Rewind: Giants at Cardinals, Game 1

It was a game that, simply, the Giants should have won. And then Felipe Alou went to the ‘turnstile' that he calls a bullpen, and burns a tired bullpen in it's 11th straight game in the final city of a five town trip through the hottest and most humid parts of the country. It costs the Giants what would have been a shocking upset over the top team in the league, and prompts fire from Alou's own pitchers about their treatment.

San Francisco Giants Felipe Alou finally admitted it after the game, "We have some guys here who have been overworked, whose arms are tired."

Jason Christianson, saddled with a blown save, was not amused. "Really? He's just now figuring it out?"

Such is the state of the Giants and their clubhouse after a draining defeat to the St. Louis Cardinals, losing 5-4 after going into the 9th with a 4-0 lead. Actually, the draining part has been the previous couple of weeks, at least for the bullpen.

Criticizing the way he’s been used is nothing new for Christiansen. Last season, in an unique stretch where he was not used, he had the number of days since his last outing posted in his locker in the clubhouse. Of course, a year later, the reasons for his discontent were for the opposite.

"Of course our arms are weary," Christiansen said. "We're getting run through like a turnstile."

"All losses are tough, but this one hurts," said catcher Mike Matheny. "[Starting Pitcher Brad] Hennessey did everything we could've asked for. That's a shame."

Indeed, Hennessey outdueled the Cardinals most productive starter, Chris Carpenter, who should finish in the top two in this year’s Cy Young balloting. While the Giants put 4 runs, 3 earned on Carpenter through 8+ innings, Hennessey held the top lineup in the NL scoreless through 7.1 innings, allowing only 5 hits and 3 walks.

Hennessey had some rough spots, including runners at the corners with none out in the 2nd, and runners on first and second with none out in the 5th after a rare error by shortstop Omar Vizquel, but Hennessey worked out of each roadbump, with the help of double plays in each instance.

Meanwhile, the double play combo of Vizquel and second baseman Ray Durham each had solo home runs to help the Giants to their lead.

But it wouldn’t be enough for the way it ended.

"Usually we don't stay that long with a kid," said Alou of Hennessey's 120 pitches. "That should have told you how we felt what could happen tonight. [We tried] to make the bullpen's job a little shorter, but it still didn't work out.”

With one out in the 8th, Hennessey walked Abe Nunez, leading to him getting lifted for usual setup man LaTroy Hawkins. However, after Hawkins gave up a single to the first hitter he faced Albert Pujols, the turnstile started. Alou went to the lefty Eyre to face the left handed hitter Jim Edmonds. This despite the fact that Hawkins has a .149 batting average against when it comes to left handers, while Eyre’s is .188. And despite Edmonds hitting slightly better against left handed pitchers (.271) than right handers (.269).

Eyre would get the out, but then Alou went back to the bullpen for closer Tyler Walker despite it still being the 8th inning, to face right handed batter Mark Grudzielanek. Despite Eyre’s .193 BAA vs. right handed hitter, and Walker’s .271 BAA against righties.

It would all work out in the 8th, as Walker got the final out with no damage done then, but all this set the stage for the 9th.

First, the Giants staged another rally, scoring 2 more runs against Carpenter. With runners on first and second and two outs, Alou let Walker hit with a 4 run lead, despite him having sat on the bench for nearly 10 minutes during the rally. The at bat was a long one, too, as Walker took it to a full count before striking out. "That at-bat kind of took its toll on me. It was energy spent. I'm not using that as an excuse, but it's the way I felt. When I got back on the mound and threw warmup pitches, I felt I didn't have bite on my slider. It's not my finest hour,” Walker said after the game.

The first batter Walker faced, John Mabry, doubled. Then Walker allowed a single and had runners on the corners with no one out. And yet, Alou sat on his hands despite having both Jeremy Accardo and Armando Benitez warmed up in the bullpen. Predictably, the next batter, Yadier Molina, hit a home run, just his 6th of the year and 9th of his entire career.

And still, Walker was left in, allowing a single to pinch hitter John Rodriguez before Alou finally returned to the mound and called in the rookie Accardo. David Eckstein immediately sacrificed pinch runner Hector Luna to second. Accardo then gave up a single to Nunez and again runners were at the corners, now with one out and Albert Pujols up. Accardo got Pujols to pop out to second, but then Alou came out again, now without his top left handed pitcher available and got Jason Christiansen to face the lefty Edmonds. Edmonds, again, hits slightly better against left handed pitching, and did this time, doubling over defensive replacement Michael Tucker’s head in right to knock in the winning runs.

Former closer Armando Benitez was left on the bullpen bench, and never was given a chance to save the game while others were failing.

Alou continued to state the obvious after the game, without admitting any culpability, “The closer's arm ... you could see all the pitches he threw, and there was not one quality pitch. They got a lot of hittable pitches."

Christiansen, however, was not happy about where he thought the culpability was going to lie. "When it comes down to the bullpen not getting the job done, we're going to be made to look bad again. It's the nature of the beast here,” Christiansen said.

SFDugout.com Player Of The Game:
Brad Hennessey. Lost in today’s loss is Hennessey’s performance. He outdueled this year’s possible Cy Young winner. He even collected 2 hits off of Carpenter. He has owned the Cardinals this year, now with 14 1/3 scoreless innings against them. But he didn’t get the win.



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