Sloppy ninth inning spells Giants' demise

Sloppy ninth inning spells Giants' demise

SAN FRANCISCO -- Judged against the balance of the season, the Giants' 10-5 loss Friday night can safely be considered an aberration.

San Francisco, which has thrived on deft defense, committed a season-high five errors that generated five unearned runs. Brian Wilson blew only his fifth save opportunity in 32 chances. The Reds, losers of eight of their previous nine games, broke a 5-5 tie with five ninth-inning runs while hitting exactly one ball out of the infield -- after four runs scored on a bunt single, three walks, two errors and a wild pitch.

"We haven't had a night like this for quite a while," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Following all these lapses, the Giants still brought the tying run to the on-deck circle in the ninth inning, loading the bases with one out against Francisco Cordero. The Reds closer recovered by retiring Bengie Molina and Randy Winn, ending the three-hour, 27-minute exercise.

With a Saturday afternoon rematch awaiting them, the Giants emphasized the need to rely on a short memory after losing for just the fifth time in their last 21 home dates.

"You don't dwell on it, that's for sure," said right-hander Brandon Medders, who relieved Wilson after San Francisco unraveled in the ninth.

Nevertheless, this game bore impact on the Giants' pursuit of a postseason berth. They fell into a tie with Colorado atop the National League Wild Card standings.

"They're all big games at this point," Bochy said nearly three hours before the first pitch. "We're going to be saying that the rest of the year."

The Giants' inability to hold leads of 2-0, 4-2 and 5-3 prevented Tim Lincecum from becoming the NL's first 13-game winner. Lincecum lasted seven innings, allowing six hits and three runs (two earned) in his first career appearance against Cincinnati. He increased his Major League-leading strikeout total to 198 by adding seven, though the latter figure ended a 10-game streak in which he struck out at least eight batters.

Lincecum no-hit Cincinnati for three innings before yielding three runs on six hits in the next three innings. Fielding a reporter's suggestion that the right-hander performed at less than his best, Bochy said, "Well, you're spoiled with Timmy. ... He left the game with the lead and gave up two earned runs. That's a pretty good night."

It was indeed a promising evening for the Giants until Lincecum's departure. Molina's two-run homer, his first longball since July 9, opened the scoring in the first inning against Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey. Eugenio Velez followed Lincecum's fifth-inning single by lining Bailey's next pitch to the arcade and off the fountain just inside the right-field foul pole, breaking a 2-2 deadlock.

The Giants kept hitting. Fred Lewis' pinch-hit double and Velez's single put Giants on the corners with nobody out in the seventh inning. Then Lewis was thrown out at home while trying to score on Freddy Sanchez's grounder. Nobody knew it then -- particularly since Pablo Sandoval contributed an RBI single -- but the Giants' erosion had begun.

With the Giants leading 5-3, Jeremy Affeldt opened the eighth by walking Joey Votto, the first of five free passes San Francisco issued in the final two innings. Facing Sergio Romo, the Reds sandwiched Brandon Phillips' double and Wladimir Balentien's walk around Scott Rolen's strikeout to load the bases. Cincinnati tied the score against Wilson (3-5) on Laynce Nix's pinch-hit single, a bloop over third base.

"They got a break there," Bochy said. "The ball wasn't hit well [but] he hit it in a good place."

Cincinnati's ninth-inning uprising began with pinch-hitter Drew Sutton's leadoff bunt single. Willy Taveras laid down a sacrifice bunt before Wilson walked both Alex Gonzalez and Joey Votto on 3-2 pitches, loading the bases. Ball four to Votto looked borderline, though none of the Giants argued openly.

"I can't tell from where I am," Bochy said. "It certainly looked close. I know 'Willie' was frustrated."

Phillips drew the third consecutive walk off Wilson to force in the tiebreaking run.

A pair of grounders to Sandoval brought home two more runs. Molina dropped a throw to spoil a forceout before Sandoval hit Joey Votto in the back with his next throw. Medders wild-pitched Phillips home before Nix hit a sacrifice fly.

"We kind of let that game get away," Affeldt said. "We didn't allow our defense to make plays behind us, and then we had some faux pas on the field. ... This was a game we should have had in the bag in the sense of how we usually play."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.