By Shawn Whelchel
AP photo: A picture says a 1000 words in one game earlier this season San Francisco reliever Santiago Casilla was angry for being lifted but in this Saturday photo Santiago sympathizes with what his manager Bruce Bochy has to do and lifts Casilla from the game against the St Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO- Just as the team looked to have turned a corner on its second-half struggles, the Giants bullpen collapsed yet again to drop a tight game to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
St. Louis strung together two runs on two hits and a walk to steal a 3-2 lead from the Giants in the top of the ninth. And for a manager renowned for his ability to work his bullpen, a questionable decision at the game’s most crucial moment proved to be the Giants’ downfall.
Yet again, Bruce Bochy put his faith in former closer Santiago Casilla to close out a tight ballgame. And yet again, he was mistaken in doing so.
Clinging to a one-run lead, Casilla entered in the bottom of the ninth win a man on first. An ill-advised walk and a seeing-eye single later and Casilla had blown his ninth save attempt of the season.
After warming up Hunter Strickland, Bochy would elect to replace Casilla with Matt Reynolds, who would lose the lead on a sacrifice fly to his first batter of the night. San Francisco would threaten with two singles in the bottom of the ninth, but couldn’t complete the comeback attempt.
The collapse erased what what a magnificent pitching performance by starter Jeff Samardzija, who allowed just one run on seven hits across 6 2/3 innings. Perhaps even more damaging is the fact that both the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers won their games, hurting the team’s chances at a playoff birth.
After the game, Bochy talked about Samardzija’s dominant outing.
“He did a great job. He gave us all we needed and it’s a great start, a quality start,” said Bochy. “Leake, we couldn’t do a whole lot off of him but we found a way to get a couple runs, and we’re a couple out away from winning the ball game. That’s been part of our issue.”
After the game, Bochy said that his decision to pull Romo- who started the ninth inning- in favor of Casilla was an attempt to play the matchups based on history.
“We said if it got to Molina there, he’s had success off of Romo, and Casilla would be a better matchup,” said Bochy. “For some reason, Molina has seen the ball pretty good off of Sergio (Romo), and you go off history. That’s why the change was made there”
After suffering at the hands of yet another two-out-rally by the Giants last night, the Cardinals looked to flip the script on Samardzija, jumping out to an early lead when Brandon Moss parked an opposite field shot with two down in the first inning.
As they’ve done so often lately, the Giants’ bottom half of the order-anchored by the streaking Hunter Pence- kicked off the scoring for San Francisco on Saturday night. The Giants got on the board after a deep drive by Brandon Belt to the center field warning track would plate Pence, who singled before him.
The Giants threatened to put up another crooked number, but a spectacular diving play by Cardinals’ first baseman Matt Adams would end the inning by doubling up Eduardo Nunez at first.
San Francisco would look like the team of old in the bottom of the fifth frame, as third baseman Eduardo Nunez would use his speed to steal two straight bags off the Cardinals after leading off with a single. The pair of swipes would set up a sacrifice fly from Samardzija to plate the go-ahead run.
After issuing his fourth walk of the night with two outs in the seventh, Bochy would elect to use his bullpen to close the books on Samardzija’s impressive night. Lefty Will Smith would do just that, getting pinch hitter Jhonny Peralta to fly out to deep right field to end the threat.
Samardzija would walk away with an impressive line that saw him allow just one run on seven hits through a strong 6 2/3 innings.
But the Giants’ bullpen woes would rear their ugly head to erase his strong effort. After getting the leadoff batter, Sergio Romo would promptly give up a seeing-eye single to allow the tying run on board.
In a surprising move, Bochy would elect to trust the struggling Santiago Casilla in a tight spot. Like so many other times, this would prove to be an unwise decision by the skipper known for his bullpen management.
Casilla would start his night off with an ill-advised walk to his first batter, Yadier Molina, move the tying run into scoring position. Casilla’s night would be short, but costly, as Randal Grichuk would follow Yadier with a single past the outstretched glove of a diving Crawford to tie the game at 2-2.
Reliever Matt Reynolds would then retire his next two batters, but not before a sac-fly by Kolten Wong would give the Cardinals their first lead of the game.
San Francisco would threaten with a two-out rally after Eduardo Nunez and Denard Span would lace a pair of singles, but pinch hitter Connor Gillaspie would hit a routine pop-up on his first pitch to end the game.