San Francisco Giants’ Gorkys Hernandez (66) can’t make a catch in center field on a triple hit by Arizona Diamondbacks’ Jake Lamb (22) in the third inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
SAN FRANCISCO – One day after Buster Posey took a fastball to the helmet, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ best player turned the other cheek.
Jeff Samardzija threw a 96.7 mph fastball that drilled Paul Goldschmidt in the hindquarters in the first inning. There were no warnings issued, and no escalation of tensions as Goldschmidt jogged to first base. They understood the ritual retribution.
As for Tuesday night’s game, the score was settled in center field. Gorkys Hernandez couldn’t make a running catch near the wall in the third inning. A.J. Pollock could. And although the Giants scored twice with two outs in the ninth, that early defensive sequence was the difference as the Giants lost 4-3 at AT&T Park.
On the whole, Hernandez did not have a good experience with the warning track. He barely missed hitting a grand slam in the second inning when left fielder Yasmany Tomas camped under a fly ball with his back against the wall.
An inning later, Hernandez appeared to have a bead on Jake Lamb’s deep drive with one out and the bases loaded. But instead of a sacrifice fly, it became a three-run triple. Hernandez whiffed on the attempt and then flung himself into the padding as Chris Marrero chased down the ball.
The Giants nearly answered in the bottom of the third when Hunter Pence walked and Aaron Hill, batting cleanup with Posey on the concussion list and Brandon Crawford getting a day of rest, hit a drive to deep center. But Pollock didn’t let the looming wall distract him as he made a sprinting catch over one shoulder.
It was a killer defensive play on a night when the Giants’ depleted lineup probably needed a break. But there must be a charitable gifts limit in this series: the Giants already got more than they deserved in Monday’s home opener, when two Arizona errors allowed them to score three runs on a swinging bunt.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy loaded his lineup with right-handed bats against Arizona lefty Robbie Ray, and among his moves was resting center fielder Denard Span in favor of Hernandez.
While Hernandez figures to be used often as a late-inning defensive replacement in left field, there isn’t much evidence that he’s an improvement over Span in enter.
Hernandez missed a shot at redemption amid drizzling skies in the eighth, after Nick Hundley doubled and Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings made a major miscalculation. Owings dived to his right to stop Eduardo Nuñez’s hard grounder, and Hundley, not knowing if the ball would get through, got hung up between second and third. But instead of throwing to second baseman Brandon Drury, Owings skipped a desperation throw that was nowhere near in time to retire Nuñez.
Marrero hit into a double play but the Giants had new life after Joe Panik hit an RBI double and pinch hitter Conor Gillaspie was hit by a pitch. With the tying runs on base, Hernandez struck out.
Hundley doubled in a run through the sheets of drizzle against Arizona closer Fernando Rodney, and Nuñez followed with an RBI single to get the winning run to the plate with two outs in the ninth. Nuñez then proceeded to steal his way into scoring position. But Crawford couldn’t appease the remainder of the crowd. He struck out as a pinch hitter.
The run that Arizona added in the eighth against right-hander Neil Ramirez proved pivotal.
Lamb’s triple was the only scoring play in Samardzija’s 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander’s outing was a major improvement over his season debut in Arizona, when the Diamondbacks hit three home runs against him. But two of those shots at Chase Field went to the opposite field. Samardzija’s hard fastball and slider played much better in a more forgiving park.