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SAN FRANCISCO – One day after Buster Posey took a fastball to the helmet, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ best player turned the other cheek.
Jeff Samardzija threw a 96.7 mph fastball that drilled Paul Goldschmidt in the gluteus maximus in the first inning. There were no warnings issued, and no escalation of tensions as Goldschmidt jogged to first base. It was nothing but peace, love and mutual understanding of an obvious, ritual bit of retribution.
As for Tuesday night’s game, the score was settled in center field. Gorkys Hernandez couldn’t make a running catch near the wall in the third inning. A.J. Pollock could. And although the Giants scored twice with two outs in the ninth, that early defensive sequence was the difference as the Giants lost 4-3 at AT&T Park.
“I almost got it,” said Hernandez, who couldn’t catch Jake Lamb’s three-run triple with one out and the bases loaded. “I jumped a little bit and the ball hit my glove.”
Hernandez flung himself into the padding as Chris Marrero chased down the ball. Instead of a sacrifice fly, the Diamondbacks led 3-0.
The Giants nearly answered in the bottom of the third when Hunter Pence walked and Aaron Hill, batting cleanup with Posey on the concussion list and Brandon Crawford getting a day of rest, hit a drive to deep center. But Pollock didn’t let the looming wall distract him as he made a sprinting catch over one shoulder.
It was a killer defensive play on a night when the Giants’ depleted lineup probably needed a break. There must be a charitable gifts limit in this series: the Giants already got more than they deserved in Monday’s home opener, when two Arizona errors allowed them to score three runs on a swinging bunt.
Instead, the Giants lamented 13 runners left on base.
Bochy loaded his lineup with right-handed bats against Arizona lefty Robbie Ray, and among his moves was resting center fielder Denard Span in favor of Hernandez.
On the whole, Hernandez did not have a good experience with the warning track. He barely missed hitting a grand slam in the second inning when left fielder Yasmany Tomas camped under a fly ball with his back against the wall.
Hernandez also missed a shot at redemption amid drizzling skies in the eighth, striking out after Joe Panik had snapped the shutout with an RBI double and pinch hitter Conor Gillaspie was hit by a pitch.
The Giants threatened again with two outs, the bases empty and the rain intensifying in the ninth. Nick Hundley hit an RBI double through the sheets of drizzle against Arizona closer Fernando Rodney, and Nuñez followed with an RBI single to get the winning run to the plate with two outs in the ninth. Nuñez then proceeded to steal his way into scoring position. But Crawford couldn’t appease the remainder of the crowd. He struck out as a pinch hitter.
The Giants are still striving for their first ninth-inning comeback victory since 2015. They were 0-62 when trailing after eight innings last year.
“We’ve battled back and can’t quite finish it,” Bochy said. “We had the right guy up and they made some good pitches there. It’s a long season. Hopefully you find a way to make up those games.”
Samardzija almost certainly had payback on his mind on his second pitch to Goldschmidt.
Bochy, asked about the pitch, cut off the questioner: “I’ve got nothing to say about that.”
Samardzija remarked that Goldschmidt had hit an opposite-field home run against him at Chase Field last week: “We’ve got to attack him in. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to go over the plate. We went in, and that was it.”
Pressed on whether it was intentional, Samardzija neither attempted to lie nor to volunteer himself for a fine from the league office. He answered with stony silence.
Lamb’s triple was the only scoring play in Samardzija’s 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander’s outing was a major improvement over his season debut in Arizona, when the Diamondbacks hit three home runs against him. But two of those shots at Chase Field went to the opposite field. Samardzija’s hard fastball and slider played much better in a more forgiving park.
“I really liked our game plan tonight,” said Samardzija, who threw 112 pitches and insisted he felt fresh till the end. “The pitch to (Lamb) was a sinker away and he stayed on it and put a charge into it, and that was it right there.
“It sours the day.”
Bochy said he would keep faith in Hernandez.
“He’s so good out there,” Bochy said. “He was upset with himself. He’s a gifted center fielder and he just didn’t quite catch up with it. You take your chances with him out there.”