ORACLE PARK— Ever since finding a new arm slot at the start of June, Giants left-hander Drew Pomeranz had seemed to regain his 2016 All-Star form.
Before Friday’s 9-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Pomeranz had gone five innings and allowed two or fewer earned runs in four of his last five starts.
Against the middling Cardinals, though, Pomeranz allowed two runs before the seats were even warm and four in four innings. The San Francisco offense — which came alive over a four-game winning streak — sunk back to its 2019 norm after a promising start, and Pomeranz headed into the All-Star break on a frustrating note.
“I’ve been pitching well because I’ve been going right after guys and being super aggressive right from the get-go,” Pomeranz said. “… You’ve got to figure out a way to get pissed off or do something to go out there mad or whatever trick it takes, but you’ve got to be ready from the get-go, or else stuff like that happen.”
Pomeranz came in with a fairly dreadful first-inning record this season, with an 11.25 ERA and opposing batters hitting .365, but over the last month, had found a way past those struggles. Outside of a three-run first against the Dodgers, he hadn’t allowed a single first-inning run in his other four June starts.
He threw 33 pitches and surrendered three runs on a pair of homers in the first on Friday — a 108-mph, 433-footer to Jose Martinez and a 110-mph, 449-foot, two-run bomb to Paul Goldschmidt.
“He didn’t have his fastball command today,” Bochy said. “Had trouble getting it where he wanted.”
Pomeranz had posted a 3.33 ERA and fanned 34 to just nine walks overall since the arm adjustment, but his curve remained inconsistent. When it’s been good, he’s been a strikeout machine, albeit an inefficient one. When it’s bad, as it was on Friday, he becomes predictable.
Out of 23 curves he threw to the Cardinals (44-42), he got six called strikes and two swinging strikes. As a consequence, 59 of his 85 pitches were fastballs. Eleven of those were fouled off, and 12 put in play. The average exit velocity on his four-seamer: 90.5 mph.
San Francisco got to Cardinals rookie righty Dakota Hudson early with two runs on two hits and three walks in the bottom of the first, and a first-pitch, game-tying homer to Alex Dickerson in the third — his fourth in 14 games as a Giant — but didn’t get a man past second again until a Brandon Crawford double in the ninth.
With one out in the fourth, Tommy Edman punished a Pomeranz fastball to the tune of a 102-mph, 400-foot triple into Triples Alley to drive home a run and put the Cardinals back on top for good.
After scoring 40 runs over a four-game winning streak headed into Friday, San Francisco — the No. 28 offense in baseball — stranded three in the first, one in the second and one in the third, then grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fifth.
“You get a little spoiled when you score that many runs, and you get used to it a little bit,” Bochy said. “We were battling back, but their pen did a good job on us.”
St. Louis added a pair of runs in the fifth off reliever Trevor Gott, another pair at the expense of Mark Melancon in the seventh and a ninth-inning solo shot from Dexter Fowler.
Pomeranz — on a one-year show-me deal after a rocky final year with Boston — now heads into the All-Star break in a tough spot at 2-9 with a 6.42 ERA. With youngsters Andrew Suarez, Conner Menez and Dereck Rodriguez waiting in the wings and the Giants needing to see more of their future staff, time is running low for Pomeranz to show other clubs that he can be a solid rotation piece once again. He’ll throw during the break, and try to maintain what he’d done over the month of June.
“The first part of it sucked,” Pomeranz said. “These last few have been good. This is obviously a frustrating one to go into the All-Star Break with, and I’m not going to pitch for a little bit, probably. It’s pretty frustrating with the turns I’ve made recently, but I know what needs to be done … Just got to keep your head in the right place.”