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Giants collapse in the ninth inning, lose five-run deficit in crushing defeat to A's

Kerry Crowley, The Mercury News on

Published in Baseball

SAN FRANCISCO -- The last-place San Francisco Giants dominated the first-place Oakland A's for eight innings at Oracle Park on Friday, smacking three home runs and cruising to a five-run advantage thanks to a smooth outing from starter Johnny Cueto.

Baseball games, of course, don't end after eight innings.

Another jaw-dropping defensive mistake from a Giants defense that has made dozens in the first three weeks of the season gave life to an Oakland rally before A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty clubbed a game-tying grand slam in the top of the ninth against Giants closer Trevor Gott.

With a new extra-inning rule in effect, the A's took their first lead of the game without recording a 10th inning hit thanks to a Mark Canha sacrifice fly and held on to deliver the Giants a crushing 8-7 defeat after closer Liam Hendriks shut down San Francisco's offense.

With one on, one out and one already in thanks to Matt Olson's solo home run into the left center field bullpen in the top of the ninth, Gott induced a grounder to first baseman Wilmer Flores that could have turned into a game-ending double play ball off the bat of left fielder Robbie Grossman.

Flores initially jogged toward first base for a force out, but made a last-second pivot and spun toward second in a misguided effort to get the lead runner. Shortstop Brandon Crawford appeared surprised by Flores' throw as he took his foot off the base while opting to tag A's center fielder Mark Canha.

 

On a play where both Grossman and Canha were oh-so-close to being out, a replay review showed both were safe. Gott proceeded to hit the next batter, A's designated hitter Khris Davis, in a two-strike count before Piscotty came to the plate.

If cardboard cutouts could talk, the 10,000-plus at Oracle Park would have been silenced when Piscotty's flyball left the bat.

The fact Gott was in the game in the bottom of the ninth and Brandon Belt, the team's best defender at first base, was not were calls made by first-year manager Gabe Kapler, who has taken his fair share of criticism for several late losses the Giants have suffered this season.

It's unusual for a team to use its closer with a five-run lead in the ninth inning, but probably even more surprising that the Giants' best defensive unit wasn't on the field. Kapler had substituted Crawford in as a defensive replacement earlier in the game, but Belt remained on the bench.

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