SAN FRANCISCO -- Just when it looked like the Giants had the miraculous comeback-win formula down to a science, somebody pulled the plug on the thrill machine.
For the third straight day and fourth time in six games, the Giants made a dramatic comeback Tuesday night. This time, though, they couldn't come up with the final key blow and dropped an 8-6 11th inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park.
The Giants, who tied a major league record by using 11 pitchers in the game, rallied from an early 6-2 deficit to tie the score at 6-6 in the bottom of the seventh and had a golden chance to seize the lead in the bottom of the eighth. But that rally stalled and they never got a better chance the rest of the night.
The 11th Giant to take the mound, left-hander Javier Lopez, ultimately paid the price for that earlier failure. Lopez (3-1) surrendered an RBI triple to Jason Kubel, scoring Aaron Hill, who had opened the inning with his fifth hit, a single off George Kontos. Kubel then scored on a Miguel Montero single.
The Giants put the tying runs on board in the bottom of the 11th with nobody out, but their drama ran dry on three straight outs by the top of the order — fly ball outs by Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro and a groundout by Pablo Sandoval against Arizona's sixth pitcher, Josh Collmenter (4-3).
"We couldn't quite finish the deal in the eighth inning and get a run in," said manager Bruce Bochy. "But you have
Giants fans undoubtedly liked it a lot better knowing the loss didn't hurt their team in the National League West standings, what with the Los Angeles Dodgers also losing in extra innings to San Diego to remain 4 ½ games behind.
The Giants were buoyed by another feisty fight despite their latest disturbing shortcoming by a starting pitcher. Arizona knocked starter Ryan Vogelsong out of the game in the fourth inning having scored six runs, the knockout blow a two-run homer by Hill.
The offense eventually took Vogelsong off the hook, but it was the third time in five starts the 33-year-old right-hander failed to make it through four innings after going at least six innings in his first 21 starts of the season.
What's wrong with Vogelsong? Good question. He appeared to have good velocity, striking out five of the first eight hitters, but made several location mistakes and just didn't seem to have much action on key situational pitches.
"From what I saw on the video, my fastball was just kind of flat," Vogelsong said. "I made a couple mistakes location-wise. That's all I saw. But I've got some work to do, definitely."
Vogelsong said the way the offense is hitting andscoring runs right now, it's incumbent on the entire rotation to pick it up to close out the division.
"If we keep playing like this, we're going to be just fine," Vogelsong said. "We just need to start pitching a little bit better — myself, it is."
Actually, the "we" was correct. The rotation's slump has been a collective thing of late. All five starters have had issues getting through the middle innings in recent weeks, but Bochy has yet to express much concern.
"These guys have done a great job all year and we're in this position because of our starting pitching," the manager said. "They're going to have their ups and downs. It's a great rotation and they've done a tremendous job. But it's going to be important that we pitch well, there's no getting around that."
For the second straight day, the Giants and Diamondbacks staged a wild back-and-forth affair full of big hits, stellar defensive plays and clutch relief pitching.
Brandon Crawford turned an unreal double play that saved a run in the seventh. Arizona right fielder Justin Upton made a sensational running catch in Triples Alley to rob Sandoval of a long hit in the ninth.
On the mound, Santiago Casilla got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the eighth. Mike Zagurski did likewise in the bottom of the eighth, coaxing a double play out of pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez.
But the Giants deserved much credit just to get to that position. They launched their comeback in the bottom of the sixth against Arizona starter Ian Kennedy when Hunter Pence lined a one-out double to left.
Brandon Belt then delivered a rarity both for himself and the team — a home-park home run, a blast over the right field wall into McCovey Cove that cut the score to 6-5.
It was Belt's fifth homer of the year, but his first since June 23 against Oakland. It was also the Giants' first home run at AT&T since Crawford homered on Aug. 13.
San Francisco completed the comeback in the next inning. Pagan led off with a double into the left-field corner against right-handed reliever Brad Bergesen. Scutaro sacrificed Pagan to third and Sandoval hit a line shot between shortstop and third to score him.
Belt said the Giants' offense is finally getting close to firing on all cylinders, and despite the loss, believes the hitting trend will continue to surge.
"You just have games like this where you don't end up winning," he said. "But I think everybody's feeling really confident right now about what we can do, and we're going to come out and battle again tomorrow. We control our destiny right now."
-- The Giants added more reinforcements Tuesday, calling up left-handed pitcher Dan Runzler and right-hander Dan Otero and purchasing the contract of infielder Emmanuel Burriss, who the club designated for assignment just last month.
Burriss' return was a bit of a surprise. When he was designated on July 28, that appeared to be it for his Giants career. But he cleared waivers, returned to Triple-A Fresno and hit .274.
Determining that they needed more speed on the bench and another utility infielder with Joaquin Arias nursing a sore calf muscle, Burriss became the most viable option. The Giants designated pitcher Eric Hacker for assignment to make room for Burriss on the 40-man roster.
"He can play anywhere on the infield and he can give us some speed," said Bochy. "He was playing well in Fresno. He went down and played well and played hard, so he earned this."
"It was surprising to get a call but I'm excited to be here," Burriss said. "You never know what's going to happen in a situation where you're taken off the (40-man) roster, but I took the attitude to be ready for anything. I just kept working."
Burriss had a pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 11th.
-- With a day off Thursday, the Dodgers shuffled their rotation for this weekend's series against the Giants at AT&T Park, deciding to skip Joe Blanton's regular turn on Sunday and moving left-handed ace Clayton Kershaw into his spot.
The Giants had an option to do likewise but will stick with Barry Zito's regularly scheduled start. The club conceivably could have started Vogelsong in Zito's spot on normal rest.
Tim Lincecum will face Josh Beckett in the series opener Friday night and Matt Cain takes on Chris Capuano Saturday afternoon.
Arizona (Trevor Cahill 9-11) at Giants (Madison Bumgarner 14-9), 7:15 p.m. CSNBA
A.L. WEST RACE
W L Pct. GB
Giants 77 59 .566 --
Dodgers 73 64 .533 4½
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