SAN DIEGO: The San Francisco Giants still have the best record in baseball, but their bullpen has stumbled more often than any other.
Their failure was literal on Saturday (Sunday in Manila). Santiago Casilla failed to retire a batter or protect a one-run lead in the 10th inning and balked in the winning run when he tripped while attempting to deliver a pitch as the Giants lost 7-6 to the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
The Giants have 18 blown saves, more than any other team. And this might be the game that leads to a closer change.
Casilla took the mound after Buster Posey had sent up a rescue flare with his home run in the top of the 10th inning — the first of his career in extra innings. The right-hander proceeded to give up three consecutive singles. Then with the winning run at third base, he stumbled.
It was a sour note on what had been a dominant and impressive night for the bullpen. Five relievers followed Jeff Samardzija’s erratic effort, and Sergio Romo flat-out dominated while retiring three hitters in the ninth.
Romo struck out two. It was a reminder: for all the clamor over acquiring a reliever before the trade deadline, the Giants (57-35) already have a closer in the fold who has proven himself in the most high-leverage situation imaginable.
Casilla’s failure was the last of many mistakes the Giants made in the game, all of which they managed to overcome until the last of the 10th.
Samardzija did not provide the momentum-building start that he or the Giants were hoping to see, and he fought himself from the very beginning.
Samardzija issued walks to the first two batters he faced, and both came around to score when the defense let him down. Posey committed an error when he sailed a sidearm throw to third base while attempting to nab Travis Jankowski trying to steal. Jankowski jogged home as Posey hopped in the air and let out a full-body heave in apparent disgust.
Posey, who didn’t commit an error at catcher in the first half, has two throwing errors in two games since the break.
Then center fielder Denard Span slowed up rather than make a diving attempt on Yangervis Solarte’s RBI single, which scored Wil Myers from second base.
Samardzija paid for the long ball, too. He served up shots to Ryan Schrimpf leading off the second inning and Matt Kemp to start the third. The Padres added another run in the third when Alex Dickerson reached on second baseman Ramiro Peña’s fielding error and scored on Schrimpf’s triple that deflected off the top of the wall in right-center field to give the Padres a 5-2 lead.
Samardzija made it 0-for-4 retiring leadoff batters when he issued a walk to start the fourth. But he retired the next six batters in order to get the Giants through the fifth inning, and they continued to chip away.
It was Samardzija who began the comeback with his single in the third inning, and Angel Pagan made it an earnest attempt when he followed with a two-run home run off Luis Perdomo.
Posey’s double scored Span in the fifth inning and knocked Perdomo from the game. The Giants pulled even in the sixth when Mac Williamson hit his first career pinch home run, and two batters later, Peña went deep in a big league game for the first time in more than two years.
One of the most riveting innings didn’t feature any runs at all. Albert Suarez, who has gone from long man to spot starter and now into a premier relief role, avoided disaster while recording five outs, then Josh Osich got a ground out to strand the bases loaded for him in the seventh.
The Padres didn’t score in the seventh despite having runners at the corners with no outs after a walk and a single. Suarez got Solarte to hit a ground ball to first base, and Brandon Belt threw to the plate to start a rundown. Myers did a masterful job of dragging it out to ensure both trail runners would move to second and third before he peeled out of the baseline.
The Giants intentionally walked Alex Dickerson, and after Suarez’s high fastball froze Derek Norris, Osich entered and threw a 97 mph sinker to win a right-handed matchup with pinch hitter Adam Rosales.