PHILADELPHIA -- Maybe the Giants' 4-2 loss Tuesday night to the Phillies was a mere matter of timing, in which they were scheduled to visit Citizens Bank Park when Aaron Nola happened to throw one of the best games of his career.Or, perhaps the Giants bore witness to something more
PHILADELPHIA -- Maybe the Giants' 4-2 loss Tuesday night to the Phillies was a mere matter of timing, in which they were scheduled to visit Citizens Bank Park when Aaron Nola happened to throw one of the best games of his career.
Or, perhaps the Giants bore witness to something more imposing and electrifying: the legitimizing of a future All-Star, a peer who someday shall become peerless.
Nola dominated the Giants for seven innings, allowing one run and five hits. He struck out nearly half of the batters he faced -- 12 of 25 -- and retired at least one batter on strikes in every inning he worked but the seventh. Just as impressively, he walked none.
Nola, 24, has been around. This was his 68th career start. But with this game, he truly announced his presence to the Giants. From now on, when the Giants see the Phillies on the schedule, they'll wonder whether Nola's pitching, just as they do when they face the Dodgers and grimly await Clayton Kershaw's turn to pitch.
"He was throwing a couple of different fastballs, commanded the changeup pretty well and dropped in breaking balls," Giants catcher Buster Posey said of Nola, who recorded nine consecutive outs on strikeouts from the end of the second inning through the first two outs of the fifth. "Yeah, he was pretty good tonight."
Fabulous as Nola was, the Giants brought the potential tying run to the plate in the eighth inning. After Pablo Sandoval clobbered a pinch-hit homer off Edubray Ramos to narrow the difference to 4-2, Andrew McCutchen drew a two-out walk. Up came Posey, who was 0-for-3 but had hit safely in his last 23 games here. That streak ended, along with the Giants' hopes, when right-hander Tommy Hunter relieved Ramos and coaxed a groundout to third from Posey.
Giants starter Derek Holland continued the Giants' recent tendency to yield the long ball, allowing home runs to Aaron Altherr and Jorge Alfaro. Both came on breaking pitches, which aroused Holland's concern. He suspected that he might have tipped off the hitters to what was coming by slowing down his delivery
"As the hitter, it's easier to sit back on something like that," Holland said.
Holland (1-4) surrendered three earned runs in five innings for the third time this season. Yet manager Bruce Bochy deciphered improvement from the left-hander.
"I thought he made some really good pitches that could have gone the other way," Bochy said. "Overall, his stuff has picked up."
This marks the first time the Giants have lost back-to-back games since April 13-17 (three at San Diego, one at Arizona). But Holland insisted on remaining calm.
"We're going to bounce back," he vowed. "We've shown it."
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The Giants have committed 11 errors in the first five games of this trip. Tuesday, however, they tightened up their defense. Third baseman Evan Longoria made an impressive diving stop of Carlos Santana's second-inning line drive, and shortstop Brandon Crawford ranged toward the middle of the infield to grab Nola's grounder and start an inning-ending double play in the fourth inning from a difficult angle.
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The Giants generated such little offense that wasting even the slightest opportunity aroused Bochy's concern. The Phillies thought Nola picked off Gregor Blanco in the fifth inning, but replays proved inconclusive and the call stood. However, Nola legitimately picked off Blanco moments later to end the inning.
"It's something we will address," Bochy said.
Giants right-hander Chris Stratton, who starts Wednesday's 4:05 p.m. PT contest at Philadelphia, allowed two homers in a game for the first time in his career last Friday at Atlanta yet earned the decision in San Francisco's 9-4 win. Nick Pivetta will start for the Phillies.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.