For Brandon Belt, this game marked a potential reversal of fortune. San Francisco's starting first baseman was batting an anemic .143 when he stroked a two-run, ninth-inning double that highlighted a three-run rally. Belt's hit set up what would have been the Giants' third come-from-behind victory in four days. Belt and the Giants now can hope that he will progress toward being the hitter that his remarkable spring performance promised.
Indeed, the Giants experienced a mostly positive afternoon overall. Starter Matt Cain rebounded from last Sunday's nine-run nightmare against St. Louis to allow two runs in seven capable innings. This confirmed the notion that Cain's struggles were just an aberration.
And the Giants demonstrated their usual tenacity with their ninth-inning surge that put them ahead 3-2. But that was nullified by the Cubs' response in their half of the inning.
The Cubs pulled even immediately, as Dioner Navarro led off with his first career pinch-hit home run. Romo struck out the next two batters before David DeJesus singled to center field. Angel Pagan couldn't quite reach the ball.
"It hit my glove," he said. "I just couldn't make the play. It happens."
Up came Castro, who drove a 2-1 pitch off the center-field wall as DeJesus pranced home.
"I was looking for a slider, and he threw a fastball and I hit it hard," Castro said.
Pagan had a close encounter with Castro's hit, too. But the ball caromed off the brick barrier before he could reach it.
"It was very close to the basket [that lines the top of the wall]," Pagan said. "I had to time the basket and the wall. I didn't want to go full speed to the wall because I've hit it before and it hurts. It doesn't move. It doesn't have any padding. I was just trying to get close to the wall and try to make a play, but it didn't happen. I [gave] my effort."
Romo answered each question that the Cubs' comeback raised. He insisted that he had sufficient time to warm up before entering the game. He didn't try to deflect responsibility for Castro's hit.
"No excuses," said Romo, who converted his previous 15 regular-season save opportunities dating back to last August. "I made a good pitch. [Castro] put the ball in play. Things happen when you put the ball in play. I tip my cap to him."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy took Romo's outing in stride.
"He's going to have to deal with an occasional hiccup," Bochy said. "That's the life of a closer."
Romo refused to cite a prevailing factor: The wind. It helped carry Castro's fly ball toward the wall, and it appeared to propel the home runs Cain allowed to DeJesus in the third inning and Castro in the fifth.
"None of the two homers they hit would have been homers anywhere else," said Pagan, who played for the Cubs from 2006-07.
The Giants weren't griping. They were simply stating facts.
"This is Wrigley Field," Bochy said. "We know a lot of times you get a ball in the wind, it just keeps going. That's part of playing in this park."
Failing to capitalize on the jet stream, San Francisco mustered three hits in 7 1/3 innings off Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva, who began his professional career in the Giants organization. Then came the ninth.
Facing Cubs closer Kyuji Fujikawa, Marco Scutaro drilled a one-out double, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Pablo Sandoval's single. After Fujikawa hit Buster Posey in the left tricep with a pitch, Hunter Pence's fielder's choice erased Posey and left runners on the corners.
Belt then connected on a 2-1 delivery, driving it down the right-field line to score pinch-runner Joaquin Arias and Pence.
Belt, who hit .410 during Spring Training but was hampered by a stomach virus as the regular season opened, worked extensively this week with hitting coach Hensley Meulens on correcting his flaws at the plate. One of them was closing his stance a little too much.
"It's kind of an old habit I have to watch," Belt said.
Having struggled with his confidence in the past, Belt remained more positive through his hitting woes this time.
"I can say they weren't wearing on me like they have before," he said. "I realize how long the season is. You know you'll eventually come out of it. I know what kind of hitter I am. I'm confident in that now."