SAN DIEGO -- Excuses don't exist in the high-wire act known as relief pitching, as the Giants were painfully reminded in Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the San Diego Padres.
It's unfair to find fault with San Francisco's relievers in a game such as this one, when the offense musters four hits and goes 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Moreover, the Giants' bullpen has thrived for much of the season, ranking third in the league in ERA (3.10) and fewest losses (16) entering Wednesday.
But September baseball is especially unforgiving for teams such as the Giants, whose chances of catching the Dodgers in the National League West became virtually nonexistent with Jedd Gyorko's walk-off hit for San Diego against Giants closer Santiago Casilla. Los Angeles' magic number for eliminating the Giants dwindled to five with 11 games to play. So when the bullpen squanders leads of 2-0 and 3-2, as the Giants' relievers did against the Padres, it's glaring, regardless of prior successes.
Manager Bruce Bochy used nine relievers in his attempts to stop the Padres, who broke a 4-4 deadlock on Gyorko's fourth hit. Each pitching move made sense. Not all of them worked, however.
"We had the bullpen where we wanted it," Bochy said. "We just didn't get the job done."
Trouble began immediately after Giants starter Jake Peavy bequeathed a 2-0 edge to the bullpen. Cory Gearrin, who thrives against right-handed batters, opened the seventh by yielding Gyorko's single and walking Derek Norris -- both righties. Each came around to score.
The Giants forged ahead on Jarrett Parker's opposite-field home run off Joaquin Benoit leading off the eighth. But Sergio Romo, who had allowed two runs in his previous 26 appearances, matched that run total in two-thirds of an inning as Jankowski, batting .203 at the time, doubled home Brett Wallace and Gyorko.
Padres closer Craig Kimbrel's improbable wild pitch scored Buster Posey with the tying run in the ninth. Then George Kontos, who helped cement Tuesday's 4-2 victory, surrendered a one-out double to Matt Kemp, who was 2-for-11 off him lifetime. After Jeremy Affeldt coaxed Wallace's popup, Gyorko victimized Casilla, who has looked sharp while converting his last eight save opportunities.
All too often, a bullpen's triumphs are chronicled in disappearing ink.