Giants manager Bruce Bochy shifted Brandon Belt to the leadoff spot for the first time in his career to help the team get out of a funk that included just 16 runs in their previous seven games. However, things did not work out well, as Belt went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, and the Giants were quickly buried by the Reds' seven-run third inning.
Things did go the Giants' way early, as they were able to take their first lead since Wednesday in the second inning. With Nick Hundley on first base, Steven Duggar shot a hard liner to left field, where Dilson Herrera badly misread the ball. After taking a step in, Herrera had to back up and leap for the tailing ball and could not come up with it. Hundley then scored on Gorkys Hernandez's sacrifice fly.
But the Giants could not keep the momentum going with a single batter reaching over the next four frames. They could barely get contact on Reds starter Luis Castillo, who struck out seven batters over those four innings and nine on the game. Meanwhile, the Reds chased starter Andrew Suarez with seven runs (five earned) in the third, which seemingly deflated the offense further.
"I think you look at the velocity, and I don't know who throws harder in the National League on the average," Bochy said. "He's throwing 97 and had a great changeup. The slider had a remarkable ball-strike ratio going. He was throwing strikes, and that changeup has a lot of diving action on it. We had a hard time laying off it. He was on top of his game."
The Giants finally knocked Castillo out of the game in the seventh inning with another bizarre play. After Duggar hit a second double with two outs, Hernandez hit a routine grounder to shortstop Jose Peraza, but his throw went straight through first baseman Tucker Barnhart's glove. That allowed Duggar to score, and Hernandez came around on Hunter Pence's pinch-hit double.
San Francisco added one final run in the eighth when Joe Panik reached on an infield single and advanced to second on an airmailed throw by Peraza. Chase d'Arnaud scored him on a pinch-hit double, and d'Arnaud even added a clean inning of relief in the eighth -- his first in the Majors.
"It's deflating getting beat up pretty good, but you put a few runs on the board, it's good for the guys. No way around that," Bochy said. "We were stuck on one run, so it was good to get off the schneid there. We scored four and should've had another run or two, but that's always a good thing, I think. It shows at least they're fighting."
SOUND SMART Belt is the first Giants first baseman to hit leadoff since David Bell on July 6, 2002, and he's their first left-handed first baseman to do so since Mike Aldrete on May 4, 1987. During the San Francisco era, Will Clark has the most starts as the leadoff hitter at first base (28).
"I showed up, and I was in the leadoff spot," Belt said. "[It's the] same as any other spot. It's all the same after you start the game anyway. You go around the lineup and come back up again."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS With Joey Votto on the DL, Barnhart, the team's regular catcher, was making just his second start and fifth appearance at first base. Perhaps he needs to invest in a glove of his own because he was borrowing Brandon Dixon's first baseman's glove when Peraza's seventh-inning throw went straight through his glove.
"It was weird," Barnhart said. "I didn't feel it go through my glove. I looked down and I didn't have the ball in my glove and I saw the web was gone. It was just a freak accident for sure. More >
POSITION PLAYER PITCHING Bochy has been historically loathe to put a position player in to pitch during blowout games but turned to d'Arnaud in the eighth inning. Although he gave up a hard single to Phillip Ervin, he coaxed easy flyouts from the other three batters to avoid further damage. d'Arnaud was excited for the opportunity and fairly satisfied with his performance.
"Boch asked me a couple innings before if I had done it before, and I told him, 'Yeah,'" d'Arnaud said. "But I said 'yeah' to a lot of things, so he wanted to make sure I was serious when I said, 'Yeah.'"
d'Arnaud made a similar emergency relief appearance with Triple-A Indianapolis in 2014 -- he retired all three hitters but allowed a run to score on a sacrifice fly -- but had not practiced pitching since middle school.
HE SAID IT "We'll somehow regroup and be resilient. It's what the game is about. You're going to have some series like this unfortunately. You hate to have them in August, you're trying to make up ground. But hey, we're professionals, so we'll put this behind us and find a way to get back on track." -- Bochy
UP NEXT The Giants open a four-game set against the Mets on Monday as Derek Holland takes the mound at 4:10 p.m. PT at Citi Field. Holland has held opponents to two runs or fewer in five of his past six starts. Most recently he threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dodgers. Zack Wheeler will start for the Mets.
Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati.