Bullpen collapse sinks Giants

AT&T Park — At 12:42 p.m., the San Francisco Giants’ Sunday afternoon began in inauspicious fashion.

With Buster Posey’s back ailing, the Giants scratched their superstar and placed Trevor Brown in the starting lineup only 23 minutes before the first pitch.

The 24-year-old rookie responded by collecting three hits and driving in three runs.

Up until the top of the ninth, it looked like Brown’s big day would be enough to lead the Giants to a second series win in a row and give Johnny Cueto his first W since July 6.

“I don’t care what kind of bullpen you have,” manager Bruce Bochy said after his club allowed seven runs in the final three inning of the 8-7 collapse. “[If] you have a 7-1 lead, you’d like to think you’re holding it.”

With two outs in the ninth, Santiago Casilla was on the verge of saving his 16th game in 17 tries. Instead, the veteran closer threw an 81-mph hanger to Jonathan Schoop. The Baltimore Orioles second baseman hammered it into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer.

“I have confidence in all of my pitches,” Casilla said via team translator Erwin Higueros. “I threw the curve ball and I just made a mistake because the ball didn’t break.”

In the bottom of the ninth, the Giants got the tying run — in the form of Brown — as close as second base. Posey, who had been scratched with lower back tightness, stepped to the plate to pinch hit.

The Orioles opted to intentionally walk Posey before Denard Span grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

Afterwards, Posey suggested that his back woes started with the team’s cross-country trip from Miami on Wednesday.

“I don’t know if it was something on the flight back,” Posey said. “I didn’t feel it necessarily on the plane, but it’s been something kind of gradually [that I’ve] felt more and more over the last few days.”

Both Posey and Bochy said they’d have to wait and see if the catcher would be ready to start the opener of the club’s three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Karl Buscheck

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