Who is to Blame for Giants’ Series-Opening Loss to Braves?

The San Francisco Giants lost the first game of their four-game series with the Atlanta Braves on a ninth-inning walkoff, but why?

Losses often prompt fans and analysts to assign blame — sometimes appropriately, often unfairly. But in this game, on whose shoulders should the bulk of the blame lie — if anyone’s?

The Scenario: The bottom of the ninth started with Brian Wilson on the mound and the Giants leading 4-2; it ended in a 5-4 victory for the Braves.

How they got there:

The Braves scored a run apiece in the first and second.

Brian McCann put Atlanta on the board with a two-out solo home run. Jose Constanza extended the lead with an RBI single to left, scoring Freddie Freeman and advancing Alex Gonzalez to third. The Braves actually had two runners in scoring position because an error by Brandon Belt allowed Constanza to go to second.

The Giants tied things up with two runs in the fourth, despite going hitless in the frame.

Aubrey Huff got on when Michael Bourn could not catch the line drive off his bat. Nate Schierholtz got walked. Belt was hit by a pitch, and the bases were loaded. Orlando Cabrera and Eli Whiteside hit back-to-back sacrifice flies.

A run each in the sixth and eighth put San Francisco up by two.

Nate Schierholtz hit a leadoff homer to make the score 3-2. A leadoff shot by Mike Fontenot bumped the score up to 4-2.

Side Note: Fontenot entered the game in the bottom of the first because Pablo Sandoval had to come out after fouling a ball hard off his foot in the top half of the inning.

How the bottom of the ninth played out:

Constanza opened the inning with a grounder misplayed by Orlando Cabrera that went for a single. Pinch-hitter Eric Hinske got walked and was replaced by Julio Lugo. Constanza and Lugo both moved up to 90 feet on a sacrifice bunt by Bourn.

Martin Prado got Atlanta within one as he singled Constanza home. Two batters later, Freddie Freeman singled to drive in the tying and winning runs.

So, to whom shall the wagging fingers point?

The Suspects:

  • Brian Wilson: He was on the mound. He’s the pitcher. He’s the closer — its his responsibility to make sure the Giants win games like this. But he walked two and gave up three hits and three runs.
    • Sub-Suspect: Wilson’s back — Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Ramon Ramirez pitched the ninth inning of Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Florida Marlins because Wilson was unavailable with tightness in his back. It was said he was fine physically, but maybe he wasn’t completely and that hindered his pitching.
  • Orlando Cabrera: While he was not directly responsible for all the hits, walks and runs, he helped the Braves get things going. Had he fielded Constanza’s ground ball cleanly and gotten him out, that would have changed the complexion of the inning. Constanza reaching as he did to lead off instantly shifted the momentum to Atlanta. Plus, he scored the first run of the game. And, Freeman’s hit came with two outs. Had Constanza been retired, not only could he not have scored, neither could Lugo and Prado.
  • Bruce Bochy: If he had reason to believe Wilson’s back was not 100 percent perhaps it was unwise to put him in the game. And even if Wilson had no physical issues, why leave him in when he was struggling with the game on the line? Wilson has certainly earned the right to try to get himself out of trouble but that does not mean there will not be those times when he needs to be bailed out.
  • The Giants’ trainers: If Wilson’s back was anyway at fault for his performance, then they were the ones to deem him fit to play when he was not.
Perhaps, however, it is not about who should get blamed but where the credit is deserved. One could just say the Braves hung in there, persevered and got it done in the end. They got the hits, worked the walks and drove in/scored the runs.

Did the Giants lose this game or did the Braves win it?

Have your say in the comments section below.

The series continues today at 4:10 p.m. PDT. Probable Pitchers: Jonathan Sanchez (4-7, 4.29) vs. Randall Delgado (0-1, 6.75)

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