San Francisco Giants sink below .500 in another sloppy game for defense

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By Kerry Crowley The Mercury News (TNS)

DENVER — The San Francisco Giants hit three home runs and had a starting pitcher go deep enough to qualify for a win for the second time this season, but their early success wasn’t enough to overcome another night of sloppy mistakes that have begun to define their defense.

Chadwick Tromp, Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson each hit home runs to help the Giants jump out to a 4-1 lead by the top of the fifth, but the game unraveled for San Francisco in the sixth after starter Johnny Cueto gave a up a two-run home run to Rockies star Nolan Arenado.

Instead of opening a challenging 10-game road trip with a tone-setting victory at Coors Field, the Giants allowed five runs in the sixth inning in a 7-6 defeat that marked their second consecutive late-game meltdown.

The Giants rallied for two runs in the ninth-inning against Rockies closer Jairo Díaz, but with the game-tying run on third base, Dickerson flew out to left field to end the game.

Dickerson recorded a pair of hits including a 111.6 mile per hour single that became the hardest-hit ball by a Giants player this season, but he also made two defensive miscues that contributed to the Rockies’ sixth inning rally.

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Dickerson made his second career start in right field Monday as manager Gabe Kapler wanted his better corner defender, Steven Duggar, to play left field because it traditionally presents more of a challenge at Coors Field.

Duggar had a relatively easy night in his first-ever game in left field, but in the bottom of the sixth, Dickerson couldn’t corral a long flyball at the warning track in right center field that was ultimately ruled a triple for Rockies second baseman Ryan McMahon.

McMahon ended up scoring the game-tying run on a Matt Kemp RBI single before Kemp and left fielder Chris Owings scored when Dickerson missed a cut-off man on a single from center fielder David Dahl.

Cueto became the second Giants starter to pitch into the sixth inning this season as he followed Jeff Samardzija, who did so in Sunday’s 9-5 loss to the Rangers. The 13th-year veteran fared better than his counterpart, but couldn’t record an out in the sixth as he gave up a single to Charlie Blackmon before surrendering a towering home run to Arenado.

Cueto’s four-seam fastball has been his worst pitch this season and it was a 91-mile per hour heater at the belt that Arenado hit halfway up the left field bleachers at Coors Field to narrow the Rockies’ deficit to 4-3.

Cueto relied on his off-speed pitches more on Monday as he threw his changeup 27 times and his curveball 26 times, but Colorado still did plenty of damage against his fastball. Rockies hitters put five of Cueto’s 21 fastballs in play, recording three of their six hits off the pitch including Arenado’s 430-foot blast.

Arenado’s first home run of the season spoiled an otherwise impressive night for Cueto who was given the opportunity to face the top of the Rockies’ lineup for a third time before Kapler removed him.

The Giants chased Rockies starter Chi Chi Gonzalez from Monday’s game after just three innings thanks to a 445-foot home run to dead center field from Tromp and a 393-foot homer to right for Yastrzemski, but struggled for the rest of the game against the Rockies’ bullpen.

Dickerson’s fifth-inning home run came against Rockies reliever Phillip Diehl, who threw a slider low and away that managed to get the Giants’ right fielder to lunge out on his front foot. Dickerson’s strength and bat control helped him stay locked in on the pitch anyway as he used his left arm to yank the pitch into the bleachers anyway.

Diehl threw 16 sliders in 1 1/3 innings of relief for Colorado and induced five swings and misses, a called strike and four foul balls, but the one slider the Giants did put in play against him ended up extending their lead by a run.

With the way the Giants are playing defense, they could have used a lot more. Kapler’s club has now committed 13 errors in 11 games as only the Kansas City Royals (14) have more this year.

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