Early struggles from the Giants bullpen dug a hole deeper than four home runs could fill Wednesday night, as San Francisco had a nine-game winning streak — their longest since 2004 — snapped by the Padres in a 9-6 loss.
On Roberto Clemente Day, San Francisco (95-51) couldn’t capitalize against San Diego (75-70) starter Joe Musgrove (W, 11-9, 2.99 ERA), and homers from four different Giants proved not enough to catch up in later innings. In another bullpen game, Giants relievers were hit hard in the first two innings and they couldn’t recover from the five runs deficit.
The Giants bullpen has been nails so far this September, pitching to an MLB-best 1.80 ERA over the span. They’ve also had to work harder than most, with two starting pitchers down with injuries. With October quickly approaching, swing and misses are essential to recording outs in big spots, and the San Francisco bullpen registers fourth-worst in baseball in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (K/9) this season, behind only Oakland and Arizona.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler said:
“THey were just kind of relentless offensively all the way through the game. And so while we were able to fight back and scratch and claw our way into that game all the way through it, they never let up.”
Dominic Leone (3-4, 1.80 ERA) opened on the mound and struggled to throw strikes or fool San Diego hitters. After a double and a single, Leone on his 21st pitch finally racked up the first out. Kapler made the move to left-hander Jarlin Garcia (6-3, 2.44 ERA), who issued a walk before serving up a double down the left-field line to Adam Frazier that knocked in two runs.
In another example of a play that the Bay Area baseball landscape has featured for a full decade, Brandon Crawford saved a run with spectacular defense to end the first inning, ranging far to his right on a Austin Nola grounder and making a long throw to first with his momentum taking him towards the foul line.
Though he’s not saving as many runs as he did in his prime, Crawford has displayed strong enough defense at 34 years old to legitimately contend for a Gold Glove.
The complete opposite, though, happened to Crawford in the next inning when he couldn’t make a play on a Trent Grisham slow-roller. Zack Littell (3-0, 2.82 ERA) took over with two outs in the second, allowing an RBI double to Manny Machado and a two-run single to Eric Hosmer to make it 5-0.
On the large increase in bullpen games, Belt said:
They’ve been awesome this whole time. Obviously, they’ve kept us in a lot of ballgames. I think it’s pretty tough to ask them to go out there like this; multiple, multiple times a week, but they’ve done it and they get the job done for the most part. Tonight, we just we couldn’t pick them up, you know. Came up a little short.”
The Giants tacked on a run in the second when Crawford was hit by a pitch and then scored when Evan Longoria‘s fly ball dropped in right field past the diving Profar. In the third, Thairo Estrada came off the bench and crushed a pinch-hit homer (7) to left to make the score 5-2. It was the 15th pinch-hit homer of the season for the Giants, setting a new franchise record.
In the home half of the sixth, Kris Bryant launched his 25th homer of the year – a solo-shot – to bring the Giants within two runs. San Francisco had an opportunity fizzle in the eighth when LaMonte Wade Jr. and Bryant walked to lead off the inning, but nothing came of it. In the ninth, Posey drove in Belt with a single up the middle to make it 9-6.
On the club’s relentlessness, Belt said:
We didn’t we didn’t give up today. We kept fighting. We kept fighting till the very end. And that’s all you can ask for. I mean, you’re just gonna have days when you don’t win ballgames, but the team didn’t give up.”
The Padres twisted the knife with a two-run ninth; Grisham drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and noted Giant-killer Wil Myers came off the bench to contribute an RBI single.
Though the Giants have leaned heavily on their bullpen recently, the starting rotation could see a boost. Left-hander Alex Wood (Covid-19) threw a brief , 21-pitch simulated game before batting practice Wednesday afternoon, and Kapler said he is on track to return as early as Saturday. In full uniform, Wood toed the slab against fellow injured Giants Donovan Solano (Covid-19) and Alex Dickerson (hamstring) and showed strong movement on all three of his pitches.
Woood tested positive for Covid-19 on Aug. 30 and has battled through aggressive symptoms including body aches and chills. Since no physical injury was sustained, Wood may not require a rehab start at the minor league level, though Kapler says nothing is ruled out. After a long stretch of inactivity, the concern remains stamina and fatigue, meaning a pitch count isn’t out of the question either.
Wood has not allowed the Giants permission to reveal his vaccination status.
Monday – Giants 9, Padres 1: Defying most expectations set at the beginning of the season, the Giants became the first team in baseball to clinch a postseason spot by cruising to a 9-1 victory over the Padres. They rallied behind an explosive offensive performance against San Diego ace Yu Darvish (8-10, 4.32 ERA). The veteran right-hander was shelled for eight earned runs over four innings, including four homers. A five-run first inning started it off including a Tommy La Stella solo homer (5), an RBI triple from Wade Jr., and a three-run homer from Longoria (12). Two more long balls from Mike Yastrzemski (23) and Belt (24) came in the fourth, San Francisco went with a bullpen game that saw relievers combine for nine innings of one-run baseball, striking out 11 hitters.
The Giants, who hadn’t smelled October baseball since 2016, celebrated in the clubhouse after the game with champagne showers and beer baths.
Tuesday – Giants 6, Padres 1: The Giants won their ninth straight Tuesday when Anthony DeSclafani (12-6, 3.24 ERA) fired 6-2/3 innings and allowed just three hits. The offense gave him support right away in the opening frame when Buster Posey turned on an inside fastball and crushed a solo shot (18) to open up the scoring. The Giants kept filling up the base paths the entire evening, setting up key hits from La Stella, Darin Ruf and Belt later in the game.
The Giants will try to finish off the series with the Padres at Oracle Park on Thursday as they send right-hander Kevin Gausman (14-5, 2.65 ERA) to the mound. First pitch is set for 12:45 p.m.
Solano (Covid-19) is a possibility to be activated within the next few days, according to Kapler. … Dickerson (hamstring) still has lingering tightness and the organization is in “no hurry” to push him back into action. … Quality Assurance coach Nick Ortiz – a native of Puerto Rico – sported No. 21 in honor of Roberto Clemente Day. This year’s Roberto Clemente Award nominee for the Giants is Crawford. The honor recognizes players with significant philanthropic and humanitarian efforts.