ORACLE PARK — As the ball skipped behind a diving Yasiel Puig in right, the San Francisco crowd erupted. As he slid into third base and popped up to face the home dugout, Steven Duggar pointed two fingers at his teammates.
Two runs had come home on the Giants outfielder’s game-tying fifth-inning triple, a welcome relief from the ineptitude that San Francisco had faced with runners on base for the last two-plus seasons. That it came at the expense of old tormentor Puig was a bonus.
The Giants had come back and taken the lead against Cincinnati, but continued struggles with men on base, a botched replay review, another shaky first from Jeff Samardzija and timely Reds hitting led to San Francisco falling to seven games under .500 for the first time during this rebuild-on-the-fly season. With the 5-4 win on Saturday, Cincinnati — at the bottom of the NL Central standings — has now beaten the Giants in three of their five meetings.
The evening started on a familiar note for San Francisco, as Samardzija — who gave up home runs on three straight pitches last week in Cincinnati — gave up walk and a Joey Votto triple to bring home the 38th run the Giants have allowed in the first inning this season. After Samardzija fanned the next two batters, Puig — after waggling his backside out of the way of an inside pitch from Samardzija — brought in two more, sending an 87-mph slider two-thirds of the way up the bleachers in left, 422 feet away.
The Giants answered with a two-out rally, tallying their third first-inning run of the season on a 416-foot shot to center by Evan Longoria on a center-cut 95-mph fastball, then getting back-to-back singles from Pablo Sandoval and Mac Williamson, who broke an 0-for-10 streak.
San Francisco, though, couldn’t bring either of those two home, nor could they cash in on a two-on, one-out scenario in the second. They had one run on five hits in the first two innings. Samardzija, though, quashed Reds rallies in the second and third, stranding four.
Brandon Crawford led off the bottom of the fourth with a flare to left, and Kevin Pillar sent a single to center, setting up Duggar’s three-bagger — his first of the season. A sacrifice fly by Joe Panik plated Duggar to give the Giants their first lead of the series.
Entering the game, Giants hitters had an OPS of just .722 (in 5,445 plate appearances) with runners on base since the start of 2017, the fourth-worst in Major League Baseball. This year, it’s .729 (21st). Last year, it was .700 (27th).
That lead was short-lived. Eugenio Suarez tied things back up with his 12th home run of the year to lead off the top of the fifth against reliever Trevor Gott, the first homer he’d allowed on the year.
In the sixth, Duggar lifted a 1-2 changeup to left, where left fielder Jack Winker and Senzel collided, with Senzel getting a knee in the groin as both went sliding and for the ball. The two were on the ground for several moments as Duggar reached first with a single.
After a walk to pinch hitter Donovan Solano, Duggar broke for third on his own, on what he called an instinctual play, and appeared on video replay to be safe on a steal of third, getting his right leg around the tag, but was called out by Fieldin Culbreth.
“They’re trying to make the right call, what they feel is right, but on my end, I felt the bag before I felt the tag,” Duggar said. “That’s what’s the frustrating part. To be honest with you, I thought that they were going to overturn it.”
Replay officials in New York said the call stood upon review, surprising both Duggar and Bochy.
“I just talked to our guys, and no question he was safe,” Bochy said. “I don’t know how they didn’t overturn it. These are tough deals. They come from New York, but word I got is no question he was safe. It’s a bad break for us, a good break for them, obviously, but that’s a big play.”
Pinch hitter Donovan Solano and Joe Panik both walked after that. Had Duggar not been ruled out, the Giants would have had the bases loaded with one out. Instead, they ended the inning without having brought a run around.
“He’s a base stealer,” Bochy said, not faulting Duggar for his aggressiveness. “Obviously, you want to get to third with one out if you can, and thought he had a pretty good jump there, he thought. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t look good. If it works out, it looks great.
In the seventh, a double by Suarez and a passed ball set up a two-out flare single by Derek Dietrich, dropped in front of a sliding Mac Williamson to bring home a run against Reyes Moronta.
The Giants will now have Monday off, getting new fourth outfielder Aaron Altherr in before a two-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Brandon Belt (knee) pinch hit with two outs in the ninth, and should be healthy enough to start on Sunday.