Bob Melvin

Giants squander too many chances before brutal collapse vs. Pirates

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Matt Chapman and Thairo Estrada’s homers. Marco Luciano's second multi-hit performance in three games. Logan Webb pitching at least six innings for his third straight game, and tying his season-high of six strikeouts. 

There were plenty of positives to pick and choose from Tuesday to start a six-game road trip for the Giants. At least through the first eight innings, where the Giants entered the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park with a four-run lead before losing 7-6 in 10 innings

The Giants appeared to be on their way to a five-game win streak. Eight batters later in the bottom of the ninth inning, Luke Jackson and Camilo Doval squandered San Francisco’s lead. A run-scoring error by Luciano with the bases loaded in the ninth also was a crucial part of the loss.

Erik Miller threw one pitch, a changeup low and away that Nick Gonzales grounded up the middle and into center field, before the game was over. 

A collapse like that is all that will be talked about after a frustrating loss. The Giants also had so, so many chances to put the Pirates away earlier in the game. 

A four-run, ninth-inning lead theoretically should have been even more. 

“There were a lot of little subtle things,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said to reporters about the loss. “Probably more at the plate in the fact that we were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.” 

From the jump, the Giants were the ones to first take advantage of a Pirates mistake. With two outs and two men on base, Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz lost a Wilmer Flores pop fly in the sun and dropped the would-be third out of the first inning. Thairo Estrada jogged in from third base and Luis Matos sprinted from first to home to give the Giants an early 2-0 lead. 

It was the top of the fourth inning when the Giants began being presented pristine opportunities by the Pirates, only to stumble in pursuit. A Luciano single sent Flores to third base with two outs and the Giants up by two, but Curt Casali couldn’t capitalize and grounded out to third base. San Francisco scored two runs to give themselves a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning. 

That also was the inning where the Giants could have, and should have, opened this game wide open. 

Chapman’s double knocked starting pitcher Martin Perez out of the game after just 4 1/3 innings pitched. Flores and Heliot Ramos then both worked six-pitch at-bats off reliever Luis Ortiz. Flores singled, and Ramos walked to load the bases. Mike Yastrzemski replaced Ryan McKenna so the left-handed Yaz could face a righty, but Ortiz got Yastrzemski and Luciano to pop out to infielders to end the inning. 

When Casali’s walk in the eighth inning put Luciano on second base, and each advanced 90 feet on a wild pitch, Jorge Soler struck out on a high fastball outside the zone. An Estrada groundout plated Luciano, and a deep Luis Matos flyout ended the eighth with Casali at second. 

Luciano made a handful of nice plays at shortstop before his ninth-inning mistake. Webb gave the Giants yet another quality start and now has a 1.89 ERA over his last three outings. The Giants' clubhouse leader also took accountability for not covering first base in time on a softly-hit grounder to second base by Andrew McCutchen in the fifth inning. Ji Hwan Bae advanced to third base and scored on the next at-bat when Bryan Reynolds grounded into a force out that could have ended a scoreless inning for the Pirates. 

Webb said watching the odd spin of the ball had him a step behind getting off the mound immediately and took ultimate responsibility for the play that had a tough domino effect. 

“You got to go just right over there,” Webb said. “The way he hit it, I just didn’t think about him. It was kind of spinning a little weird. I got to get over. I have to save a run for us today, maybe that made the difference for us in the game.” 

The bigger difference was that the Giants left 10 men on base and were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position against a Pirates team that now has the same record as them at 23-26. They went groundout, strikeout, groundout in the ninth inning and then groundout, strikeout, flyout in the 10th. 

The Giants were 14-0 when scoring five or more runs this season, and the Pirates’ last win when trailing by four runs or more in the ninth inning or later was in 2008. They were 0-589 since then in said situations prior to Tuesday night. 

“It’s not a great way to start a road trip,” Webb said.

Of course the collapse is the story after the Giants’ loss. Far too many chances also were there for the taking before they failed at the final three outs.

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