Technically the San Francisco Giants pitchers blew two leads on Saturday, as their quest to beat the San Diego Padres and clinch the NL West fell short.
But wording it like that puts the blame on the pitching, which is hardly fair. The Giants registered just five hits on the day, and scored only two runs in 10 innings, while failing to score Rob Manfred’s stupid-ass free runner. Don’t blame me for the profanity — I’m quoting my mother here.
Depth has been the beautiful and brilliant deciding factor for the Giants for so much of this season, allowing them to operate without key players while feeling no ill effects. On Saturday, there were ill effects.
Buster Posey received a much-needed off day, and Brandon Belt remained on the sidelines with a fractured thumb. Evan Longoria was given the day off, perhaps for physical rest, or perhaps because lately he’s been swinging a bat so cold it might actually be a popsicle. I’ve heard it’s hard to hit with a popsicle.
Their contributions were missed.
The Giants didn’t draw a walk all day, and didn’t particularly make San Diego’s pitchers work hard — Belt surely would have helped with that. They averaged a hit every other inning — Posey likely could have changed that. They lacked pop through and through — perhaps Longoria would have impacted that.
And as such, they padded neither their first lead nor their second lead. A Brandon Crawford double followed by a Kris Bryant single allowed the Giants to hop to a 1-0 lead in the second, but Kevin Gausman gave it back in the sixth.
KB cracks it open pic.twitter.com/4ImT4NwxME— SFGiants (@SFGiants) October 2, 2021
An Austin Slater dinger in the bottom half of the inning was meaningful in three ways: it set the MLB record for pinch-hit home runs in a season with 18; it gave Slater a share of the Giants franchise record for pinch-hit home runs in a season with four; and it gave the Giants a 2-1 lead.
See you Slater pic.twitter.com/PMl8FYMQiI— SFGiants (@SFGiants) October 2, 2021
They gave it back in the eighth, when Zack Littell couldn’t quite work out of the jam he put himself in.
And that was it for the offense, which watched idly as the Padres scored their magical special freebie runner in the 10th inning — as you are supposed to do. Their efforts to match were feeble: Steven Duggar struck out on three pitchers, Posey slowly rolled one over, and Wilmer Flores hit one straight up.
It’s easy to feel discouraged at letting such a prime opportunity slip on by, but losses happen. The Padres may not have anything left to play for in the standings sense, but trying telling that to Joe Musgrove when he took the mound for five strong innings. Try telling that to Manny Machado when he stood in the box to offer up a pair of runs batted in.
It ended a seven-game winning streak. It put a small blemish in a stretch of winning 20 times in 24 games, which allowed the Giants to keep leading the NL West despite the Los Angeles Dodgers almost literally doing everything they could.
Their position is still dreamy. A Dodgers loss tonight — or tomorrow — is enough. A Giants win on Sunday gets the job done. And even on the off chance that none of those stars align, the division will still be tied, with a home game against the Dodgers determining the division.
It’s a damn good place to be, even if the most recent taste in our mouths is a touch sour.
Kevin Gausman was awesome, and deserved better. Camilo Doval was awesome, and deserved better.
Maybe the Milwaukee Brewers can provide that.