SEATTLE -- On the 1-to-10 pain scale, with higher numbers indicating greater discomfort, the Giants' 2-1 loss Sunday to the Seattle Mariners registered about three. Maybe four.Sure, the Giants dropped two of three games to the American League West's last-place club. Yes, they wasted Madison Bumgarner's magnificent pitching by going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and yielding Justin Smoak's tiebreaking single in the ninth inning. But San Francisco twice had its best all-around player this season, Melky Cabrera, poised to deliver in the ninth inning. Contrasting with the All-Star-level performance he has sustained, Cabrera didn't produce. He struck out with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth and made an unlucky throw home in Seattle's half of the inning. How could the Giants get mad at Cabrera? They couldn't, so they didn't. Cabrera, who leads the National League with a .360 batting average and 95 hits, faced Seattle reliever Tom Wilhelmsen with the bases loaded, one out in the ninth and the score tied, 1-1. What should have been a classic confrontation was hardly that as Cabrera struck out on three pitches. Pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz grounded out on a 3-2 pitch to extinguish the threat. "I got lucky today. Obviously he's a great hitter," Wilhelmsen said of Cabrera. "I guess I wanted it a little bit more."
Bumgarner, who handles a bat better than most pitchers, understood the challenge looming in front of Cabrera."The guy he was facing had pretty electric stuff. The odds are always in the pitcher's favor, obviously," Bumgarner said. "But we had the guy we wanted up there. That's one of the few times he didn't come through for us. It seems like he comes through every time." Cabrera received another chance to excel in the bottom of the ninth. Kyle Seager singled to open the inning against Sergio Romo (2-1). Jesus Montero also singled, prompting the Giants to replace Romo with left-hander Javier Lopez, since left-handed pinch-hitter Michael Saunders was due up. Saunders bunted into a force play at third base before Smoak's line-drive hit to left field scored pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki from second base. Actually, it wasn't that simple. Cabrera fielded Smoak's single and made a strong throw home, but the ball struck Kawasaki on the left leg. Television replays indicated that had the ball reached catcher Hector Sanchez, he would have had an easy play on Kawasaki. "He's absolutely out if the ball comes through to me," Sanchez said. Before that, the afternoon belonged to Bumgarner, who worked eight innings and took his NL lead in that category to 95 2/3. He allowed one run on three hits, threw 21 first-pitch strikes to the 29 hitters he faced and retired 18 consecutive batters from the second through eighth innings. Said Bumgarner of his two-thirds perfect game, "I was just trying to get us in and out of there as quickly as possible. I didn't realize that." "Give Bumgarner credit. He pitched his butt off," Smoak said. "He was keeping us off balance with the cutter in on us and the fastball, changeup and curveball." Given that Bumgarner belted his first Major League home run in his last start, the Giants could have used his bat in the lineup. Asked if being bypassed for a designated hitter in road Interleague games felt depressing, Bumgarner said, "Yes. It is. I was thinking about that on my way to the field. It's not the first time, obviously, but it's just a different kind of feel, knowing that the only thing to do is pitch. I don't have to think about getting a bunt down or hit-and-run or anything like that." The Giants nearly forged ahead in the eighth, but Smoak dove to smother Sanchez's sharp grounder with two on and two out.
"Early in the inning I had been playing the line, but with two out, [first-base coach Mike] Brumley had me playing back. That's why I was able to get to that play. It was a big one for us."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.