm, a good pitcher," Bochy said. "He increases our depth on the bullpen side."

[RELATED: Is Bryce Harper bidding now two-team race between Giants, Phillies?]

The Giants will have some pretty good arms headed for Sacramento no matter how this all plays out. On a related note, the River Cats announced that they're lowering some of their ticket prices. Even before this, that was a place I have always recommended to Giants fans. It's a really fun place to watch a game.