SAN FRANCISCO -- Just when the Giants seemed to be finding some real answers, their charge back into contention took a discouraging reverse course Sunday at AT&T Park.
Before the game, the Giants learned that they'd lost reliever Jeremy Affeldt for four to six weeks with a moderate left groin strain. Then they went out and dropped a 3-1 decision to the Arizona Diamondbacks in which they ran themselves out of two rallies, got some shaky defense in left field and ruined a strong Madison Bumgarner start.
For good measure, former Giants postseason hero Cody Ross delivered the decisive blow -- a two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning -- against Jean Machi, the man who replaced Affeldt on the roster.
About the only good thing a Giants fan could pull out of this day is that Arizona's win prevented the Los Angeles Dodgers from moving into first place. But that was little consolation for the Giants, who could have pulled back within four games of the lead in the National League West.
Buster Posey, who was thrown out at home plate in the sixth inning in what turned out to be a crucial play in the game, still thinks the Giants can take something positive out of taking two of three from the Diamondbacks.
"I think you do," Posey said. "Obviously, we would have liked to win this one as well and try to carry a little momentum into the next series. But everybody's packed in pretty tight (in the division), so it's definitely prone to some movement."
For his part, third base coach Tim Flannery took full blame for the defeat. With Arizona leading 1-0, Posey led off the sixth with a walk and Pablo Sandoval doubled into the left-center gap against Diamondbacks starter Randall Delgado.
Flannery elected to send Posey home on the Sandoval hit, but center fielder A.J. Pollock made a strong relay throw to shortstop Cliff Pennington, who wheeled and threw a strike to catcher Miguel Montero, whose diving tag nailed Posey by an eyelash.
"Nobody out, you never want to get anybody thrown out," said Flannery. "I feel terrible about it. I feel responsible not only for the loss by the team, but Bum not getting a win.
"I got too aggressive in that situation, but it comes with the territory," Flannery added. "I work without a net."
Manager Bruce Bochy wouldn't put it on Flannery, nor did Posey or Bumgarner.
"They just made a really great play," said Bochy. "You hate to see that happen, but give them credit for executing."
Bochy thought the Ross hit, a scratch single over second base with the bases loaded that made it 3-0, was the killer.
"Ross just hit that in a good spot," the manager said. "It was a pretty good pitch, and now it's a three-run game. If it's still one run, it's a different ballgame."
Arizona might not have even had its one run had left fielder Kensuke Tanaka been able to haul in Martin Prado's deep drive to left-center in the first inning. Tanaka appeared to have a bead on the ball, but it glanced off his glove for a triple, and Prado scored on a sacrifice fly by Paul Goldschmidt.
It wasn't a good day for Tanaka, who also got thrown out trying to take second on a ninth-inning error that had delivered the Giants' only run. Instead of one on and one out with a run in, the gaffe allowed Arizona a cheap second out, and after a Brandon Crawford infield single, reliever Brad Ziegler finally ended the game by getting pinch-hitter Jeff Francoeur to ground out to short.
Even though he wasn't as sharp as he's been in other recent starts, Bumgarner (10-6) was still very good -- seven innings, five hits, three walks, a hit batter, six strikeouts and just one run allowed.
But the Giants couldn't solve Delgado (2-3) or the four relievers who followed him.
Affeldt confirmed he felt something pop, and added that he has been pitching with discomfort in his groin for the past two weeks but had tried to pitch through it. He said he had been getting treatment before the injury.
"Sometimes being a tough guy doesn't always work out so well," said Affeldt, who added that he may have cost the Giants some games not being able to pitch at full effectiveness.
Bochy was surprised by the admission that Affeldt had been dealing with a groin problem before Saturday's injury.
"If that's the case, he kept that to himself," the manager said.
For more on the Giants, see Alex Pavlovic's Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants.
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