Before a ghastly three days against the Colorado Rockies, the Giants could lay claim to being the best bullpen in baseball. Most wins, most saves. Close to the lowest ERA. A 32-1 record when leading after six innings, 35-0 when leading after eight.
Then, in a span of less than 48 hours, everything came crashing down.
The bullpen blew a ninth-inning lead Friday night, did it again Saturday, then coughed up a three-run lead Sunday in the eighth inning.
As the Giants open a five-game trip Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox, the question remains: Was this a blip or a sign of trouble?
The players, not surprisingly, say it was a freak occurrence -- a "hiccup," as catcher Buster Posey described it.
Manager Bruce Bochy wasn't about to say otherwise, but he suggested a heavy workload might have caught up with the relief staff.
"We're where we're at because of what this bullpen's done," Bochy said. "But they have been worked a lot, I will say that. You can't use these guys every day."
Closer Sergio Romo, who took the losses Friday and Saturday, had worked three days in a row before getting Sunday off. Jean Machi, the standout setup man, worked four games in a row during the homestand. Jeremy Affeldt pitched three games in four days and was warming up in the bullpen Sunday. That's not ideal use of a relief staff under any circumstances, let alone one in which all of the pitchers are over 30 years old.
As such, the return of Santiago Casilla on Tuesday night will be warmly welcomed. Casilla is not only a workhorse, capable of pitching multiple innings, but he also was having a terrific year (1.37 ERA in 22 games) when a strained hamstring May 21 put him on the disabled list.
"It's very good news, because when it happened, we thought it would be longer than it has been," said Bochy. "So it'll be good to have him back."
Perhaps of greatest concern to Bochy is Romo, whose ERA soared to 5.08 after giving up seven runs in two days. Bochy met with his closer Sunday to offer some moral support, because he knows a closer's psyche can be fragile.
"You're going to have some bad luck from time to time," Bochy said. "But it's harder for a closer, and he takes it a little bit harder, because there's no margin of error for him. I think he's tough enough to handle this and deal with it. He's had a real nice year. It just so happens against Colorado he's had most of the damage done against him, so that's why his ERA is so elevated."
Indeed, against Colorado, Romo is 1-3 with a 19.80 ERA and three blown saves. Against the rest of the league, he is 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA and 20 saves in 21 tries. Colorado is batting .480 against Romo (12 for 25). The rest of the league is batting .115 (9 for 78).
Romo acknowledged that the Rockies have had his number this season, but he seemed to be holding up well mentally after both defeats. There was some bad luck involved Saturday; Romo had two outs when a bloop single and a fluky inside-the-park homer ruined the day. Friday night, working without his best stuff, he gave up five runs.
"I just have to stay positive and confident in myself, and I still am," Romo said. "My teammates believe in me that I'm still that guy. All in all, I'm just trying to find a way to contribute, and as long as I've got that jersey on my back, I'm going to keep fighting."
Follow Carl Steward on Twitter at twitter.com/stewardsfolly.