Brewers can't capitalize on Thornburg's start
Wooten gives up go-ahead hit in eighth; Bianchi's error plates two runs
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Brewers were apt visitors for Grateful Dead tribute night at AT&T Park, because what a long, strange trip it's been.
They lost to the Giants on Monday, 4-2, with Tyler Thornburg delivering another promising start, Juan Francisco atoning for a run-scoring error with a run-scoring double and Rob Wooten pitching in the bottom of the eighth inning with the game on the line. Those are not the names the Brewers figured to have playing key roles in a game in early August.
But it is reality for a team that has lost four of its last five games while playing without Ryan Braun (suspended), Aramis Ramirez (disabled list) and Corey Hart (out for season). The Brewers started 24-year-old Thornburg on Monday because only two-fifths of the Opening Day pitching rotation is active at the moment, traded for Francisco in June because Ramirez was having trouble with a sprained left knee and pitched recently recalled Wooten with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of a tie game because closer Francisco Rodriguez was traded away for a prospect.
"We're all professionals, though. We all have a job and the next man has to step up," said Rickie Weeks, who did not start Monday's game but provided its turning point. "There's no excuses in this game."
The Brewers were tempted to provide them after some late innings full of bad breaks.
In the top of the seventh, tied at 1 on Francisco's booming double that could have given the Brewers the lead had it not one-hopped the center-field fence near a 421-foot marker, the Brewers loaded the bases with one out. Giants manager Bruce Bochy replaced his right-handed starter, Chad Gaudin, with left-hander Javier Lopez, so Brewers manager Ron Roenicke countered by removing Scooter Gennett for the right-handed-hitting Weeks, who hit a bouncer to second base for an inning-ending double play.
"You can't get a bigger double play, especially late in the ballgame like that," Bochy said.
The Brewers believed it should have been a run-scoring fielder's choice, with Weeks safe at first. Roenicke and Weeks each protested the call to no avail, though slow-motion replays showed he had a case.
"You can't put it on the umpires," Weeks said. "They're in the moment. He didn't mean to miss the call. You have to live with it, but it kind of stinks when the game is in their hands like that."
In the bottom of the inning, the game got away from a trio of Brewers relievers.
Struggling setup man John Axford created trouble by walking Hunter Pence, who was 1-for-10 with no walks and five strikeouts against Axford in previous plate appearances. Axford dodged disaster when Buster Posey flied out to the deepest part of the park, but Pence stole second with Pablo Sandoval at the plate, then took third when Axford sailed an intentional ball four to the backstop.
Reliever Michael Gonzalez walked the only batter he faced to load the bases for Wooten to face Giants pinch-hitter Jeff Francoeur, whose shattered-bat single dropped into left field for a 2-1 lead. Two batters later with two outs, a grounder slipped under Brewers third baseman Jeff Bianchi's glove for a two-run error and a 4-1 Giants lead.
"There were a couple of missed calls that hurt us, and they got a couple of breaks, but we didn't play well," Roenicke said. "We had chances and we didn't play well."
The Bianchi error proved especially costly when Francisco homered off Sergio Romo (27th save) in the ninth inning.
Francisco drove in the Brewers' only runs but gave a run away in the fourth inning to provide the only blemish on Thornburg's otherwise encouraging pitching line: six innings, seven hits, one unearned run, two walks, four strikeouts. The Giants' run off Thornburg scored when Francisco, trying to initiate a double play, threw wildly past second base for a 1-0 Giants lead that Gaudin would protect into the seventh.
Thornburg missed an opportunity to aid his own cause in the third inning after Gennett hit a one-out triple. With Thornburg at the plate in a 2-1 count, Roenicke put on the suicide-squeeze play and Gaudin delivered a fastball down the middle.
Thornburg whiffed, Gennett was out between third and home and, when Thornburg struck out, the inning was over.
"I wouldn't put something on unless I thought [Thornburg] was a good athlete and could do the job," Roenicke said.
Asked whether he would remember the quality start or the botched bunt, Thornburg did not flinch.
"Definitely the bunt," he said. "I think that will be something I'll think about all night, even though I'll try to flush it. I think I'll be doing a lot of [bunting] in the cage before my next start."
Gaudin struck out eight batters for the second time in four starts. Thornburg settled for his second no-decision since assuming a spot in the team's injury-plagued pitching rotation. He has pitched six innings in each of his two starts without allowing an earned run, though the Giants made him work Monday. Thornburg needed 81 pitches for his first four innings before getting through the fifth inning on 11 pitches and the sixth inning on 10 more.
"It seemed like every time before I got an out, I was checking a runner at second," he said. "I was battling myself tonight. I wasn't able to execute a lot of pitches early, but fortunately I executed them when it really mattered."