It wasn’t a stretch to hear the term “stopper” attached to Alex Wood during the magical 2021 San Francisco Giants season. After lost games, the veteran left-hander embraced a firefighter mentality to abruptly extinguish any losing momentum.
It was the exact opposite Sunday afternoon as Wood ended up being stopped himself, unable to survive beyond three innings as the Padres beat the Giants 10-1 to secure their first sweep at Oracle Park since 2016.
On the lack of solid baseball being played by his club, manager Gabe Kapler said:
So we’re not surprised that we’re going through a tougher stretch now and that over the course of the last month, we haven’t played our best baseball. And in particular, we haven’t played our best baseball against the Padres and the Dodgers and a few other good baseball teams. It’s also a good reminder that we’re gonna stay nice and even through this – just like we did last year when times were a little bit tougher. … We expected to have challenges, we expected to have injuries, we expected to have periods of poor play. None of this is surprising to us. We’re definitely prepared for it.”
San Diego (27-14) blistered eight hits against Wood during his three innings, including five earned runs with two walks. Wood abandoned his fastball and was forced to rely on his slider – and even that pitch was tagged frequently.
A developing trend over the past few games finally blossomed: the Giants (22-18) can’t get Manny Machado out. The Padres third baseman added four more hits Sunday, including three doubles and a triple. His two-bagger in the fourth was a liner that got past the dive of left fielder Darin Ruf, rolling past him to score two runs and make it 5-0.
Machado officially joins outfielder Wil Myers on the list of proven Giant killers. Myers went 3-for-5 with three runs driven in, including an RBI single in the first and two-run double in the fourth. Second baseman Jake Cronenworth also had himself a two-RBI afternoon.
It’s been a while since Wood has been solid at home. Entering into Sunday, he had allowed seven earned runs in 14-2/3 innings and opposing hitters were hitting .317 against him. Last season, Wood recorded a 3.58 ERA in 83 innings and 15 starts at Oracle Park.
Kapler said he thought Wood pitched “OK”:
… especially since the beginning of the game wasn’t the most fortunate outing for him. And things just kind of spiraled from there to get his best demand and put some good swings on on the balls that you did deliver for strikes.”
The Giants were silenced by rookie left-hander MacKenzie Gore, establishing himself as a potential mainstay in the Padres rotation. Pitching in just his sixth big-league start, Gore was excellent, tossing six innings while allowing only three hits and striking out six. He lowered his ERA to 2.06.
Gore mixed a 98-mph fastball and blazing curveball to keep hitters off balance all afternoon. Meanwhile, the Giants failed to get anything going aside from a Wilmer Flores sac fly in the fourth inning.
Each of San Francisco’s last four losses have been by two runs or fewer. Though two runs wouldn’t have been enough to beat the Padres Sunday, the Giants are 7-10 in games decided by two or fewer runs this season. In their record-setting 2021 campaign, they were 51-30 in those games.
On the sweep, Wood said:
They just came in and kicked our asses this weekend. So we’ll come back ready to play a tough opponent in the Mets for the next three days and get back in the right direction.”
To make matters worse, the Giants will be without arguably their most productive offensive threat against right-handed pitching. The team made a move shortly before game time to place first baseman Brandon Belt on the 10-day injured list with right knee inflammation, an issue that scratched him out of Saturday’s original lineup and has sidelined him in the past.
Belt first felt soreness in Colorado and had his knee drained ahead of Sunday’s series finale. In addition, he recieved a cortisone shot to help the swelling. He doesn’t think it’ll be a long-term worry:
I feel like I’ve dealt with this a couple of times this year already and I know how the process goes. The first time was in spring training and I wasn’t playing so it’s hard to kind of pinpoint how long it’s gonna take to get back into games. I don’t I don’t think it’s too much of a long term worry. … I feel like I get out there for a week and then I’m out for a week. It’s just been tough to get in a rhythm so far. That’s why I want to get this taken care of so I can stay out there for an extended period of time and get going.”
San Francisco has survived plenty of stretches without Belt, splitting Ruf and Flores at first base. It’s an uphill battle, though, to replace his steady presence in the clubhouse and at the plate. Kapler said he hopes to have Belt back in Cincinnati at the end of their next road trip.
With a tough series against the first-place New York Mets approaching, the Giants used three different relievers before once again turning to outfielder Luis Gonzalez for some help on the mound. Wielding a fastball in the high-40s, Gonzalez induced a five-pitch inning in the eighth. For good measure, he singled up the middle in the home-half of the inning.
The Giants welcome the New York Mets to Oracle Park for a three-game set beginning Tuesday evening. San Francisco dropped three of four to the Mets in April while on an 11-game road-trip. First pitch Tuesday is set for 6:45 p.m.
Kapler glossed over the idea that the Giants could be without outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. for a few weeks. Wade Jr. will see a specialist on Monday after an MRI revealed inflammation and a bone bruise. … Kapler and the rest of the big league brass have been keeping an eye on third base prospect David Villar, the owner of a 1.118 OPS and 14 homers for Triple-A Sacramento. Ron Wotus, longtime coach and now special assistant for the club, has spent time evaluating him. Kapler says the 25-year-old “fits well” when it comes to internal third base options in the organization.