Sloppy defense costs Giants, Vogt’s late home run not enough to carry offense

SAN FRANCISCO — In their first 81 games this season, the Giants looked the part of a last-place team.

The club posted its third-lowest winning percentage (.432) at the season’s halfway point since 2000 and finished with a team batting average (.224) that checks in nine points below the worst full-season mark in franchise history. Giants starting pitchers compiled an ERA above 5.00 and the staff allowed 116 home runs in its first three months of games.

As the Giants opened their unofficial second half of games on Saturday, they provided fans with another reminder of why they’ve been stuck in the National League West cellar since the middle of May.

Catcher Stephen Vogt launched a three-run home run in the ninth inning to pull the Giants within a run, but the team’s late comeback effort came up short as sloppy defense cost San Francisco a chance to win in a 4-3 defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With seven shutout innings from starter Zack Greinke and four late runs from their offense, the D’backs defeated the Giants (35-47) for the seventh time this season.

Giants starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz enjoyed a solid night, but the D’backs broke a scoreless tie in the seventh against reliever Sam Dyson after capitalizing on a stunning error by Giants center fielder Kevin Pillar.

With one out and a runner on first, D’backs right fielder Adam Jones hit a pop up to shallow right center field that appeared to be a routine play for a pair of Giants outfielders. Both Pillar and right fielder Mike Yastrzemski ran toward the ball, but Pillar made a last-second decision to call off Yastrzemski and take charge on the play.

Jones’ flyball hit Pillar’s glove, but dropped to the grass, sending Tim Locastro to third base and Jones to second. After Dyson kept the D’backs off the board by inducing a one-out groundout, third baseman Eduardo Esobar hit a flare to left center field to give Arizona the lead.

The type of error fans are more accustomed to seeing on a Little League diamond cost the Giants a run at the major league level, and it wound up proving extremely costly. Arizona tacked on three more runs against Mark Melancon in the seventh inning, including one unearned run after shortstop Brandon Crawford committed a throwing error.

For the third time this month, Pomeranz completed five innings without allowing an earned run. After giving up eight runs in 1 1/3 innings in his final start in May, Pomeranz allowed just nine runs across five starts in the month of June.

Following his disastrous outing in Baltimore on May 31, Pomeranz moved his arm slot up and immediately found more success. The left-hander became much more deceptive as he struck out at least seven hitters in three of his five June starts after striking out three batters or fewer in four of his last five outings before the calendar turned.

With 18 strikeouts in his last 10 innings, Pomeranz has reestablished himself as a capable option in the Giants’ rotation and potentially set himself up to help a contender during the final months of the season. Though some teams might be scared off by Pomeranz’s 6.25 ERA and inability to pitch deep into games, his latest mechanical tweak has created some trade intrigue that didn’t exist a month ago.

It’s unlikely any team would be willing to part with a high-level prospect for Pomeranz, but because he’s owed less than $1 million for the remainder of the year, the veteran is a cheap alternative to some of the more prominent pitchers who will likely become available through trades in July.

If contending clubs do inquire about Pomeranz, his likely role with a potential playoff team is as a long reliever or even as a middle-inning lefty specialist.