Santiago Casilla, seen here Aug. 31, blew another save opportunity on Saturday. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Ninth inning sinks Giants again

The boos began to rain down as soon as Bruce Bochy emerged from the dugout. 

Hours earlier, during his pregame press conference, the San Francisco Giants manager had explained that Santiago Casilla was still a ninth-inning option.

“He’s in the mix – including closing,” Bochy said. “They’re all going to be used,”

With one out in the ninth and the Giants clinging to a 2-1 advantage, Bochy was turning to his old closer.

“We huddled up and we said if it got to [Yadier] Molina there — he’s had success off of [Sergio] Romo — [that] Casilla would be a better matchup,” Bochy said. “It’s kind of what the plan was, It didn’t work out.”

Casilla wouldn’t retire either of the batters he faced, blowing his ninth save and watching the Giants’ 2-1 lead turn into a 2-2 tie. After he walked Molina, the tying run came home courtesy of Randal Grichuk who grounded a single into center field.

Casilla called the sinker away a “good pitch.” His manager agreed.

“Now, if the ground ball’s a foot to the left, we wouldn’t be talking about it,” Bochy said. “He ended up walking him. That’s what hurt.”

More boos followed when Bochy re-emerged from the dugout to relieve Casilla and bring on Matt Reynolds. 

“Yeah,” Casilla said, his voice cracking when asked if he’d heard the crowd. “I understand this game.”

“I try to do my best,” Casilla added. “I’ve never had that moment, so I’m having that now. I’m working to [try to] pitch better. I’ve never had that moment here [and] I’ve pitched good for like five years.”

After Casilla exited, Reynolds promptly gave up the go-ahead run in the 3-2 loss, as Kolten Wong sent a sacrifice fly to center. 

The defeat pushed the Giants’ deficit in the division to five games, and leaves the club tied atop the wild-card standings with the New York Mets and two games ahead of the Cardinals.

Up until the ninth inning, Crawford had been the hero of the night — accounting for 10 outs with his glove.

“[I was] following the game plan, right?” Jeff Samardzija said. “That’s the way you like it. I mean, anything on the ground’s good.”

Back in the fifth, as Aledmys Diaz crossed the bag at first base, the Cardinals shortstop shot a look across the diamond at Crawford and threw his hands into the air.

Moments earlier, Crawford had ranged up the middle to rob Diaz of a single that would have given the Cardinals a 2-1 advantage.

Half an inning after Crawford had bailed him out, Samardzija put the Giants ahead 2-1, lofting a sacrifice fly to shallow right field. For the starter, the RBI was his ninth of the season — two better than Madison Bumgarner.

Samardzija’s night began in ominous fashion when he served up a first-inning solo home run to Brandon Moss — just the third batter he faced. Thanks in part to three double plays — all started by Crawford — that was the only run Samardzija allowed in his 6.2 innings of work.

“He got better as he went,” Bochy said. “He did a great job [and] gave us all we needed. That’s a great start, a quality start.”

The Giants’ opening run came courtesy of Brandon Belt in the bottom of the second. The first baseman, who has endured a nightmare second half, boomed a double over the head of Grichuk in center field to bring home Hunter Pence.

Pence collected a pair of singles against the Cards to up his hitting streak to 11 games and is batting .465 (20-for-43) during that stretch.

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