Giants pitchers battered by Pirates
Sanchez, Hennessey give up 12 runs; Velez clocks triple
PITTSBURGH -- Frequently capable of compelling performances, the Giants left drama behind Tuesday night in a 12-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.The club that endured five consecutive one-run decisions entering this game trailed 9-0 before rousing itself. Jonathan Sanchez, who was 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA in his previous five starts -- all Giants victories -- surrendered seven runs in 4 1/3 innings. True to form, the Giants sustained an honest effort by scoring all of their runs in the final three innings, but by then it was far too late. "We just let the game get out of hand," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's not our game." The Pirates' domination of the Giants remained constant. San Francisco has lost 11 of its last 13 games against Pittsburgh, including five of seven at PNC Park. Finding significance in this one might have required a high-powered microscope. If there was a lesson to be derived, it was in Sanchez's effort. At 25, making his 15th Major League start, he provided a reminder that he's still developing as a pitcher. Sanchez had no use for PNC Park's mound, which he regarded as too flat. "That's the worst mound I ever pitched on," he said, including his Minor League experience for emphasis. As a result, Sanchez found elevation in unwanted fashion: with his pitches, which he left tantalizingly high for Pirates hitters. Nate McLouth, who became the first Pirate since Ralph Kiner in 1949 to record back-to-back multiple-homer games in Pittsburgh, began his big night with a two-run homer off Sanchez in the third inning. Yet the mound seemed fine to Pittsburgh left-hander Zach Duke (1-2), who blanked the Giants on five hits through six innings. And Sanchez (2-2) refused to attribute his tattooing exclusively to the hill. "That's no excuse," he said. "I got hit. I couldn't make a good adjustment." Another Giant who struggled to right himself was Brad Hennessey, who followed Sanchez to the allegedly pancaked mound for 2 1/3 innings and surrendered five runs and seven hits, including four for extra bases. With four relievers having appeared in at least two games during San Francisco's previous series at Philadelphia, Hennessey was encouraged to consume innings. Not having pitched since April 26 left him understandably rusty. But Bochy sounded only partially sympathetic to Hennessey's lack of activity, citing a vicious cycle common to athletics. "He's not locating as well as he normally does. It's not easy when you're not getting out there on a regular basis," Bochy said of Hennessey, who has been scored upon in nine of his 11 outings and owns a 12.94 ERA. "But your performance sometimes dictates how much you get out there. That's the tough part of this game. He has to understand that." This represented an ideal setting for the Giants to use Barry Zito. He could have pitched multiple innings in a pressure-free situation that might have vaulted him back into the starting rotation. But, ironically, that already had occurred, as Bochy announced before the game that Zito will start Wednesday. Two games deep into their stretch of facing six consecutive left-handed starters, the Giants received some encouraging offensive signs. First baseman Rich Aurilia lifted his batting average to .284 by stroking three hits for the second consecutive game. Left fielder Daniel Ortmeier went 2-for-4 with an RBI double. Bochy hinted that both would remain in the lineup, although this would chain John Bowker, who went 2-for-2 late in Tuesday's game, and Fred Lewis, who has been a dynamo in the leadoff spot, to the bench. The Giants did save a potential thrill for the end. Fleet second baseman Eugenio Velez hit a ninth-inning liner that a diving McLouth missed, allowing the ball to roll to the center-field wall. For a brief moment it appeared that Velez would have an inside-the-park home run, but he settled instead for his fourth triple of the young season. Velez admitted that he felt "a little bit" excited about the prospect of circling the bases. But, having committed several baserunning errors this year, he took a properly conservative approach. "You have to play the game," he said. "In that situation, you have to stop." The Giants hope to restart themselves quickly.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.