Gi­ants re­liev­ers crack in 12th in­ning

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS - By Kerry Crow­ley kcrow­ley@ba­yare­anews­group.com

On most nights, nine con­sec­u­tive in­nings of shutout ball is more than enough for a base­ball team to en­sure vic­tory. But in a 12-in­ning af­fair against the Colorado Rock­ies, the im­pres­sive efforts of the Gi­ants’ pitch­ing staff failed to hold up.

Thanks to a two- out, two-run sin­gle from the Rock­ies’ Car­los Gonzalez in the 12th, the Gi­ants lost the se­ries- opener of a fourgame set 5-3.

In the bot­tom of the 12th in­ning, short­stop Brandon Craw­ford and man­ager Bruce Bochy were ejected by home plate um­pire Chris Se­gal for ar­gu­ing balls and strikes af­ter Craw­ford took a called third strike the Gi­ants felt was below the strike zone.

Af­ter starter Jeff Sa­mardz­ija and re­liev­ers Will Smith, Sam Dyson, Hunter Strick­land, Tony Wat­son and Pierce Johnson kept Colorado score­less from the third in­ning through the 11th, Cory Gear­rin al­lowed Gonzalez’s blooper in the top of the 12th.

Johnson opened the in­ning on the mound for the Gi­ants and is­sued a pair of walks be­fore Gear­rin en­tered and in­duced a fly­out. But af­ter walk­ing Nolan Arena do with two outs, Gear­rin threw a 1-2 sinker that Gonzalez fought off and dropped over the head of sec­ond base­man Kelby Tom­lin­son.

The Rock­ies’ late rally crushed a comeback bid ig­nited by Brandon Belt, who has crushed 108 home runs in his career and never needed as­much time to trot around the bases as he did af­ter Thurs­day’s.

Belt launched a game-ty­ing

two-run shot in the sixth in­ning, but he was stopped in his tracks round­ing sec­ond base.

His fourth homer in as many games car­omed off of a green rail­ing above the right field wall and dropped down to the out­field grass where the Rock­ies --and the um­pires-- treated it as a live ball. Catcher Buster Posey came around to score from first with two outs, but Belt stopped at sec­ond be­fore Bruce Bochy emerged from the dugout to urge the um­pire crew to con­vene for a re­play re­view.

Af­ter a 1 minute, 50-sec­ond pause in the ac­tion, Belt was fi­nally al­lowed to jog the fi­nal 180 feet nec­es­sary for him to knot the score at 3-3.

Af­ter start­ing the sea­son on the dis­abled list with a pec­toral strain, Sa­mardz­ija has strug­gled pitch­ing out of the stretch this sea­son as the right- han­der has now al­lowed four sep­a­rate three-run in­nings.

Of the four three-run in­nings Sa­mardz­ija has suf­fered through this year, the top of the sec­ond against the Rock­ies should be the one that frus­trates him the most.

Sa­mardz­ija recorded the first out of the in­ning thanks to a tremen­dous run­ning catch by left fielder Gorkys Her­nan­dez who made a leap­ing grab at the wall to rob Car­los Gonzalez of ex­tra bases, but af­ter that, the Gi­ants starter bat­tled com­mand is­sues.

Trevor Story, who en­tered with a .229 bat­ting av­er­age, lined a one- out sin­gle be­fore Sa­mardz­ija is­sued a walk to Ian Des­mond, who car­ried a .171 clip into Thurs­day’s game. Af­ter Tony Wolters popped out in foul ter­ri­tory, .148 hit­ter Daniel Cas­tro snuck a two-run dou­ble just in­side the third base line to open the scor­ing.

Los­ing a bat­tle to Cas­tro stung, but Sa­mardz­ija fol­lowed it up by al­low­ing pitcher Chad Bet­tis to drill a RBI sin­gle to cen­ter field to push Colorado ahead 3-0.

Af­ter al­low­ing five earned runs in each of his last two out­ings, Sa­mardz­ija’s early chal­lenges fig­ured to make his night a short one and turn the Gi­ants’ evening into a long one. How­ever, when two run­ners reached with just one out in the third, Sa­mardz­ija re­versed the tra­jec­tory of his out­ing and of­fered his of­fense an op­por­tu­nity to claw back.

Sa­mardz­ija re­tired 13 of the next 14 hit­ters he faced, toss­ing 1-2-3 in­nings in the fourth and the sixth while earn­ing the right to start the sev­enth. As their starter turned his game around in the third in­ning, the Gi­ants’ lineup waited un­til the sixth to re­ward Sa­mardz­ija for his efforts. That’s when Belt’s blast evened the score and breathed new life into the home dugout.

Belt’s streak of four straight games with a home run is his sec­ond of the year, as he also cir­cled the bases in four con­sec­u­tive con­tests be­tween April 18 and April 22. His 10 home runs lead the Gi­ants, and with 117 games left to play, Belt has plenty of time to sur­pass his career-high of 18.

Dyson drew the un­en­vi­able task of con­tend­ing with Are­nado in the eighth, but Are­nado hit a weak grounder to third base­man Evan Lon­go­ria to lead off the in­ning. The 2017 Amer­i­can League Gold Glove Award win­ner com­mit­ted his team-high eighth er­ror of the sea­son with a low throw to Belt at first, al­low­ing Are­nado to reach with no one out.

Dyson, how­ever, struck out the next hit­ter be­fore in­duc­ing a dou­ble play to es­cape the in­ning. Closer Hunter Strick­land fol­lowed with a score­less ninth, but the Gi­ants couldn’t scratch across a run against Adam Ot­tavino in the bot­tom of the frame which sent the game to ex­tra in­nings.

BEN MARGOT — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Brandon Belt watches his two-run home run Thurs­day off Rock­ies pitcher Chad Bet­tis that tied the game in the sixth in­ning.

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