SAN FRANCISCO -- Garrett Jones loses a two-out fly ball in the AT&T Park lights. Second base umpire Dale Scott loses a ball somewhere between Jones' right wrist, left foot and then the right hand of a diving Delwyn Young. And their club loses a third consecutive game, by 4-2 to a sharp Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants, to fall to a season-worst 13 games below .500, at 43-56.
Monday night was so much of a one-of-those-nights experience for the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen knew the moment he struck a seventh-inning pitch into left field that it wasn't going to turn into the double or triple that it would have, under normal circumstances.
"Right when it hit off my bat, I thought, 'Aw, he's going to catch it," McCutchen said this morning. And Eugenio Velez did, diving toward the left-field line. "I just laughed it off."
Otherwise, there wasn't much to chuckle off. Lincecum (11-3) the 2008 Cy Young Award winner, who started but didn't finish the 2-1, 14-inning Pirates victory 10 days ago at PNC Park to jump-start the Pirates short-lived spurt after the All-Star Break, worked a complete game and struck out a career-high 15. He allowed just one run through five innings, a period in which he struck out 10 of the 18 Pirates he faced. "All his pitches were... , I mean, unbelievable," was the best Jones to offer.
The same as 10 days ago, Paul Maholm (6-5) battled Lincecum after the defensive -- and umpiring -- difficulty of the first two innings, when the Giants scored all four of their runs.
Maholm yielded consecutive doubles in the first, with two outs, for a 1-0 Giants lead. In a wacky second, Jack Wilson followed some fine glovework with a misplay that ruined a double-play chance. With two on, Andy LaRoche got out Velez at third and then threw out Jesus Guzman at home on a nifty double play. However, with Juan Uribe and Lincecum at first and second bases, an Andres Torres fly ball into right center field undid everything that went wrong and then right for the Pirates.
"I should have caught it," Jones said of the hit eventually scored a triple. "I was yelling Andrew 'take it,' but the crowd was so loud. It was just a tough play. For me, I probably should've had it."
"Even if he was calling for me, I had no chance on it," McCutchen added. "The ball was just fading away."
"If we catch the ball in the outfield, maybe it could have been a different game," manager John Russell said. "I think he should have made the play. Who knows?"
That San Francisco second inning proceeded to grow wackier still. A Randy Winn hit into short right field caromed off Jones twice and into Young's right hand, but Scott ruled the ball hit the ground. While Young and Co. were trying to protest the call, he quickly had to throw to first base, where Winn was caught off base for the final out of that inning. Nevertheless, that fourth run had scored. "By that point, the damage was done," Russell said.
"Small things that go their way," McCutchen called it.
"It was kind of awkward. It's one of those plays out of the ordinary, it just ended up on a bad [not] 'cause it ended up counting as a run," Young said. " It's a great argument for instant replay. Not that he's right or wrong [on the call], it's just... a good argument for instant replay."
The Pirates avoided a third consecutive shutout -- which would've been the franchise's first since Aug. 28-30, 1968, against St. Louis (Bob Gibson), St. Louis (Ray Washburn) and Atlanta (Milt Pappas) -- by tallying two off Lincecum in the sixth. McCutchen opened by reaching on Edgar Renteria's error. Young, a late replacement so Freddy Sanchez could further rest his sore and tender left knee, followed with a sharp double to advance McCutchen. Jones' grounder scored McCutchen and moved over Young. Ryan Doumit's sacrifice-fly liner to right scored Young.
Just when it appeared they were getting to Lincecum, with Jack Wilson singling with one out in the seventh, this diminutive Giants right-hander recorded his 12th strikeout of the night, on pinch-batter Jeff Salazar. The inning then ended when Velez dived to his right to catch a liner and rob McCutchen of extra bases.
As a frustrated Jones put it, "What are you going to do?"