Home Sports Brandon Belt’s error opens the door as Giants lose to Diamondbacks

Brandon Belt’s error opens the door as Giants lose to Diamondbacks

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			Brandon Belt’s error opens the door as Giants lose to Diamondbacks

PHOENIX – The Giants picked all methods of late-inning incendiary devices to lose games in the second half last season. But they almost never beat themselves with shoddy defense.

They allowed just 36 unearned runs all last year, the second fewest in the National League. Their 72 errors were the fewest in the majors. They had one unbelievable and almost unnoticed 30-game stretch in which they made one error as a team.

They expect to be a solid defensive team again this season, especially on the infield. But lapses happen, especially when the infield dirt is rock hard. First baseman Brandon Belt couldn’t backhand Jake Lamb’s ground ball that threaded the first base line, it went for a two-run error with two outs in the fifth inning, and it gave the Arizona Diamondbacks the toehold they needed while rallying to hand the Giants an 8-6 loss Wednesday night.

“You know, Belt catches that ball 95 if not 99 percent of the time,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “That was a momentum changer there, and we just couldn’t stop it.”

The Giants saw their 4-1 lead slip away in the fifth, and the pitches caught up to left-hander Matt Moore in the sixth. Pinch hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker yanked a slider for a double that scored the tiebreaking run, and the Diamondbacks kept up the assault on the Giants bullpen to position themselves for a series victory. It’ll be up to Jeff Samardzija to help the Giants achieve a split here.

It was a different game before the error. Belt tripled and hit a home run and Eduardo Nuñez provided a blurry flashback to Willie Mays when he scored from second base on Joe Panik’s single that didn’t leave the infield. Moore was pitching with a lead and flashed stuff that overwhelmed at times, striking out Paul Goldschmidt twice on a total of six pitches in their first two confrontations.

But the game turned on contact that could boast neither exit velocity nor launch angle.

Moore had two outs and the bases empty in the fifth when Chris Owings hustled for a double. Then he walked Goldschmidt when he recovered from a 2-0 count only to lose him on a 3-2 cutter that missed the zone.

Maybe it’s a venal sin to walk Arizona’s best hitter with first base open and two outs, but Moore chastised himself for it anyway.

“I’ll never get mad about anything that happens after I walk somebody,” Moore said. “That’s under my control. I can command a 3-2 pitch better than that. I walked three guys and two of them scored. That has nothing to do with a ballpark or the error.”

Lamb followed with his chalk line skipper. Belt could only stand and meekly glance into right field after the ball got past him for what the official scorer ruled as the Giants’ first error of the season.

“I didn’t think I had enough time to get in front of it, so I tried to backhand it and got caught in between,” Belt said. “It changed the whole inning. It changed the whole game. We’ve got a good chance to win that ballgame. All I’ve got to do is make a routine play.”

Yasmany Tomas punished a mistake over the plate for a double that scored Lamb and made it 4-4. Then in the sixth, Hazelbaker reached out to get the barrel to a slider to put Arizona ahead and send Bruce Bochy out to claim the baseball.

Their situation did not brighten when right-hander Cory Gearrin did not retire any of the three batters he faced, allowing an RBI single to A.J. Pollock before walking the next two batters. Then Neil Ramirez, after striking out Lamb to end the sixth, endured an adventure in a two-run seventh.

Ramirez had appeared late in most spring training games and didn’t have much experience throwing to Buster Posey, who had a two-week hiatus while playing in the World Baseball Classic. Their unfamiliarity might have played a role as Tomas reached while striking out on a wild pitch and a passed ball later contributed to another run.

The Giants scrapped for two runs in the eighth inning after loading the bases on consecutive singles off J.J. Hoover. Bochy got the matchup he wanted with one out, burning pinch hitter Conor Gillaspie for Aaron Hill against left-hander Andrew Chafin. Hill drew a walk to pick up an RBI in his Giants debut, and another run scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 8-6. But Joe Panik struck out and Chris Marrero flied out.

Marrero entered on a double switch in left field for Jarrett Parker, who popped up and struck out twice, leaving him 0 for 7 with five strikeouts in the series, and thus, the season.

Giants left fielders are a combined 0 for 12 with eight strikeouts over three games. And while Bochy said it’s too soon to make any evaluations, that won’t stop fans who criticized the team for not doing more to address the position externally over the winter.

Bochy acknowledged that Parker is out of sorts, though.

“I’ve never seen him this late,” Bochy said. “He’s late in his setup. His timing is off. And Marrero, we’ve played three games. Let them get settled in here. It’s a little early to make any evaluation. They need at-bats.

“I think Marrero is getting some good swings off. But it’s fair to say Parker is off. He’s in rush mode. When he’s going good, he gets his front foot down earlier.”

Parker will keep both feet in the dugout for Thursday’s series finale. Bochy planned to give Marrero the start against Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray. He also planned to mix in another right-handed bat by sitting Panik for Hill at second base.

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