Sanchez on losing end of pitching duel
Lineup of Giants backups produces just four hits
PHOENIX -- Games like this one often can seem like afterthoughts. A substitute-filled lineup plays the finale of a series and an entire trip on a midweek afternoon when relatively few people are paying attention.Yet even under these circumstances, Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks gave the Giants some issues to ponder as they completed their three-city sojourn with a 6-4 record. The Giants could feel encouraged about Jonathan Sanchez, who absorbed the decision but yielded just one run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings. They could worry about Fred Lewis, the slump-ridden left fielder who ended an 0-for-4 effort by hitting a comebacker with teammates on first and second base and one out in the ninth inning. And they could marvel over having legitimate chances to win in the late innings, despite Sanchez's wayward control, totaling four hits and using the type of lineup they typically employ in Arizona -- during March exhibitions. Sanchez (2-6) walked a career-high seven batters yet somehow improved upon his recent outings. He didn't pitch more than five innings in any of his previous three starts. Sanchez continues to search for the magic he harnessed last June, when he finished 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA in six starts.
"I'm getting close," he said. "If I cut the walks, I can go seven innings every time."Remarkably, none of the hitters Sanchez walked came around to score. His primary lapse occurred with one out in the third inning, when .317-hitting Justin Upton poked a one-out, opposite-field homer to right on a 1-0 fastball that caught too much of home plate. Lewis hasn't hit similar drives for a while. He hit .125 (3-for-24) on the trip, trimming his batting average 20 points to .256. This prompted manager Bruce Bochy to consider Andres Torres and Nate Schierholtz as alternatives in the lineup. "He's just caught in between fastballs and breaking balls," Bochy said of Lewis. "He's either late or early." Lewis identified his flaw as being more the former than the latter.
"I'm not getting my [front] foot down quick enough," he said. "I don't have any excuses."The Giants didn't need to lean on excuses in their final game against Arizona until Sept. 21. D-backs starter Max Scherzer (3-4) showed the Giants what facing Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain must be like, surrendering three hits in 7 2/3 shutout innings. Aaron Rowand, who doubled in the sixth inning, was the only Giant to reach scoring position against Scherzer. "I saw everything today," Schierholtz said, citing Scherzer's mastery of his fastball, changeup and slider. "You couldn't really sit on one pitch because it always seemed like he came with something else." Playing right field, Schierholtz allowed Eric Byrnes' seventh-inning leadoff single to slip by him for an error, preceding Upton's RBI single off Brandon Medders. It became an earned run, ending Medders' 14-game streak of not allowing one, when he walked Stephen Drew and hit Chris Snyder with a pitch. Schierholtz still judged himself harshly. "I misplayed it," he said. "I just didn't really brake down in time and it kind of skipped by me. I was charging it too hard and it kind of took a skip when it hit." Schierholtz started his 11th game of the season as Bochy rested regulars Randy Winn, Bengie Molina and Edgar Renteria. All appeared as pinch-hitters. Winn singled to open the eighth inning but was erased on pinch-hitter Rich Aurilia's double-play grounder that almost eluded third baseman Ryan Roberts. Molina was hit by a pitch with two outs in the eighth inning, ending Scherzer's afternoon. Renteria struck out to end the game with Pablo Sandoval on third base after the Giants scored an unearned run. Earlier, Arizona center fielder Chris Young, who played Andres Torres' deep but catchable fly ball into a triple Wednesday, denied San Francisco a pair of threats. He made running grabs of drives by Rowand and Schierholtz to end the third inning and begin the fourth, respectively. Young's handiwork didn't surprise Medders, a former D-back.
"It's pretty typical," Medders said. "He's quick and he gets good reads on balls. When a ball's hit to center field you expect it to be caught."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.