Giants botch golden opportunity against Diamondbacks 

click to enlarge Pablo Sandoval
  • AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
  • San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval, left, is tagged out at the plate by Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Wade Miley as he tried to score after a wild pitch during the fourth inning of a baseball game on Saturday, July 20, 2013, in San Francisco.

Twelve days can seem like an eternity, especially in a game without a clock.

In less than two weeks, the Giants (45-52) went from being a floating corpse to a team revived by Tim Lincecum's no-hitter to a club that whiffed at a big-fat softball right down the middle of the plate. Every baseball game is just one day in a marathon that lasts six months, but Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks seemed to carry more weight.

The Giants made it clear that they didn't want to just win their three-game set with the division leaders over the weekend; they needed to sweep. With three wins, they would have pulled to within 3½ games of the D'backs, opening the second half with a splash hit. Instead, they're 5½ back and one bad week away from getting knocked out of contention for good.

Loss No. 52 was a microcosm of the entire season: Murphy showed up with his law and imposed it all over the diamond.

The Diamondbacks scored their first run in the opening inning after the second baseman patrolling left field for the Giants, Kensuke Tanaka, misplayed a shot to the gap that fell on the warning track for a triple. The catch would have required highlight reel effort, but playoff teams tend to wind up in the right side of those plays.

In the sixth, the Giants fumbled an opportunity to tie the game when Pablo Sandoval hit the ball to the wall in left center. Rather than holding Buster Posey, who runs like he has a piano tied to his butt, at third base, coach Tim Flannery waved him in and he was nailed at the plate.

The play required a perfect relay from the outfield to shortstop to home, but the reward wasn't worth the risk when they could have had runners at second and third with no outs. As soon as they sparked a fire, they blew it out like a birthday candle.

The bats eventually put one across the plate in the top of ninth, but by then the bullpen had spoiled another stellar outing from Madison Bumgarner, who allowed just one run in seven innings, by giving up a pair of runs in the top of the eighth. Still, the baseball gods offered the Giants a ninth-inning rally, allowing Hunter Pence to reach on an error by the pitcher and granting infield singles to Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. But Tanaka let the air out of the tires, trying to stretch from first to second on a throwing error when the tying run was due up to the plate.

Sometimes, it just isn't your day at the yard and, sometimes, it lasts an entire season.

The Giants still have time to catch the D'backs, but the problem is that the Los Angeles Dodgers are about to pull away from pack.

Recent history suggests that a lot can happen in a week, especially when the Giants are playing seven games at AT&T Park. But if the team continues to fan on every meatball that comes down the pipe, this long season will reach its conclusion faster than an Aroldis Chapman heater hits the mitt.

Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at pgackle@sfexaminer.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.

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Paul Gackle

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