DENVER — There was a moment Thursday night that seemed too cruel, even for an odd year, even for a clubhouse full of rings.
Trailing by seven runs, the Giants watched Eduardo Nuñez, their spark plug, limp off with hamstring tightness. Five minutes later, Buster Posey hit a two-run homer and felt a stabbing pain in his ankle. Posey followed Nuñez into the trainer’s room as Bruce Bochy scrambled to put a reasonable lineup back on the field for the bottom of the inning.
In the dugout, heads hung. Players looked around in a daze. The number crunchers say there’s a 99 percent chance this season ends after 162 games, and the Giants understand that. But they were having a hard time coming to grips with a frightening flurry of events.
And then, they flipped a switch.
It’s here that we’ll stop and point out that the Giants lost, 10-9. It was their 12th loss in 16 games, but in the clubhouse, players understood that this night could have been so much worse.
Posey has inflammation in his surgically-repaired left ankle but he was feeling much better after the game and expects to miss just a couple of days. Nuñez could be back in this series. He said he was mostly being cautious with a hamstring that flares up now and again. The lineup was not torn to pieces, and players took solace in the fact that they proved to themselves that they’ll continue to fight, no matter what the standings show.
“We didn’t give up,” leadoff hitter Denard Span said. “We lost and we’re losing a lot, but we’re still fighting. We’re still battling.”
Moral victories don’t count, but at the moment, the Giants will take any positive they can get. Span was happy that the Giants at least “made them earn that win” after falling behind by eight runs.
“Right now, we’re trying to find anything to build off,” Span said.
Perhaps they can sleep a little better knowing that they’re still whole, and that there were signs of life Thursday. Austin Slater had four hits and looks locked in as the left fielder for the near future. Brandon Crawford hit a three-run homer, the first of the year for the Giants. Ty Blach had a pinch-hit RBI single. The contributions came from up and down the lineup, but the hole was just too deep. That falls on the shoulders of Matt Moore, who gave up eight runs in three innings.
Posey was behind the plate for those long frames, and perhaps on a humid 86 degree night, that took something out of him. He said he felt pain as soon as he connected on his ninth homer.
“I had pain go through my ankle and the more I ran on it the worse it hurt,” he said.
When a reporter pointed out that the ankle was the one he famously hurt in 2011, Posey nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “I was a little confused (about why it was hurting).” The training staff believes scar tissue “pinched” on Posey’s swing and caused the pain.
“All in all, I’m happy about it because it was pretty painful,” he said.
With Posey and Nuñez hurting, the Giants will be short this weekend. They expect to at some point lose Hunter Strickland to his suspension, and because of that, Bruce Bochy used Strickland for a third straight day.
The Giants had tied the game when Gorkys Hernandez lofted a fly ball to center off Greg Holland, who took his first blown save. Strickland got the bottom of the ninth and put two on for Raimel Tapia, who bounced the winning single to right. The Rockies charged the field and the Giants walked slowly back to the clubhouse, where they mostly got good news. That was enough to take some of the sting out of the loss.
“I’m good with what happened tonight,” Bochy said. “This was a gutty effort.”