Two close plays take air out of Giants' sails

Two close plays take air out of Giants' sails

CHICAGO -- By Giants standards, their 7-3 loss Friday to the Cubs was lopsided. San Francisco's previous nine defeats were by three runs or fewer, and the team's last three setbacks were one-run decisions.

Yet, as is often the case with the Giants, a couple of critical sequences might have influenced the outcome in their second loss in a row to the Cubs.

Consider the fifth inning, when Chicago seemed to essentially settle matters by scoring five runs. The Cubs already had two runs in when Kyle Schwarber, whose single off Jeremy Affeldt knocked in both runs, was trapped off first base on a pickoff throw. But Schwarber, who was stealing on Affeldt's first move to the base, beat Brandon Belt's relay to second. Two outs later, the Cubs surged for three more runs.

"That's the difference in the game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

As it turned out, the Giants knew exactly what they were doing. Affeldt revealed that catcher Buster Posey called for a pickoff. But the Giants couldn't execute it.

"Affeldt was a little bit slower than usual getting the ball over to Belt, it seemed like," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "And then I think Belt couldn't get it out of his glove at first. He made a good throw, but it was too late at that point."

That wasn't all. Two innings later, the Giants requested a replay review of Crawford's double-play grounder after Hunter Pence's RBI single narrowed the Cubs' lead to 6-2.

Pence plates Duffy with single

Chicago shortstop Addison Russell made a breathtaking play, vacuuming Jon Lester's low relay before smoothly straightening himself to throw to first and retire Crawford. But as acrobatic as Russell looked, the Giants doubted that he brushed the bag with either foot as he had control of the ball. Though the call on the field stood, the Giants still weren't certain.

"It looked like he caught [Lester's throw] after he came over the bag," Crawford said. "But they have better camera angles and better slow-motion stuff than we do."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.