Clinging to fading postseason aspirations, the San Francisco Giants fought out a gritty win against the Oakland Athletics.
Using situational hitting and exemplary work from the bullpen, the Giants sealed the series victory, as well as season-series success to the tune of a 5-1 head-to-head mark.
With the Giants 5-4 victory in Oakland, and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ loss to the Rockies in Colorado, the LA magic number remains at two. The rival NL West frontrunners will now head to AT&T Park for a four-game showdown.
After the game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy spoke of his team’s resolve:
“We wish were in a little better position, we lost some tough ones on this trip – those two in San Diego and of course the first one here – but that’s baseball. You keep fighting.”
After allowing four runs in just five innings, starter Chris Heston (12-10, 3.62 ERA) gave way to the ‘pen, who made the one-run lead stand up, saddling A’s Sean Nolin (1-2, 5.25 ERA) with the loss.
The Giants (81-74) came into the game with 34 sacrifice fly outs (T-24 in MLB). With two in the second and one in the third inning, they crept closer to the league average (39) in jumping ahead of the A’s (65-91) early.
After loading the bases three hitters into the second frame, catcher Trevor Brown lifted a fly ball deep into center and all three runners were able to advance. Shortstop Brandon Crawford rambled home from third with the game’s first run.
On the very next pitch, center fielder Angel Pagan produced a similar fly ball as left fielder Jarrett Parker scampered home for the second run.
Second baseman Kelby Tomlinson would follow Pagan with a two-out line drive single to right, bringing home DH Mac Williamson with the game’s third run.
Brown followed up an inning of productive outs with his second sac fly of the game, again to center and again bringing in Crawford, in the third frame. This time after an RBI single from Williamson.
The Giants’ season-long inability to produce runs in a runner on third-less than two outs situation has been the bane of their failures. Brown and Williamson remedied the issue on this day, however.
The trio of rookies – Tomlinson, Brown and Williamson – accounted for four RBIs. This just one day after fellow rookie Parker rescued the season, for now, with three homers and seven RBIs.
About the production of the youngster Heston, another rookie, said:
“It’s a credit to our farm system. We’ve got a bunch of guys we can call on and that can produce at this level, so I think it’s been great to see everyone doing well. It’s been a lot of fun to watch.”
Heston, who hadn’t won since July 27 after starting the season 11-5, looked good early.
After a nine-up nine-down first three innings for Heston, the A’s threatened in the fourth. But with one out and the bases loaded, the Giants sinker-baller coaxed an inning-ending double play from Oakland all-star catcher Stephen Vogt.
“I stayed in the zone a little bit better today … and I was able to get some groundballs. There (were) a couple double plays that got turned, and kind of bailed me out.”
“I thought Heston threw well. It was a tough way to give up those runs, you know, we missed a couple of balls there that went off some gloves. It’s good to give him a win. It’s been a while for him.”
With his sinker, and more impressive glove work up the middle, Heston nearly escaped a similar jam in the fifth. But after a Sam Fuld double-play grounder, the Giants’ righty walked shortstop Marcus Semien.
A’s leadoff man Billy Burns followed the walk with a bloop over second base, to which Pagan reacted poorly, resulting in a two-run double.
The A’s added two more on in the sixth on an RBI triple by third baseman Max Muncy, who replaced starter Danny Valencia after he was hit with a pitch in the fourth, which knocked Heston out of the game.
Vogt then greeted Giant reliever Geroge Kontos with a bloop single knocking in Muncy and closing the book on Heston and the scoring.
Along with Kontos, Cory Gearrin, Javier Lopez, Hunter Strickland and Santiago Casilla finished the A’s off with four shutout innings, allowing only two hits and one walk.
Soon after Casilla fanned Burns to end the Bay-Bridge showdown, the Rockies put the finishing touches on a 12-5 win over the Dodgers.
Now the Dodgers and Giants will meet in San Francisco with all the chips at the center of the table.
Bochy believes his team is ready despite facing long odds:
“We’re going to go and try to win a game. We are in a tough position here, we know it, but we’re going to go out there and try to win every game. … We’ll come out fighting.”