ORACLE PARK — With two men on in the bottom of the seventh, down by one and a lathered half-and-half Dodgers-Giants crowd belting out dualing chants, Pablo Sandoval — hitting .310 over his last 23 games and .285 in a resurgent, age-defying season — had a chance to put San Francisco ahead. Amid a chorus of “Let’s Go Giants!” he sent a weak, slow, inning-ending roller to second, and Giants fans started streaming for the exits.
One inning later, Dereck Rodriguez issued a pair of bases loaded walks, Corey Seager came up with his third RBI hit of the day and that was that. San Francisco — owner of the No. 28 offense in the Major Leagues — rarely finds itself in game-breaking situations, and despite keeping things close for seven innings, they didn’t miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
The Giants loaded the bases twice against National League-leading Los Angeles, and came up with nothing to show for either, stranding a total of 11 men on base and five in scoring position in a game that, for seven innings, was a typically-tight rivalry affair. San Francisco’s 7-2 loss saw a muffed third strike lead to a rally, a disputed call lead to another and an eighth-inning meltdown to top it all off.
“The story was, we had traffic out there all day,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “We just couldn’t find a way to get a run in. Bases loaded, nobody out; bases loaded, one out. That’s what we’ve been trying to do, and it always takes getting a hit with runners in scoring position. We were 1-for-11 … That’s not going to work.”
Twice, Giants starter Jeff Samardzija — who went 5 1/3 innings, striking out five and allowing three earned runs on seven hits — was able to escape bases-loaded situations for the Dodgers relatively unscathed. He loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk in the first, only to get Alex Verdugo to ground out to first to end the frame.
Both Samardzija and his opposite number Rich Hill loaded the bases with one out in the third, and both allowed a run, though Hill’s came on a first-pitch line drive home run down the right field line and into the arcade by Giants catcher Aramis Garcia. It was Garcia’s hide and seek game with strike three to leadoff man Joc Pederson that touched off the Los Angeles rally in the top of the frame, culminating in a Seager RBI single. Samardzija got a pair of grounders after that to get out of the inning.
Samardzija started working the outside corner early, locating his two-seam, four-seam, cutter and slider, and then expanded the zone, getting five called strikes off the plate away in the third and fourth innings, and forcing Dodgers hitters to roll over on five grounders out of the six batters faced between the end of the third and the fourth.
“When you’ve got a lineup like that, all those guys know they’re going to get pitches in the zone, and you can’t really just pitch around one individual guy,” Samardzija said. “They’re all seeing pitches in the zone, so I was living away there, until I felt like I saw them falling over the plate, and we kind of pound them in. The heater away to lefties was real good, and I thought I made some good pitches, but you’ve got to be perfect against a lineup like that.”
After Donovan Solano gave Samardzija the lead with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, though, it was a call Samardzija didn’t get that made the biggest difference.
With one out and Justin Turner on second after a single and a wild pitch, Samardzija had Seager down 1-2 and poured a 94-mph fastball over the inside corner for what looked like strike three. Home plate Andy Fletcher disagreed, and one pitch later, Seager reached out and yanked a low-and-away slider into right for a game-tying double.
“We had him struck out,” Bochy said. “He doesn’t get the call there, then that hit, it’s a tough break for us, for Shark. He pitched great.”
Again, Samardzija was able to wriggle out of more trouble, getting a liner to left by Alex Verdugo and striking out Kiké Hernandez with gusto to strand a man at second, jawing with Fletcher as he came off the mound.
After the Giants loaded the bases again in the fifth with no outs — a pop-out by team RBI leader Kevin Pillar a double play off the bat of Brandon Crawford ended that scoring chance — Samardzija went back out for the sixth. With one out and David Freese on second witha double, he seemed to brush Pederson on the thigh with a 1-2 pitch. He again had an exchange with Fletcher, seeming to indicate he thought Pederson leaned into the pitch — a comeback sinker he’d been throwing all game. San Francisco challenged the call to no avail, and Samardzija was lifted after 101 pitches for Derek Holland.
“He did a hell of a job of not getting out of the way,” Samardzija said.
Holland walked Max Muncy, and was lifted for Trevor Gott, who in turn allowed a sacrifice fly to Turner, putting the Dodgers ahead 3-2. Once again, though, the Giants were able to somewhat limit the damage, as Gott got Cody Bellinger to fly out to left to end the inning.
“We were doing a good job of limiting the damage early, and we were in that game,” Bochy said.
San Francisco had one more chance, getting two on with one out in the seventh, but Pillar popped out to right, and Sandoval grounded out. The Dodgers loaded the bases again, this time against Rodriguez with no outs in the top of the eighth, and blew the game open. After two Rodriguez walks, Mark Melancon allowed the one-out, two-run double by Seager, who finished 4-for-5 with four RBIs, getting hits all three times the Giants walked Bellinger intentionally.
After beating Clayton Kershaw for the first time since last August on Friday, the Giants were once again unable to win back-to-back home games. They haven’t done that since sweeping the Rockies in a three game set, April 11-13. They haven’t won a home series since taking two of three from the Dodgers, April 29-May 1, and they’ll try to do that on Sunday in the 1 p.m. series finale.