PHOENIX — Matt Cain can only hope all future six-run leads will provide nearly as much security as his new monster contract.
On Sunday, though, it seemed he and the Giants invested their money with Bernie Madoff.
Cain, staked to a 6-0 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks, came unglued, and so did his teammates in a 7-6 loss.
So the Giants start the season 0-3, the Diamondbacks 3-0.
Cain allowed a two-run double by Lyle Overbay in the fourth. Then he gave up back-to-back homers in the sixth by Ryan Roberts and Overbay that narrowed the Giants’ lead to 6-5 and sent Cain to the showers.
He still had a chance for a win.
But with the Giants clinging to a 6-5 lead in the seventh, Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey committed two killer errors.
And they were done. By one run. For the third straight game.
Cain said he didn’t tire in the sixth.
“I felt fine. I just left some pitches out over the plate.”
The pair to Roberts and Overbay “were both pretty much middle, middle,” Cain said. “Roberts is doing a good job, even last year, of not missing those pitches. We haven’t seen a ton of Overbay but he’s swinging the bat well.”
Posey, the catcher, agreed: “A couple of balls left out over the plate ... they hit hard. But I thought he threw the ball pretty well overall.”
But a couple of missed pitches here and there was the difference in the series.
“One thing the Diamondbacks did the whole series is that if we made mistakes, they made us pay for it,” Posey said.
And that’s what makes the D’backs so tough, Cain said.
“The thing about these guys is almost any of them can take you deep,” Cain said. “You have to concentrate on making good pitches to all of them.
“They’re all a threat to hit the long ball. That’s tough sometimes. You have to stay on your game and not let anything slip.
“That happened today a little bit. I didn’t make my pitches when I needed to make them.”
On the plus side for the Giants, the offense bombed Arizona’s Josh Collmenter for six runs (five earned) in the second and third innings. Posey’s two-run homer to right field in the third inning seemingly sealed the Giants’ win.
The D’backs played fast and loose, committing five errors, one shy of a franchise record. But the Giants had three errors themselves, including the killers by Crawford and Posey.
Game notes: The Giants’ three top starters gave up 14 earned runs in 15 innings. ... The Diamondbacks’ bullpen gave up one earned run in 10²⁄³ innings. ... The Diamondbacks tied a franchise record by coming back from a six-run deficit to win. They have done so seven times, including twice last year. ... Of the players on the 25-man roster, 15 were drafted by Giants. That’s up from 10 at start of last season. ...The D-Backs and Giants, should they have disagreed with the multitude of scored errors, couldn’t have tried to lobby the scorer to change his decisions. Such contacts no longer are allowed by Major League Baseball. Teams must go directly to MLB to protest scoring decisions.
Two defensive screw-ups killed the Giants on Sunday.
Looking for their season’s first win, they were fighting desperately to hold onto a 6-5 lead.
The bases were loaded with one out in the seventh inning.
Then Brandon Crawford booted a likely inning-ending double-play ball hit by the slow-afoot catcher Miguel Montero.
That allowed the tying run to score.
“I was trying to rush and get two instead of making sure to get one,” Crawford said.
The error loaded the bases for Chris Young, who tapped a grounder to Pedro Sandoval.
The third baseman’s throw to home for a force play was in plenty of time, but catcher Buster Posey barely missed the plate with his right foot while catching the throw.
That gave the D-Backs a 7-6 lead, one that held up.
“I couldn’t tell,” said Posey. “I couldn’t feel the plate. As hard as the ground is there, I couldn’t feel it.”
Posey didn’t protest much, but manager Bruce Bochy did enough for both of them.
At first, “I couldn’t tell, to be honest,” Bochy said of the accuracy of Mike DiMuro’s call. “I argued.”
Then the manager stormed back to the dugout, where, “I got word he was on home plate. That’s when I lost it. ... It was a natural reaction.”
The ensuing argument earned Bochy his 53rd career ejection.
Later, “Looking at it, it looks like he got it right, that Buster was not on home plate.”
SANCHEZ TO START
That’s Hector — not Freddy — Sanchez, the catcher whose improbable ascent to the backup catcher’s role was one of spring training’s most surprising stories.
Sanchez will start for the Giants at Colorado today — he will catch Barry Zito — as Posey gets the day off.
“Ideally, you’d like to keep Hector with one pitcher if he’s going to play once a week or one time through the rotation,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
That won’t always be the case as Sanchez sometimes will catch day games that follow night games.
“I never thought I would make the team,” Sanchez acknowledged. “I just came this spring to keep working, keep learning about defense.”
He’s always been considered a terrific hitter, but now — as the No. 2 catcher — he’ll have to stress defense.
“That’s the more important part for me. I have to be ready for any situation.”
The D’backs now have won eight straight against the Giants. The Giants had started 7-1 against them last season, but now have lost 11 of the next 13.
“They’re a much-improved club,” Bochy said.
Actually, the Giants’ manager thought the D’backs were good even in their down years of 2009 and ’10, but, “They just happened to lose a lot of leads,” Bochy said. “That probably shook their confidence a little bit. Now they have a very good setup guy and a very good closer.”
“They’re very balanced. That’s why they won 94 games.”
BLANCO BATS LEADOFF
Gregor Blanco, another big spring success, started in center field and hit leadoff for the Giants on Sunday.
Blanco went 1-for-5, including a double, and made a great catch of a dying pop fly.
“He certainly has played his way into more playing time,” Bochy said of Blanco’s big spring. “That’s what you hope these guys do.
“I knew he was a pretty good player ... [but], he did surprise me a little bit.”
Bochy foresees situations where all three if his speedy outfielders, Blanco, Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera could play at once, with Pagan hitting sixth.