Good times had to end; Giants take first loss
Braves 7, Giants 1
Giants record: 4-1, first place in NL West, 1 game ahead of Arizona
Losing pitcher: Todd Wellemeyer 0-1
Giant home runs: None.
Well, Guess the dream of a 162-0 season is gone.
Losses are going to happen, but Saturday’s 7-1 setback to the Atlanta Braves was particularly irritating. The loss seemed to be the result of a 1,000 self-inflicted pin pricks than any one big stab from the Braves.
Todd Wellemeyer pitched well enough through six innings, limited the Braves to one run on Jason Heyward’s opposite-field home run.
But manager Bruce Bochy sent Wellemeyer out for the seventh inning, a lot to ask of your No. 5 starter on his first start of the season. The seventh seemed to wear on Wellemeyer, as he started to lose control he depends on to get people out.
But because Bochy ransacked his bullpen securing the win on Friday, he needed Wellemeyer to pitch as long as possible.
The seventh started with a hit by pinch-hitter Melky Cabrera. Nate McLouth tried to bunt Cabrera to second, but Wellemeyer couldn’t throw him a strike to bunt on. Wellemeyer eventually bounced a curve in the dirt, allowing Cabrera to take second. When McLouth tried to bunt Cabrera to third, Wellemeyer walked him. Martin Prado bunted the runners to second and third, but Wellemeyer was still in position to get out of the inning after intentionally walking Brian McCann to load the bases.
If Wellemeyer, a groundball pitcher, could get the slow-footed Troy Glaus to hit the ball on the ground, the Giants could likely escape the rally with a double play. But Wellemeyer instead hit Glaus, actually only brushed his uniform with a pitch. But it was good enough to get the go-ahead run home and get Wellemeyer out of the game.
Brandon Medders came into the game and did what he was supposed to do, get Yunel Escobar to hit a double-play ball. However, Edgar Renteria threw the ball just enough behind Juan Uribe at second to prevent Uribe from making the turn. The Giants only got one out, and the Braves got another run. They would add a third on a single by Heyward.
Not that it mattered, because the Giants offense could not must more than two runs despite getting loads of opportunities. Derek Lowe walked a career-high seven batters over six innings. Seven walks …. to the free-swinging Giants!!!! But the Giants only managed four hits off Lowe, and one run. Why? Because Giant hitters insisted on pulling the ball off Lowe. Lowe was making a living by working the outside half of the plate, and wasn’t having a lot of success. Of the 112 pitches Lowee threw, 52 were balls. When Lowe did throw the ball over the plate, the Giants were too eager with their swings, helping out Lowe by pulling the ball weakly into groundouts.
One time the Giants went with the pitch? Juan Uribe’s single in the fourth that plated Aubrey Huff with the Giants’ first run. Bochy used the hit-and-run with perfection on the play. On a 3-1 count, Bochy sent John Bowker from first. It was a smart move because if the pitch is a ball, Uribe walks and Bowker takes second. If it’s a strike, Uribe, who is hitting .412, makes contact. That’s what happened, Uribe hit it to the right of second. With Bowker running, 2B Omar Infante went to cover second, and Uribe hit it in the spot vacated by Infante.
But then on the next at-bat, the Giants ran themselves out of the inning with a botched hit-and-run. We don’t know whether to blame this on Bochy or Uribe, but on the first pitch to Eli Whiteside, Uribe broke for second. Whiteside swung and missed, and Uribe was hung out to dry, stopping about two-thirds of the way to second before retreating and being tagged out. Uribe actually stood a good chance of stealing second on the play even though the throw clearly would have beaten him. However, the throw was high and offline, so Uribe might have slipped under if he had continued.
But the real question is why was he running on an 0-0 count with a pitcher on the hill who hasn’t been throwing strikes, with a batter who hasn’t been hitting or even making good contact, and with the pitcher on deck. Not a smart move.