Victory slips from Giants' grasp in ninth

Victory slips from Giants' grasp in ninth

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two pitches -- a splitter that bounced on the plate and a hanging slider that bounced off wood -- doomed the Giants in a heart-sinking 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night at AT&T Park.

Those were met-the-enemy-and-it-was-us moments for San Francisco, and making it worse for local fans was watching the rival Dodgers celebrate a victory that lifted them into a first-place tie in the National League West with the San Diego Padres.

Insult after mental anguish. A bad combination.

Giants starter Noah Lowry, who made the first mistake pitch in the seventh inning -- the slider that ricocheted off J.D. Drew's bat and into the stands in right field for a two-run homer -- could savor a snippet of satisfaction with a solid effort, even though his winless streak reached five games.

The left-hander has had a rocky season, consistent only in its inconsistency, so holding the Dodgers scoreless on two hits over his first six innings was a distinct reversal of a sporadic-location trend.

"Yeah, that one mistake," said Lowry, "[but] it was nice to go out there and give our team a chance to win and not put us in a hole for a while. I was happy about that, but obviously not happy we weren't able to win the game."

In the fateful ninth, with San Francisco leading 3-2, in came southpaw closer Mike Stanton, determined to finish off the Dodgers in the same fashion he'd saved six straight outings over 12 shutout innings.

Perfect guy for the perfect time.

Didn't happen. A bloop hit by Jeff Kent and a walk to Russell Martin were precursors to disaster, as pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz hit a seeing-eye safety that allowed pinch-runner Jason Repko to score the tying run.

Stanton then uncorked a wild pitch that inexplicably nose-dived into the plate too quickly for catcher Eliezer Alfonzo to handle it, and as the ball skittered behind the batter's box, Martin raced home for the game-deciding run.

Manager Felipe Alou, perhaps in his last season as Giants skipper, sensed that the ghosts of other equally painful losses against Los Angeles and other foes were hovering over the field this night.

"That is the usual way that we lose," Alou said. "We've had a few games like that the last couple of years."

For Lowry, however, his five-hit, seven-inning outing was a last-minute confidence booster, especially after an 0-3 record and 14.36 ERA during September, in which his pitches seemingly had minds of their own, rudely disobeying his orders.

"It's a big series for us, and we obviously don't want L.A. coming out and celebrating on our field. We'll see what we can do tomorrow."
-- Noah Lowry

And despite a boisterous sellout crowd on hand, waving orange towels and urging the Giants on with full-bore energy, Lowry was in his own little oblivious world.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't hear anything, see anything -- I was locked in on trying to make pitches," Lowry said. "It's a big series for us, and we obviously don't want L.A. coming out and celebrating on our field. We'll see what we can do tomorrow."

That one boo-boo offering to Drew?

"It was a slider that flew right into his barrel -- I just hung it," said Lowry. "I made some good pitches to him on the at-bats before, and ended up making a mistake right there and paid for it."

Alou said Lowry was pumped up for the battle, throwing hard and throwing strikes in what was his best overall game since his last victory -- Aug. 26 against Cincinnati, when he allowed only one run over eight innings.

The unflappable 39-year-old Stanton said the finish was disappointing, to say the least.

"I made good pitches, but sometimes good pitches get hit," he said. "That one hurts. Even though we're not going into October, when a team battles like that and gets you a lead, that's disheartening [to lose it].

"I didn't get the job done. It's about as frustrating as it gets. Felipe gave me the ball to throw a shutout inning, and there's no excuse not to be able to get three outs."

On the wild pitch, Stanton said he hung onto the ball too long, and it hit the plate and stayed down.

"With a guy on third, I was just trying to make quality pitches, but I didn't throw enough of them," he said.

Rich Draper is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.