The chase is on.
What has come as a surprise to most, the San Francisco Giants are chasing one of the final wildcard spots in the National League, and the final eight games of the season will determine their fate.
Monday night’s game was similar to that of the first two games of the series against Oakland. Starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (L, 4-1/3 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 3 BBs, 4 Ks) struggled early and often, and the Giants offense was unable to bail him out en route to a 7-2 loss.
Cueto took the mound for the Giants (26-27) against Colorado Rockies (24-29) righty German Marquez.
This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at Oracle Park.
Prior to Monday night, the Rockies placed star 3B Nolan Arenado on the Injured List, ending his season. The Giants will avoid a hitter that has tormented them for years.
The Rockies struck first in the top of the first inning. With one out, Kevin Pillar and Charlie Blackmon singled. Two batters later, Josh Fuentes singled home Pillar. Elias Diaz followed with a double to right, scoring Blackmon. The Rockies led 2-0.
Right before Monday’s game, the Giants made a change in the lineup. Joey Bart was penciled in to catch Cueto, as Chadwick Tromp was scratched due to a shoulder injury.
The first time that Bart caught Cueto, there were some clear communication issues between the two. This time around, things were smoother between the two.
Following Monday’s loss, Cueto discussed throwing to Bart:
“We were fine. There is no reason to blame anybody. We’re going to get to know each other, we just have to continue working and the more we work together, then the better we’re going to get.”
A quiet bottom of the first for the Giants.
Pillar, who launched 20+ home runs for the Giants in 2019, hit a solo home run for the Rockies in the top of the third inning to give Colorado a 3-0 lead.
Sam Hilliard doubled to lead off the top of the fourth inning. Two batters, later, Cueto balked, scoring Hilliard from third. A 4-0 lead for the Rockies.
Cueto discussed the balk:
“The problem was that when I started my motion, I went backwards, I stopped and then I went forward. What i needed to do was when I started my motion, I needed to go forward.”
Cueto walked two batters and surrendered a single to load the bases in the top of the fifth inning with one out. A double to left off the bat of Diaz plated two more runs. Cueto’s night was finished.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler discussed Cueto’s disappointing outing Monday night:
“He didn’t have his best stuff, and his command was off. Against a team like the Rockies, who are free-swingers up and down the lineup. If you’re missing in the zone, they can punish you for that, and thats really what was happening with Johnny. He was missing in the zone with all of his pitches. With the lack of his best stuff, he wasn’t missing bats today.”
Wandy Peralta came in and gave up another run. The Rockies led 7-0. Not looking good for a team that has playoff aspirations.
The Giants offense woke up in the bottom of the fifth. Luis Basabe walked to lead off the inning, and Alex Dickerson followed with a double.
Runners at second and third for Brandon Belt who went down swinging for the second out. Donovan Solano knocked in the Giants first run with a single to right field. The Rockies still lead 7-1.
Peralta came back out and pitched a clean top of the sixth inning. Shaun Anderson followed in relief for the top of the seventh.
Dickerson homered with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. It seemed as if it was too little too late for the Giants.
Sam Coonrod pitched the eighth inning for the Giants. He struck out the Rockies in order, and the Giants were down to their final six outs.
The Giants got a little bit of a rally going in the bottom of the eighth. Brandon Crawford walked to lead off the inning. Two batters later, Mauricio Dubon walked to give the Giants runners at first and second with one out.
That rally ended without a run. Onto the ninth inning, Rockies still leading 7-2.
Trevor Cahill pitched a clean top of the ninth inning. Last hope for the Giants, down five runs.
Dickerson was hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning, his fourth time reaching base Monday night. Two fly outs and a strikeout sunk the Giants in the ninth inning.
Entering Monday’s contest, the Giants found themselves within a game of the final playoff spot. Losses from St. Louis (26-25), Miami (28-26), Philadelphia (27-27), and Milwaukee (26-27) gave the Giants a chance to gain some ground before they ended up losing.
Because of those key losses, Monday night’s loss could have had worse implications had some of those teams won.
Taylor Wirth is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @WirthTM on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.