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.  

As they head home for long stretch, Giants get a solid win over Dodgers

As they head home for long stretch, Giants get a solid win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — While dealing with multiple concussions, Brandon Belt was often forced to sit peacefully in a dark room to avoid noise and light. This latest DL stint also included some sitting in a room, but this time the focus was on visualization. 

Belt said he sat down and repeatedly told himself that he would be fine physically when he returned from an appendectomy. He needed to trust his body and his approach, and in his first at-bat back, he got validation. Belt flied out to the track in the second inning Saturday night. A day later, he cleared the wall, giving Chris Stratton insurance that would hold up in a 4-1 win over the Dodgers. 

The homer was Belt’s 12th of the season and 110th in the big leagues. It was his first without an appendix, and it came after no rehab games. 

“I knew I felt alright,” he said.”I didn’t need (rehab games). I guess there’s always a concern when you come back and try to be up to speed, but the way I felt in the cage, I figured I would be alright.”

Belt’s blast was the second of just three hits for the Giants, but they didn’t need any more than that. Nick Hundley had a two-run shot himself and Stratton battled without his best stuff, throwing six innings for a staff that needed a boost in the worst way. 

For the third time on this trip, the Giants won before taking a flight. This one is a short one and will get them back home, where they are 19-11 this season. The winning clubhouse was full of players and coaches eager to get away from hotels. 

“It’s awesome,” Belt said. “We’re through our toughest part of the schedule, I believe.”

The Giants have played 42 games on the road, the most in the majors. They’re just 16-26 away from home, and Bruce Bochy has said repeatedly that the team needs to play better on the road to have a chance at the postseason. But thats a goal the Giants can focus on in a couple of weeks. For now, they’re starting a stretch where they’ll play 20 of 26 at home. Those six road games are nearby — in Phoenix and Denver — and the three “road” games after this 26-game run are in Oakland. 

The Giants will spend just six nights away from their home beds from now until July 23. In other words, it’s go time. Despite their issues, they are just 4 1/2 games out in the National League West. This upcoming stretch will determine if they are a real contender, and could determine whether or not the front office is selling at the deadline. 

“We have a very, very good home field advantage with our fans and how well we’ve played at AT&T Park,” Hundley said. “If we’re going to win the division, we have to win at home. We know that, and we expect to win at AT&T Park and we’ll carry that confidence over to the next series.”

Belt, Hundley power Giants past Dodgers to avoid sweep in LA

Belt, Hundley power Giants past Dodgers to avoid sweep in LA

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The Giants sure know how to clinch a happy flight. 

This was a road trip that should have been better, but at the very least, the players made sure they didn’t have any depressing travel experiences. They beat Max Scherzer on getaway day in Washington D.C. and won a 16-inning game on the final day in Miami. Before flying back to San Francisco for a 10-game homestand, they toppled the Dodgers 4-1 to avoid a sweep and finish the trip at 5-5. 

After scoring two-or-fewer runs in 11 consecutive games at Dodger Stadium, the Giants got to four in the first three innings Sunday. Here’s how it all went down … 

—The Giants had just two hits in five innings against lefty Caleb Ferguson. Luckily, one was a two-run homer from Nick Hundley and the other was a two-run homer from Brandon Belt. Hundley’s homer was his eighth, giving him twice as many as Buster Posey. Belt’s homer was his team-leading 12th, and first since having his appendix removed. 

— Chris Stratton gave up plenty of loud outs, but got through it. He ended up allowing just one run on three hits in six innings. The Giants have won six of Stratton’s last seven starts. 

— Quietly, Will Smith has been outstanding. He lowered his ERA to 0.96 after striking out Cody Bellinger and Yasmani Grandal and getting Yasiel Puig to fly out to right.