The difference between winning and losing is a fine line. The Arizona Diamondbacks learned just that lesson the past three days in San Francisco.
The Giants didn’t outplay the D-Backs by that much, but by just enough to sweep the series with three one-run victories.
Enough to send one team to the top of the National League West and another one spirling towards the basement.
Unable to score the tying run from third base in the ninth inning, Arizona fell 3-2 to San Francisco Thursday afternoon, dropping a season worst six games under .500.
Proving how fine a line this road trip has been for Arizona, the D-Backs have outscored opponents 17-16 on the trip, but have lost five-of-six.
With Giants’ closer Brian Wilson unavailabe to pitch after appearing in five of San Francisco’s last six games, the D-Backs mounted a rally against Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez.
Trailing 3-2, Ryan Roberts led off the frame with a base hit to center off Romo.
Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy then turned to the lefty Lopez out of the pen.
Rather than have Miguel Montero bunt Roberts into scoring position, D-Backs’ manager Kirk Gibson let him swing away, a decision that would bite him in the end.
Montero flew out to right and pinch hitter Chris Young followed with a base hit to left that would have scored Roberts if Montero had sacrificed.
Instead it sent Roberts to third, setting up Kelly Johnson with another chance to tie the score in the 9th.
Wednesday, Johnson came up with the tying and winning runs in scoring position with two outs, but flew out to end the game.
This time, all Johnson needed was a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
It was also a curious and questionable decision to let the left-handed Johnson hit against the lefty Lopez, who allows lefties to hit just .111 against him this season.
Gibson let Johnson hit, which ended up being a poor decision.
Johnson fouled off the first two pitches and then took a fastball for a called strike three.
The only thing that could have been worse for the D-Backs in that situation would have been a double play, so it at least allowed Gerardo Parra a chance to tie the game.
Again, Gibson elected to keep the left handed bat in against the lefty and again Lopez recorded a strike out, this time to end the ballgame.
The D-Backs offense struggled to get anything going against Giants’ right-hander Matt Cain all afternoon.
Daniel Hudson allowed a second inning RBI single to Cody Ross and the way both starters were pitching, it appeared as if that might stand up as the only run of the ballgame.
Through seven innings, the D-Backs put just two runners in scoring position against Cain.
The Giants eventually got to Hudson again in the seventh inning.
Backup catcher Eli Whiteside led off the inning with a double and was sacrificed to third by Cain.
Andres Torres followed with a double to plate Whiteside and make it 2-0 Giants. Hudson then got the second out of the inning, but Aubrey Huff sent a base hit into right to score Torres.
That made it 3-0 and ended Hudson’s day. Sam Demel took over and got the final out of the inning.
Cain quickly got two outs in the 8th, but the D-Backs put together a little two out magic to chase him from the game.
Parra and Xavier Nady started things with back-to-back singles, causing Bochy to pull Cain in favor of Jeremy Affeldt.
Steven Drew hustled out an infield single that allowed Parra to score and then after another Giants pitching change, Justin Upton drove in Nady with a base hit.
However, Russell Branyan couldn’t keep the inning alive and the D-Backs couldn’t convert on what started as a promising 9th inning.
Now the D-Backs head to Los Angeles to continue their long road trip on Friday against the Dodgers. Joe Saunders (0-4, 5.72 ERA) will take on Clayton Kershaw (4-3, 3.12).