SAN DIEGO – The Giants spent two months last summer blowing a huge lead in the National League West.
Five games into this season, they’re already way too familiar with the concept of coming from ahead to lose.
They took two more leads against the San Diego Padres Friday afternoon, including one on Brandon Belt’s first career grand slam, and couldn’t hold either of them in a 7-6 loss at Petco Park.
Belt added a solo home run to wrest the team lead away from a strapping young left-hander named Madison Bumgarner. But even Belt’s multi-homer performance couldn’t keep the Giants from losing for the fourth time in five games. They have blown eight leads in their four losses. And if that weren’t disquieting enough, the circumstances of these defeats are hitting a rage trigger for their most outspoken fans.
The Lunatic Fringe wanted GM Bobby Evans to acquire an everyday left fielder. He did not. The left fielders are 0-for-20 with 10 strikeouts thus far.
They wanted Ty Blach, or Tyler Beede, or almost anyone besides Matt Cain in the last rotation spot. The Giants put their trust in Cain despite a shaky spring, and that didn’t work so well, either. He got tagged for four runs on six hits and three walks, and handed over the baseball with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.
They questioned whether signing closer Mark Melancon would be enough to refurbish a bullpen that graduated a ton of big-game experience. And the relievers couldn’t get the six outs to deliver a one-run lead to him.
George Kontos began the seventh inning with a poisonous walk and it got worse from there as the Padres scored three runs to take a 7-5 lead. Kontos failed to retire any of the first four batters he faced; Yangervis Solarte hit a two-run double to push the Padres back in front and account for the Giants’ third blown save of the season. The Padres added another run on a safety squeeze.
Belt’s second home run brought them within a run in the eighth, but even with Hunter Pence, Denard Span and Buster Posey on their bench, they couldn’t come back against Padres closer Brandon Maurer in the ninth.
For the second time on the road trip, the Giants participated in opening day ceremonies and played the Washington Generals. The Padres drew a sellout crowd of 43,441 in their home opener; it’ll be back down under 20,000 on Saturday, with a sizable number wearing orange.
The Giants fans in the crowd did not see a renaissance performance from Cain, who was less than serviceable.
Cain made the first two contributions to Manuel Margot’s trophy case, as the rookie hit his first two major league home runs leading off the first and third innings. His fastball appeared even a bit tamer than what he threw in the Cactus League. It would’ve been worse if right-hander Cory Gearrin hadn’t boosted him by getting a double-play grounder with the bases loaded in the fifth.
Cain only brushed 90 mph on occasion with his fastball, and he pitched in constant traffic. He took the mound with a 1-0 lead that Panik had furnished when he doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on a balk. And then he gave it back while facing his first batter of the afternoon.
Margot hammered a 3-1, 89 mph fastball for his first career home run. When Margot led off the third inning, he tagged Cain again.
The Padres kept up the pressure from there. Wil Myers doubled and scored on Solarte’s single to give the Padres a 3-1 lead in the third. Solarte singled home another run in the fifth after Travis Jankowski had singled and stole second base.
After a walk and a fielding error by third baseman Eduardo Nuñez, Cain left the bases loaded. Gearrin entered and got a double-play grounder from Austin Hedges that kept the Padres from blowing open the game.
Belt brought them back with one swing in the sixth. Conor Gillaspie led off with a pinch single against right-hander Luis Perdomo, novel leadoff man Joe Panik doubled and (also novel) left fielder Aaron Hill walked to load the bases.
Belt followed by connecting on a curveball – a pitch he hadn’t homered against in two seasons – to give the Giants a 5-4 lead.
But the Giants came from ahead to lose another.