CHICAGO -- The Giants know better than most that the life of a closer can be unpredictable, and on Friday their newest ninth-inning star hit his first bump in the road.
After the Giants stormed back against the Chicago Cubs to take the lead in the top of the ninth, Sergio Romo gave it back in the bottom of the inning in a wild 4-3 loss at Wrigley Field. Romo had been perfect in six previous save chances this season, giving up just two hits in 20 at-bats.
He entered after Brandon Belt's go-ahead two-run double and gave up a solo homer to Dioner Navarro that tied the game at 3-all, and later a single by David DeJesus and a game-winning double off the wall by Starlin Castro.
"I made a good pitch and he put the ball in play," Romo said. "You tip your cap. I have no excuses. I can do nothing but come back in here tomorrow."
With that, Romo put on his headphones and walked out of the visiting clubhouse. He also took another step toward becoming the closer the Giants believe he can be.
Romo has long had the stuff to finish games, but manager Bruce Bochy has expressed concern in the past about Romo's ability to hold up under the demands of being a closer. So far, the results have been overwhelmingly positive, even after Romo's first blown save of the season.
Friday's outing was Romo's seventh in 11 games but he showed no signs of a diminished repertoire when he followed Navarro's homer by picking up a pair of strikeouts. After the blown save, Romo promised to simply move on to the next opportunity.
"Sergio has been so good, but he just got a couple of balls up," Bochy said. "It's going to happen and you have to deal with the occasional hiccup. That's the life of a closer."
For most of the game, it didn't look like the Giants would even need their closer. Carlos Villanueva outdueled Matt Cain, who threw well but gave up a pair of homers and was on the hook for another hard-luck loss.
But the Giants, who already had two big comeback victories this week, crept back in the top of the ninth, erasing a 2-0 deficit. Marco Scutaro started the rally with a one-out double and scored on Pablo Sandoval's single. After Joaquin Arias entered for Sandoval, Buster Posey was hit by a pitch and Hunter Pence hit into a fielder's choice, putting runners at the corners with two outs.
Belt was just 5 for 35 this season before the ninth-inning at-bat and had been working on changes to a swing that was out of whack. He lined a 2-1 pitch into the right-field corner, scoring Arias easily. Pence raced around from first, sliding safely into home just inches ahead of the tag.
"It's just nice to get up there and have a good at-bat and see the result," Belt said. "It definitely boosts the confidence. I know what kind of hitter I am — I'm confident in that."
The Giants looked poised for their fifth straight win but they couldn't hold on. Bochy felt Navarro's homer was wind-aided, but there was little doubt about the liner that Castro hit to end the game. Angel Pagan, a former Cub, gave chase but couldn't reach the ball as he made contact with the wall.
"I've hit it before and it hurts," Pagan said. "It doesn't move."
"Boys will be boys," Bochy said. "It's unfortunate and you hate to see anybody get hurt in these brawls."
Greinke was hurt in the sixth inning of a close game against the Padres. He plunked Carlos Quentin on a 3-2 pitch, and when Quentin rushed the mound, Greinke lowered his left non-throwing shoulder and took a heavy hit from the 235-pound Quentin.
In the heat of the moment Thursday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called Quentin an idiot and said baseball's suspension rules won't adequately punish a position player who put a pitcher out for a couple of months. Bochy agreed with the latter statement.
"That's a great point," he said. "You get the hitter going out there and he ends up putting your pitcher on the disabled list, I totally understand his point."