AT&T PARK — After a grueling road trip which saw the Giants drop five games back in the NL West, San Francisco was in desperate need of an elusive home win against the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.
Unfortunately for them, they had Chicago’s ace Chris Sale waiting for them.
The hard-throwing right-hander shut out the Giants for eight innings, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out 12 and allowing just two runners into scoring position all game.
Ryan Vogelsong tossed a quality game as well, going seven strong innings while allowing just two runs on three hits, but received no help from his teammates at the plate. It would be his fifth straight home start in which he received no runs of support.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
Manager Bruce Bochy praised the veteran Vogelsong for yet another solid start:
“Vogey, what a great job he did. He got the one ball up there in the first inning, but after that he was nails. And we needed him because we weren’t doing much. He kept us in the game and gave us a chance and we came back to tie it, but what a beautiful game he pitched.”
The White Sox got to work quickly against Vogelsong, scoring in the first inning. After working two consecutive outs following a leadoff single to Alejandro De Aza, Vogelsong looked prime to pitch his way out of an early jam.
But Vogelsong couldn’t avoid the big inning, leaving a fastball over the plate to cleanup man Adam Dunn, who parked it in the seats in left field for a two-out knock, giving the White Sox an early 2-0 lead.
Dunn’s 18th home run — just the second big fly allowed by Vogelsong in 13 home starts — was the only blemish on an otherwise great start from the righty.
The Giants squandered a chance to cut the lead in the bottom of the first after Hunter Pence reached third safely after splitting the gap between right and center field with just one out.
Buster Posey followed with a sharply-hit grounder to short stop Alexei Ramirez, who — despite playing back in the infield — nabbed Pence at the plate after he broke late after contact was made. Sale would go on to strike out Pablo Sandoval to end the inning.
Though the play seemed insignificant at the time, it turned out to be a decisive blunder by game’s end. However, Bochy stood by Pence as one of the team’s top base runners:
“I haven’t talked to him but he’s as good a baserunner as we have … You’re hoping that doesn’t play a factor but it ends up being a one-run loss there for us.”
The White Sox threatened again in the second after former Giant Connor Gillaspie lead the inning off with a triple between the right-center gap to put Vogelsong back into the stretch.
However, Vogelsong worked around the hit, forcing a shallow flyout, strikeout and groundout to get the shut-down inning he needed.
From then on, it was a pitcher’s duel, as both Vogelsong and Sale found their groove on the mound.
Vogelsong disallowed any more hits, while allowing just three more base runners — a pair of walks and a hit batter — through the seventh inning.
Though Vogelsong did his best to keep his team close, the Giants just couldn’t string anything together off Sale.
The Chicago southpaw allowed singles in three consecutive innings, all with one out or less, but the Giants were never able to move a runner past second base.
Working with a short and unexperienced bench, Bochy was forced to send pinch hitter Joaquin Arias — who entered the game just 4-for-29 as a pinch hitter with a .197 season average — to the plate for Vogelsong. The bench’s offensive struggles continued as Arias popped out to second base, ending the scoring threat.
The Giants’ offense has given Vogelsong just 3.57 runs per game on the season, the tenth-lowest figure in the NL. The figure becomes even more bleak for Vogelsong in the friendly confines of AT&T Park, dropping to just 2.07 runs per game, the lowest for all National League starters.
San Francisco found themselves with one final opportunity in the bottom of the ninth after — much to the delight of the stumped Giants hitters — Sale was pulled from the game after eight shutout innings.
Bochy elected to go to his bench again, pulling Duvall in favor for pitch hitter Travis Ishikawa, who dropped yet another single into centerfield for a bases loaded, no outs situation for the Giants.
White Sox second baseman Gordan Beckham made the defensive play of the game, robbing Joe Panik of a hit with a great diving stop up the middle and a glove-flip to shortstop Alexei Ramirez for the double play, scoring Sandoval in the process.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford then delivered some much needed two-out magic by lacing a single through the hole into right field to tie the game at 2-2.
The drama continued into the top of the tenth inning, as Santiago Casillo (L, 1-2, 1.48 ERA) gave up a one-out walk to Jordan Danks, followed by a single from pinch-hitter Moises Sierra to set up a stressful situation.
Casilla induced De Aza into a slow, broken-bat roller to Panik, who came home with the ball to nab Danks at home to keep the game tied.
But Beckham — whose great play in the field saved the game in the ninth — hurt the Giants once more, this time at the plate, by slapping an RBI single to left field, giving Chicago a 3-2 lead.
Following a series of deflating plays by Beckham, Bochy talked about the tough loss:
“It’s a tough one for us because we pitched well, we played well. And we did some good things there late in the ballgame and it just got away from us, and they got the big two out hit.”
Putnam (W, 4-2, 2.21 ERA) would return to the mound to pitch the bottom of the tenth, allowing just one single off the bat of Buster Posey before ending the game by getting Sandoval to fly out to deep left.
The Giants hosted a touching tribute before the game for the late Robin Williams, the comedy icon, Bay Area native and Giants season ticket holder who passed away Monday. Clips of his movies were also shown throughout the game on the scoreboard. … The Giants are now six games back in the NL West following their fifth-straight loss. They are 7-22 at AT&T Park since June 9. … Tonight was the first time Ryan Vogelsong had ever faced the White Sox. It was the only team in the majors he had not faced before.