Launching a three-city, nine-game trip, the Giants were close to sealing the type of victory against the National League West-leading D-backs that would have made them hungry for each succeeding game. San Francisco received an inspiring performance from Matt Cain, who had blanked Arizona on three hits through seven innings. The Giants broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning on Gregor Blanco's two-out RBI single off left-hander Patrick Corbin, who was trying to become the first D-backs pitcher to compile a 10-0 record.
The Giants won many games like this while claiming two of the past three World Series. If you want to consider their inability to capture this one as an ominous sign, go right ahead. Or you can categorize it as another item for Goldschmidt's growing, glowing resume.
San Francisco nursed its 1-0 lead into the eighth, which began with A.J. Pollock's single on a grounder to deep third base. Pablo Sandoval's strong throw to first was nullified by the reverse step he took before fielding the ball.
"Once he did that, he had no chance," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
That finished Cain, who registered what may have been his best start of the year. Affeldt retired the next two batters before walking Willie Bloomquist. Up came Goldschmidt, who grounded into two double plays and struck out in his previous at-bat. This time, he increased his NL-leading RBI total to 57 by hammering Affeldt's 2-0 fastball over the right-field barrier for his 15th homer of the season.
Goldschmidt is batting .296 (34-for-115) lifetime against the Giants. More importantly, his eight homers and 27 RBIs against San Francisco are the most he has amassed against any club. Also, he's currently one of baseball's most torrid hitters, batting .385 (20-for-52) with 21 RBIs in his last 13 games. He has driven in at least one run in seven consecutive games, one short of Luis Gonzalez's 2002 franchise record.
That's the type of hitter who shouldn't be offered a strike in a game-winning situation. Affeldt knew this but couldn't avoid Goldschmidt's swing.
"It was a dumb pitch, dumb location, dumb selection. Stupid," Affeldt said. "He's too hot of a hitter and when you make dumb pitches and throw it to a dumb location, they're going to make you look bad and that's what you deserve. I take full responsibility. The loss is on me."
Affeldt also lamented walking Bloomquist.
"I just tanked that deal," said Affeldt, citing faulty pitching mechanics which he said left his front shoulder "flying open."
Bochy was ready to counter any second-guessing.
"I don't know what you want me to say," Bochy replied sharply to a question about the Affeldt-Goldschmidt matchup. "[Affeldt] made a mistake and it left the ballpark. [Goldschmidt is] having a great year, he's had a knack for doing that and it's our bad."
Though the so-called percentages discouraged using a left-hander against the right-handed-batting Goldschmidt, Bochy had multiple reasons for sticking with Affeldt. Goldschmidt was 0-for-5 lifetime against Affeldt, who had not yielded a home run since June 5, 2012, to San Diego's Carlos Quentin. Moreover, Affeldt had surrendered one run in 15 innings spanning his last 16 appearances.
The Giants had rookie right-hander Jean Machi warming up. But Bochy relied upon the experienced Affeldt. It was too early to summon Sergio Romo, who has worked more than one inning only once in his 16 save conversions.
Managers rarely question each other's strategy. Arizona's Kirk Gibson refused to cast doubt upon Bochy's use of his bullpen.
"He's won two world championships," Gibson said. "I don't think I'm going to tell 'Boch' what he's doing right or wrong. I think he's been pretty damn good and a guy I look up to respect. He's a guy I learned a lot from and I'm privileged to be able to talk to him about a lot of things. Just observe. He knows what he's doing."
So did Cain, despite the inflated 5.45 ERA he took into the game. He shaved that figure to 5.09 after weathering a 31-pitch first inning in which he allowed Gerardo Parra's leadoff single and issued three walks. Coaxing a double-play grounder from Goldschmidt helped Cain avoid another of the big innings that have marred his season.
"You can't get too ahead of yourself," Cain said, refusing to declare that he has put his shortcomings behind him. His remark was as fitting an epitaph as any for the Giants' second loss in 23 games that they led after seven innings.