That late-season magic that propelled the Giants into last year’s playoffs is missing. It’s in the other dugout, with the Diamondbacks.
In a crucial series the reigning World Series champions considered must-win, they faltered again. At home before a sellout crowd. With runners in scoring position. When they took an early lead.
Willie Bloomquist hit a go-ahead two-run triple after Ryan Roberts’ solo homer tied it in the eighth, and NL West-leading Arizona extended its division cushion to a season-best seven games with a 4-1 win over the stumbling Giants on Sunday.
The Giants realized they needed to take two of three this weekend to strengthen their faint playoff hopes, but instead lost the final two.
”We’re still breathing. We’re hanging by a thread,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. ”We know we’re running out of time, there’s no question about that. I thought it was critical we take the series. We all know it. We didn’t.”
The Diamondbacks finally delivered for Daniel Hudson (15-9) when they got to All-Star Ryan Vogelsong in the eighth. Until then, Cody Ross’ first-inning home run had held up. Hudson won his third straight start, helping Arizona (80-60) leave the Bay Area for Colorado in a comfortable spot with 22 games to go.
Hudson allowed one run on three hits, struck out five and walked one in seven innings. David Hernandez went 1-2-3 in the eighth and J.J. Putz pitched a perfect ninth for his 36th save.
San Francisco failed to win a seventh straight home series at sold-out AT&T Park since taking two of three from Milwaukee from July 22 to 24.
Roberts drove a 2-0 pitch from Vogelsong (10-6) into the left-field bleachers to start the eighth-inning rally. After Gerardo Parra followed with an infield single, Vogelsong’s day was done. Jeremy Affeldt was called upon to face pinch-hitter Geoff Blum, while Vogelsong walked off to a standing ovation and tipped his cap.
After Affeldt walked Blum on six pitches, Bochy replaced him with Ramon Ramirez. Bochy vowed to pull out all the stops and treat this one like an elimination game.
Aaron Hill added an RBI single in the eighth to give Arizona an insurance run. Gibson went with the same eight players in the same order after Saturday’s victory ahead of Hudson in the ninth hole.
Kirk Gibson’s gritty group has seized control of its fate with a fabulous stretch.
”What we never wanted to do is get in a situation where we’re looking at the scoreboard and wanting somebody else to do our dirty work,” Gibson said.
Now, that’s right where the Giants sit.
”We’ve left ourselves no room for error,” utilityman Mark DeRosa said. ”We don’t have a choice. We can’t sit and worry. We need to win every game and scoreboard watch. We will keep fighting.”
The pressure is on San Francisco to make another spectacular September run, a last-ditch push with time quickly running out — and hope for some help from other teams against the red-hot Diamondbacks.
Arizona lost Friday night’s series opener 6-2 to end a nine-game winning streak, then bounced back with a commanding 7-2 win against Tim Lincecum on Saturday night behind another impressive outing from 18-game winner Ian Kennedy.
”It’s a good feeling, I’m not going to lie to you. These guys feel good about themselves, and they should,” Gibson said. ”There’s no comfort, I don’t care how many games we’re up, until we’ve secured our spot in the playoffs.”
Arizona played much of Sunday’s finale without slugger Justin Upton, who was ejected in the fourth inning for arguing a called third strike.
Upton jumped into the air after being called out on strikes against Vogelsong for the first out of the fourth with Hill aboard on a leadoff single. Upton jawed with plate umpire Brian Knight and was tossed. An infuriated Upton had to be held back by Gibson and then first base coach Eric Young.
Vogelsong, the journeyman and unlikely All-Star who toiled in the minors and Japan, lost his fourth straight start despite an impressive day.
The Giants again missed chances with runners in scoring position — their downfall the entire season — and haven’t won in their past six series since taking two of three at Florida from Aug. 12 to 14.
The plan now?
”Win every game from here on out. Make it interesting,” Vogelsong said.
After being swept with three one-run defeats from May 10 to 12 at AT&T Park, the Diamondbacks took two of three in the waterfront ballpark Aug. 1 to 3 — beating Matt Cain and Lincecum in the first two before dropping the series finale to Vogelsong 8-1 — and again this weekend.
Carlos Beltran came in with eight straight plate appearances reaching base, which tied his career high, but flied out to center in the first. He hit his fourth triple since joining the Giants in a July 28 trade from the New York Mets.
Rookie Brandon Belt struck out swinging on a 16-pitch at-bat to start the second against Hudson. He fouled off 12 pitches, nine in a row. The plate appearance matched the longest of the season for San Francisco along with Andres Torres, who drew a seventh-inning walk on July 5 at home against the Padres.
Belt struck out looking on four pitches his next time up to end the fourth.
NOTES: San Francisco reliever Sergio Romo flew to Phoenix to be with his wife, Chelsea, who gave birth to the couple’s second son, Rex Ryder, at 5:47 a.m. Sunday. … Injured Giants closer Brian Wilson, last season’s majors saves leader who is sidelined with elbow inflammation, threw a light session of catch on flat ground under the close watch of Bochy and athletic trainer Dave Groeschner. If Wilson feels fine Monday he will throw a light bullpen in San Diego. … LHP Madison Bumgarner (9-12) pitches Monday against the Padres at Petco Park, still looking for his first career win vs. San Diego after going 0-2 over his initial six starts. … The Giants reached the 3 million attendance mark.