The Giants yielded back-to-back homers in the seventh inning and struggled to create scoring chances as they dropped the series finale to the Braves 3-0 on Sunday afternoon at Oracle Park.
Anthony DeSclafani took the mound for San Francisco and efficiently pitched his way through six scoreless innings before running into trouble in the seventh when Atlanta launched two straight long balls. Giants bats were silent, falling victim to an excellent pitching performance from young left-hander Max Fried.
The Giants (97-53) now lead the NL West by just one game over the Los Angeles Dodgers (96-54).
Former Giant Adam Duvall crushed a two-run shot in the seventh, a swing that not only put the Braves on the board, but ended DeSclafani’s strong performance. Eddie Rosario, who hit for the cycle, followed Duvall’s blast with a line drive shot of his own to make it back-to-back homers.
The first half screamed a good, old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, with DeSclafani (L, 12-7, 2.23 ERA) and Fried (W, 12-7, 3.31 ERA) each throwing six scoreless frames, each working through minimal traffic on the base paths.
In his first start against the Braves on Aug. 29, DeSclafani was just coming off an ankle injury and allowed three earned runs in three innings. This time around, Atlanta hitters were unable to put anything together against the right-hander and he was on cruise control, getting many swings that resulted in ground ball outs and dotting the outside corner with his sinker.
On his outing, DeSclafani said:
“I mean, I feel good. I like where I’m at, just all my mechanics and being able to execute from start to start. Hopefully I can continue to do that these last two starts or so and carry that into the postseason.”
When Atlanta did square up against DeSclafani, they did damage. Rosario finished the afternoon with four hits, one of them a booming three-bagger in the fifth to the deepest part of the yard that right fielder Kris Bryant couldn’t reach. The triple was erased when the very next hitter – Travis d’Arnaud – bounced a chopper to third baseman Evan Longoria, who came home with the throw to nail Rosario at the plate by a mile.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler spoke highly of his starter’s performance:
“I thought he threw a ton of strikes and the slider was working well for him. (He) mixed in both his sinker and his four-seam fastball. And those played well. You kind of felt like today, somebody was going to drop in a base hit or walk and hit a two-run home run and weren’t sure which side it was going to come on.”
More trouble brewed in the sixth when Joe Pederson blasted a fly ball to deep center that was feet away from leaving the ballpark, but caromed off Austin Slater‘s glove for a double. Per usual, DeSclafani bounced back by striking out Ozzie Albies and getting Freddie Freeman to ground out to shortstop. To lead off the seventh, Austin Riley creamed a double that Bryant almost tracked down.
The Giants have been one of the best defensive teams in the National League when it comes to advanced metrics and the outfield’s athletic ability has played a big part in their success.
On the shaky outfield defense, Kapler noticed a trend:
“One of the ways that we can do better as outfielders – infielders as well, everybody on the field – is to drift less and to recognize it. The ball is probably going to go farther than you think based on the swing. This is not specific to any one individual, I saw on their side as well. There was some drifting going on. And it’s tough because your eyes and your body say, ‘I’m in the right spot based on the swing and how hard the ball came off the bat.’ And you feel like you have a beat on the ball and ball just kind of keeps carrying.”
A big part of Bryant’s value has been his ability to play different positions. From his primary position of third base to all three outfield spots, he’s been someone the Giants can plug in anywhere on the field and in any part of the lineup. In fact, he’s even been getting some work at second base recently and Kapler mentioned that he could be an option to make an occasional start there from time to time.
Bryant spoke of his inexperience and adjustment period to playing right field at Oracle Park:
“I mean, (Oracle Park is) definitely is one of the weirdest right fields in baseball. Even I came here earlier in the year, I think I played a game out there. And you really have to try to patch the gaps more so than on other fields because you’re dealing with such a tough right center.”
Duvall was next, crushing a deep drive over the center field wall for a two-run homer, his 36th homer of the season. A former infield prospect in San Francisco’s organization, Duvall’s career has taken off since the Giants traded him to Cincinnati in 2015. Now 33 years old, he’s now a full-time outfielder – who hits for significant power –with his third fourth big-league team.
Even though it was the only costly mistake he made all afternoon, DeSclafani was removed after the homer in favor of right-hander Zack Littell, whose first pitch was deposited into the right field seats by Rosario to extend the Atlanta lead by a run to 3-0. Duvall and Rosario were both acquired by the Braves at the trading deadline in an effort to help boost their outfield depth as they push hard for a deep run in the postseason.
Rosario’s cycle is the first against the Giants since Yoan Moncada of the White Sox completed the feat in Chicago on Sept. 9, 2017. The last time an opponent hit for the cycle at Oracle Park was Eric Byrnes on June 29, 2003. No Giants player has hit for a cycle in the history of their latest ballpark.
Not many scoring opportunities arose against Fried, and the Giants offense didn’t send a baserunner to third base all afternoon. When San Francisco faced Fried in Atlanta, they knocked him around a little bit for three earned runs in six innings. It was the opposite on Sunday as he mowed down lineup, allowing just three hits.
On the lack of offense and excellent pitching performance from Fried, Kapler said:
“Fried was nasty. That was as good as start as we’ve seen all year. He executed a breaking ball in the zone out of the zone and a good life to all of his pitches. And I think this is one where you need to tip your cap to the opposing starting pitcher. I really liked our lineup today, felt very confident going into the game and I know all of our guys did as well.”
Bryant’s fourth inning single extended his on-base streak to 18 straight games. His longest stretch of reaching base safely was in June 2019 across 23 games. Since being traded to the Giants, Bryant has played in 40 games and is hitting .284 with 11 doubles, seven homers, and 16 RBIs.
Friday – Giants 6, Braves 5: In one of the more dramatic wins of the season, the Giants were down to their final strike in the ninth when Donovan Solano crushed a game-tying blast to send the Oracle Park crowd into a frenzy. With no more position players available in the 11th, pitcher Kevin Gausman lifted a fly ball deep enough to score Brandon Crawford from third base for his first career walk-off hit. For yet another start, right-hander Logan Webb (10-3, 2.79 ERA) completed seven innings and struck out nine Atlanta hitters. Along with Solano’s homer, the Giants had three others; Brandon Belt (26), Crawford (21), and LaMonte Wade Jr. (18) all went deep in the contest.
Saturday – Giants 2, Braves 0: Coming off the injured list for a tough Covid-19 case, Alex Wood (10-4, 3.99 ERA) thrived over three scoreless innings of work, striking out three. Afterwards, six different Giants relievers combined for six scoreless innings. The Giants received a Curt Casali two-run single in the fourth and rode that to the end to win 2-0.
The Giants embark on their final road trip of the season as the head to San Diego for three games and Colorado for three more. After an off day on Monday, San Francisco will play the Padres on Tuesday at Petco Park with Kevin Gausman (14-6, 2.78 ERA) taking the hill against righty Joe Musgrove (11-9, 2.99 ERA). First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m.
Johnny Cueto (right elbow strain) threw a flat ground throwing session on Saturday and it went well, according to Kapler. Cueto is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Monday and if all goes right, he’ll be on-track to make an appearance in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento later in the week. … Alex Dickerson (hamstring) is feeling “ok” and is trending in th right direction for a return.