SAN FRANCISCO--The San Francisco Giants got Matt Cain's best effort of the season Saturday night and rallied against Aroldis Chapman, one of the hardest-throwing relievers in history.
They still found a way to lose.
The Cincinnati Reds scored two runs against Sergio Romo in the ninth and then blew the game open in the 11th, handing the Giants a 7-3 loss that was their 14th in 18 games. The Giants led the National League West by 9 1/2 games on June 8. Their lead over the charging Los Angeles Dodgers is down to just one game.
Two closers with two very different styles blew save opportunities in the ninth. The Giants took a 1-0 lead into the top of the inning, but Romo hung a two-strike slider to Brandon Phillips and paid dearly. Phillips crushed a two-run homer on his 33rd birthday, briefly giving the Reds the lead. They turned it over to Chapman, who had closed out the first two games of the series but was pitching on a fourth straight day.
The left-hander's command was spotty, and after a Hunter Pence single and Pablo Sandoval walk, Buster Posey pulled a 101 mph fastball into the left field corner for a double to tie the game. Chapman would strand the winning run at third, though, getting out of the inning with two ground outs and a strikeout.
The ninth-inning drama robbed Cain of a win on a night when he threw seven shutout innings for the first time since Sept. 26, 2012. Regardless of the lack of a victory on his line, Cain desperately needed a night like this. He let his emotion show as he walked off the field in the seventh, letting out a quick scream and pumping his fist.
Cain had lost his three previous starts, giving up 17 earned runs in 17?1/3 innings. His ERA in June was 7.03, the third-highest mark among major league starters. Cain's biggest problems have come with runners in scoring position, but he buckled down Saturday night.
Speedy leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton singled to open the night and stole second, but Cain picked him off. Jay Bruce reached second an inning later, but Cain got a pop-up and liner to get out of the jam. He induced an inning-ending double play in the third and stranded two Reds in the fourth and one in the fifth.
Brandon Crawford gave Cain the lead with a heads-up play in the fifth. He hit a one-out single and stopped at third on Adam Duvall's double to left, and when Joe Panik followed with a liner off right-hander Alfredo Simon's glove, Crawford read the misplay and immediately broke for home, scoring without a throw.
The Giants didn't do much else with the bats Saturday night, leaving the door open for the Reds. They charged through it in the 11th.
Javier Lopez gave up a leadoff double to Joey Votto and loaded the bases with intentional walks of a pair of right-handed hitters. Jean Machi entered and gave up a two-out single to Zack Cozart that opened the floodgates. Five runs would score with two outs.
--Brandon Belt was supposed to spend the weekend with the San Jose Giants, but after a homer and single in Friday night's rehab game, Belt instead made the trek to Fresno. The Giants accelerated the pace of Belt's rehab assignment a bit, moving him up to Triple-A. He was the designated hitter for the Grizzlies on Saturday and had three hits in four at-bats. Belt is scheduled to play first base on Sunday.
"He feels great, so we went ahead and bumped him up," manager Bruce Bochy said.
The success at the plate wasn't the only reason Belt was moved up so quickly. He is working his way back from a broken thumb that was suffered when he was hit by a pitch last month, and in his first two rehab games for San Jose, Belt was hit by pitches.
"There's a little more control in Fresno," Bochy said.
--Agel Pagan (back inflammation) hit off a tee and could take batting practice Sunday morning. The Giants are hopeful that Pagan can come off the disabled list when eligible Tuesday.
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