Bullpen's 'hiccup' leads to painful loss

Bullpen's 'hiccup' leads to painful loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Bruce Bochy simply put it, "When you have a 7-1 lead, you'd like to think you're holding it."

But the enduring nightmare the Giants have been experiencing since the All-Star break continued on Sunday, as a dangerous Orioles lineup used an offensive onslaught in the final three innings to beat San Francisco, 8-7, handing the club perhaps its most crushing series loss of the season.

This time, the Giants' bullpen couldn't find its way, blowing the 7-3 lead Johnny Cueto had when he left in the seventh inning. The Orioles amassed 15 hits in the series finale, seven of which came against the bullpen in the final 2 1/3 innings. Orioles' second baseman Jonathan Schoop's hit in the ninth was the most damaging, as his three-run home run off Santiago Casilla with two outs completed the comeback.

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 Casilla and the rest of the Giants' bullpen entered Sunday with an impressive track record of late. The club's relievers had a 2.36 ERA during its most recent nine-game road trip. And opponents were hitting just .077 against Casilla in his last seven appearances. But the right-hander allowed both Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo to reach base before leaving a hanging breaking ball out over the plate for Schoop.

"I have confidence in all my pitches. I just threw the curveball, and the ball didn't break," said Casilla, who has blown six of his 33 save opportunities.

Bochy referred to the bullpen's struggles Sunday as a "hiccup." The group had allowed just two runs to the Orioles in seven combined innings over the first two games, but the combination of Hunter Strickland, Derek Law and Casilla allowed five on Sunday. The result was the club's 24th blown save of the season and largest blown lead at AT&T Park since Sept. 10, 2013.

Cueto is also still in pursuit of his first win since July 6.

"I mean, this is baseball. The guys just have to keep playing the way they've been playing.," said Cueto. "There's no reason for us to be walking with our heads down."

Justin Wise is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.