MIAMI -- The Giants' 5-3 loss Saturday to the Marlins could have unfolded at a repertory theatre as well as at a ballpark.San Francisco's third defeat in four games was a combination of vignettes, most of them featuring a bad ending for the Giants, with a few main protagonists thrown in to spice up the drama. Despite being outclassed, the Giants still had a chance to win. They endured lapses defensively and on the basepaths, and they remained no match for Giancarlo Stanton, one of the National League's most formidable hitters. Yet they brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth inning. Gregor Blanco struck out against Randy Choate to strand two runners, but there was no shame in that. "They've done a great job," said manager Bruce Bochy, who must usher the Giants through Sunday's series finale before they play 13 of the following 16 games at home. "The last two days, they've come back in the ninth and showed some life." Though the Giants engineered a compelling conclusion, the game's most crucial juncture was the third inning, when Miami scored three runs to break a 1-1 tie. Jose Reyes, Omar Infante and Hanley Ramirez hit one-out singles off Madison Bumgarner (5-4) to generate a run. After Stanton walked to load the bases, Logan Morrison tapped a grounder to first baseman Brett Pill, who forced out Stanton at second base. But shortstop Emmanuel Burriss' return throw bounced on one hop past Bumgarner, who was covering first. Infante and Ramirez crossed the plate. "I wanted to get the ball to Brett as quickly as possible," said Burriss, who was charged with the Giants' Major League-high 50th error of the season. "It's always a tough play when the pitcher's covering first base, because he's moving." This could have been avoided had Pill thrown home. But he respected Infante's speed.
"Maybe if it was somebody else running, I'd be more aggressive. But he got a pretty good jump," Pill said. "The way the ball was hit and my view from behind the runner was why I went to second."Pill's decision wasn't the only fateful one. With the Giants trailing, 5-1, Angel Pagan christened the seventh inning with a double. But Marlins starter Mark Buehrle, a three-time Gold Glove winner, neatly grabbed Pill's bounding comebacker and started a rundown between second and third base that retired Pagan. The next batter, Joaquin Arias, singled. Yet with Pagan erased, no rally ensued. Bochy absolved Pagan from blame.
"The ball looked like it was going up the middle," Bochy said. "I don't have any problem with that. That's the toughest ball for a guy on second base to read."Buehrle (5-4) lasted 7 1/3 innings and recorded his 166th career victory. The 13-year veteran demonstrated his awareness of the bromide, which is widely attributed to Sandy Koufax, "You don't beat hitters. You beat lineups."
In Buehrle's case, he did both. Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera, the NL's most torrid hitter, owned a lifetime .630 batting average (17-for-27) against Buehrle. But Cabrera and Buster Posey, occupying the third and fourth spots in San Francisco's order, went a combined 0-for-6 against the lefty. That negated the feats of Blanco, the leadoff batter who went 3-for-5, and Burriss, whose third-inning double represented his first extra-base hit since June 28, 2011."He'd stay away and then when you were looking out there, he'd throw a cutter inside," Pill said of Buehrle. "You never really got what you were looking for." It was suggested to Bochy that the 22-year-old Bumgarner might aspire to become as skilled as Buehrle someday.
"I think he's that now," Bochy said. "He's that good. He's been throwing the ball great."Bumgarner has compiled a 3.21 ERA in five May starts, yet has lost his last three decisions. On Saturday, he complained that too many of his pitches "were supposed to be away or in, and they were middle." At the very least, Bumgarner gained a fan. "He's good," Buehrle said. "He's got that funky arm angle and throws low-90s. I mean, curveball, cutter -- I didn't see any changeups, but to me he's pretty good." Then there's Stanton, who's extremely good. Given his productivity in this series -- a .583 average (7-for-12) with two home runs, four doubles, five runs scored and five RBIs -- the Giants might feel thankful that after Sunday, they won't have to face him in the regular season again until 2013. All Stanton did in this game was double and score twice. "Hopefully we'll find a way to make better pitches to him," Bochy said. "When you have a hitter who's hot, they find a way to get mistakes."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.