AT&T PARK — Just before 11:00 p.m., Steven Okert sat in front of his locker, staring blankly out into the San Francisco Giants’ spacious clubhouse.
Not 30 minutes earlier, the 25-year-old rookie had made just his 12th appearance of 2016 and served up a three-run homer, dooming the Giants to a crushing 6-4 loss.
“I just missed one pitch and we lost the game,” Okert said. “So, I’ll be ready for the next time I get that chance.”
The ninth-inning implosion cost the Giants an opportunity to make up a game in the race with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had lost 3-0 to the New York Yankees earlier in the night.
Instead, the Giants remain four games back in the NL West and sit just half a game ahead of the New York Mets and one game in front of the St. Louis Cardinals after both won on Tuesday.
“Okert just made a mistake there,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He got two strikes and threw it down the middle and we paid for it.”
During his pregame press conference — before the bullpen blew its sixth save in 10 Septemeber tries — Bochy wouldn’t say much about his plans for the ninth inning.
“They’re all on board,” the manager said, referring to his committee of closers.
That crew included Hunter Strickland, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Joe Nathan. Later that night, Bochy called on Strickland to preserve the club’s 4-1 advantage.
The right-hander’s ninth began in inauspicious fashion.
Derek Norris blooped a broken-bat single to right before Alexi Amarista went down on strikes. Jon Jay then dunked a soft single to left, Luis Sardinas snuck a single just under Buster Posey’s glove at first and Wil Myers drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 4-2.
Pitching coach Dave Righetti went out to the mound to settle his rattled reliever, who ended up retiring Yangervis Solarte on a grounder that hit off Strickland’s glove on its way to Joe Panik at second base.
Bochy then made the slow walk out of the dugout to bring in Okert for the final out.
“I always want to stay in,” Strickland said, as he stood in front of his locker, across the room from Okert. “Those are my guys on base, so I want to take care of that and get out of the inning.”
The September call-up got it, but only after Ryan Schimpf crushed a three-run homer to right-center field to give the visitors a 6-4 lead.
“It’s terrible. This is bad as it gets,” Strickland said. “We’ve just got to come back ready to play tomorrow.”
Before the ninth-inning disaster, Albert Suarez had limited the Padres to one run on six hits in his five innings of work.
“Up until that inning, it couldn’t have gone better,” Bochy said. “You look at what the pen did. We did a lot of good things.”
The only damage against the No. 5 starter came in the top of the third when Sardinas looped a one-out RBI single to left. Half an inning later, Hunter Pence evened the score, shooting a double just inside the right-field foul line, as Kelby Tomlinson coasted home.
In the bottom of the fifth, Angel Pagan handed the Giants a 2-1 advantage. On the first pitch of the inning, Pagan blasted a 78 mph curveball from Clayton Richard into the left-field bleachers.
Pagan, who went 2-for-4 against the Padres’ left-hander, entered the night with just two hits in his previous 24 at bats against lefties. Brandon Crawford — the only left-handed batter in the starting lineup — provided a third run with an RBI single later in the sixth.
Gorkys Hernandez, who drew the start in place of Denard Span in center — mainly because of his glove — ended up going 3-for-4 with a solo homer in the seventh.Bruce BochyBuster PoseyHunter Stricklandkarl buscheckMLBSan Diego PadresSan Francisco Giants