By Doug Bruzzone
Special to S.F. Examiner
ORACLE PARK — The Giants finished a successful 5-3 homestand with a less successful game, losing 5-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday before heading south to face the first-place Dodgers.
“We’re playing good ball right now,” said starter Jeff Samardzija, who took the loss. “I think we even showed it today. I think there were a couple of situations there, definitely on my end, that if we get out of there with a zero, we’d probably have a different game. We had our opportunities. They just kept putting guys on base and putting me in the stretch.”
Samardzija gave up nine hits, two walks and a hit by pitch in his five innings of work. Considering all those baserunners, it counts as a minor victory that he just gave up four runs.
“I think it’s fair to say he wasn’t as sharp today,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “It was a gutty effort. He ended up giving us 5. Lotta pitches. He had to work hard to get through it, but he kept us there, he gave us a chance, which we had. We just didn’t cash in enough today.”
Samardzija did get some help from his defense. In the top of the third inning, with Yasmani Grandal on third base, Travis Shaw hit a one-out grounder to Brandon Crawford playing far on the left side, near third. Crawford threw a perfect strike home to Buster Posey, who tagged out Yasmani Grandal, avoiding giving up any runs in the third.
Milwaukee still struck first, opening the scoring with a first inning Grandal single that drove in Ryan Braun, and then added on in the second when Ben Gamel singled in Shaw.
Evan Longoria started the bottom of the second with a booming leadoff triple into Triples Alley and scored on a one-out Kevin Pillar double. After a screaming liner off the bat of Steven Duggar found a glove, it was up to Samardzija, who laced a single up the middle, just past the glove of shortstop Orlando Arcia to tie things up at 2-2.
With Gamel on first and two outs in the fourth, Christian Yelich roped a double past Pillar in right field that bounced through a seam in the fence in right field. The ball being out of the field of play, the hit was ruled a ground-rule double and Gamel, who likely would have scored if the ball had simply thudded off the fence, was forced to return to third base. Samardzija struck out the next batter, Braun, and the Giants held the Brewers to just one run in the inning.
“First time I’ve seen it,” Bochy said.
The assist from the fence was a fortuitous break for the Giants, and one that would allow them to tie the game in the bottom of the inning.
The Giants consistently set the table in the first five innings, with multiple baserunners in the first, second, and fifth. Creating those opportunities was a theme of the homestand, even if this game didn’t go the way the team would have liked.
“It was a pretty good homestand,” Bochy said. “We would have loved to finish it off today, and we could’ve. We had our chances … We are creating those chances. That’s what you need to do. If you do enough of it, odds are somebody’s gonna come through for you.”
On Sunday, the Brewers were a prime example of that philosophy. With three baserunners in each of the first two innings, and then two in each of the next three innings, they created so many chances for themselves, that even with Samardzija battling and minimizing the damage all afternoon long, they still scored four runs.
The Brewers would go on to score in the fourth, when Yelich doubled in Gamel; the fifth, on an Eric Thames solo homer; and the sixth, when Jesus Aguilar homered off of Derek Holland.
“I knew I was gonna go out there and have to battle,” Samardzija said. “That we did, but that was it. Unfortunately, they scraped four runs off there, and that last homer ended up hurting. Tough lineup, but we were just a little erratic out there today. A little inconsistent.”
The Giants mounted a rally in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases with no one out for the heart of the lineup. But Posey struck out, and even though the Giants scored a run on a Brandon Belt sacrifice fly, it would be their only run that inning. It was tough to avoid feeling that the Giants’ inability to put a crooked number on the board would come back to haunt them.
And haunt them it did. The Giants never mounted another serious rally against a dominant Brewers bullpen, with Josh Hader earning a two-inning save.
In all, though, while the game might have been a disappointment, on the whole the homestand was a success. The Giants went 3-3 against the Dodgers and Brewers, two first place teams, and took two from the Padres. They now fly to Los Angeles to start a seven-game road trip.
“I love how we’re playing,” Samardzija said. “Gotta love four games playing against the Dodgers in LA and then obviously three more against a tough team in Arizona. We’ll learn more about ourselves in this next week for sure.”