SAN FRANCISCO - Santiago Casilla has had a nightmare season, but it took a new and ugly turn Saturday night. As manager Bruce Bochy walked out to the mound to replace Sergio Romo with Casilla, the crowd at AT&T Park started booing. It increased after a seeing-eye single up the middle tied the game, and again when Casilla walked off the mound after his ninth blown save of the season.
It's rare that a Giant gets booed at AT&T Park - the only other recent time was good-natured booing when Bochy tried to pull his own son in the ninth inning - but Casilla said he understands the frustration.
"I'm doing my best," he said. "I've never had that moment before (where I'm getting booed). I had it now. I'm working to pitch better. It's a game and you keep working and you put it in the past. I feel bad because I've never had that moment before. I tried to do my best."
The Giants have never questioned Casilla's commitment. He is known as one of the hardest workers in the clubhouse, but it's just not working this year. It appeared he had permanently lost a ninth-inning role last week, but now it's got to be a certainty.
After a 3-2 loss to the Cardinals, Bochy said he thought this was the right matchup, and he pointed out that alternatives haven't worked since Casilla lost the closer tag. But ... there's one the Giants haven't tried (in large part because of an injury), and Derek Law is long overdue for a shot at the ninth.
Bochy made a different call tonight and he knew he was going to take heat for it if it played out poorly. It did during a messy inning that included Romo laughing in an apparent sign of disrespect as his manager took the ball away. A few minutes later the Giants had their 28th blown save, matching their franchise record. This one came on a night when Jeff Samardzija was dominant and Brandon Crawford showed every bit of his Gold Glove form.
The Giants have blown two saves this month in part because of shallow fly balls to left and Crawford wasn't going to let that happen again. He went deep into the outfield for the first out of the ninth, but it wasn't enough. The Giants dropped five games behind the Dodgers. They were two outs away from a four-game lead over the Cardinals in the Wild Card race. Instead, they're now tied with the Mets and they're just two up on St. Louis.
It was a crushing night at the ballpark. There's no getting around it.
Instead of highlights and lowlights or some form of a game story, here's how Bochy explained the decision making in the ninth:
Question: Why did Casilla come in for Romo?
Bruce Bochy: "We huddled up and said if it got to Molina there - he's had success off of Romo (4-for-9 with a HR) and Casilla would be a better matchup. That's kind of what the plan was. It didn't work out. If the ground ball is a foot to the left we wouldn't be talking about it. He ended up walking him, that's what hurt. We went with what we thought was the better matchup, or I thought. That's a tough one. Samardzija threw great and we played well. It's just tough luck there on that ground ball and once he hit it I thought it was a double play. It just got through."
Q: Did the single off Romo play into it?
BB: "For some reason Molina has seen the ball pretty well off of Sergio. You go with the history and that's why the change was made there. (Casilla) got ahead 1-2, he was just a little slow to home plate with the stolen base there and then he ended up walking him. That's what hurt."
Q: Strickland started warming up when Casilla ran into trouble. Why did Casilla come in before him?
BB: "(Casilla) has closed over 30 games and he threw the ball well last night. We had Strick once Casilla went into the game to give us some coverage there. We've tried some different things and it hasn't quite worked out. We're going with what we think is our best matchup and it didn't play out tonight. Sure that hurts, but like I said, it's all hands on deck and we're going with what we think is our best matchup there."
Q: Did you consider using Law in the ninth after he got two outs in the eighth?
BB: "Yeah. He just hasn't been out there a lot. Sure it's a consideration. He didn't get a chance to throw a lot and go a couple innings. But I was fine with Sergio and then like I said, the plan was he would start the inning and if somebody got on, Casilla would have Molina there. It didn't play out."