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Relievers offer no relief in blown 9th

Carlos Rodón’s gem muddied by Atlanta’s late inning comeback

Brandon Belt looks on as Atlanta ties game in the 9th against San Francisco Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Well, I don’t want to be that guy on this one, but I will briefly just to get it out of my system. The San Francisco Giants kind of got screwed by the home plate umpire in tonight’s 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

A generous strike call against Austin Wynns kept the Giants from a scoring opportunity with two outs and the bases loaded in the 9th. They were nursing a 3-1 lead, but with Austin Slater on deck they could’ve got more.

In the bottom of the 9th with Tyler Rogers pitching, two consecutive strike-3’s-in-waiting were instead called balls and led to a stolen base by catcher William Contreras benefiting from a full count jump. The swipe would eventually come home as the winning run on Adam Duvall’s two-out single, capping a 3 run rally in the bottom of the 9th to walk-off against San Francisco.

Yes yes yes, I agree, the late inning strike zone was bonkers. Scream into your pillow. Run around the block while punching the air. Angrily dance away these feelings. Your emotions are valid—but don’t let yourself go down the rabbit hole of what-ifs and could’ve beens that comes with arguing balls and strikes. Chill out, cool down, and let’s think critically and constructively about the collapse in the 9th.

To start, Jake McGee didn’t have it. He’s had it lately—the confidence and extra kick to his four-seamer—but he did not tonight.

McGee stood over Dansby Swanson in an 0-2 hole and instead of burying him to start the inning, he let him climb out. The next two pitches were easy takes. The fifth pitch was right at the top of the zone but Swanson fouled it off. The Braves shortstop worked the count full and knew exactly what he was getting next and knocked it over the center field fence.

The Giants offense gifted him a security run in the top of the inning and he immediately drop-kicked it to the curb and backed his car over it for good measure. Lead back down to one. No one out. 3-4-5 hitters coming up.

I have no idea how Marcell Ozuna hits anything with the swing he has. It’s erratic, tipsy, mostly one-handed, and he has to see the ball over a boulder of tobacco packed in his lip. Yet, somehow he was able to windmill his bat around on this 2-strike slider to slap it under Brandon Belt’s glove into right. Contact felt impossibly lucky in the moment but props must be given, I suppose. He either anticipated the slider (which is impressive when McGee throws his fastball 90 percent of the time) and had enough quickness and bat control to get inside of it to push it against the defense.

It was an infuriating single. I was ticked off about it. I can’t imagine how McGee felt about it. Probably not great. And Brandon Belt could’ve fielded it too—shucks. He didn’t have a great night either. Let’s just keep going.

With the tying run on base and nobody out, McGee was kept in to face the lefty Matt Olson. This was about the time the night began to feel slightly doomed. It would’ve been fitting to end the game right then, with a first pitch fastball that Olson absolutely demolishes into the simmering Atlanta night.

It almost went that way—the contact was loud, warranting a gasp and cheer from the crowd, but it ultimately found Slater’s glove in deep center.

It was here that San Francisco’s fate was sealed. Ozuna unexpectedly/brilliantly tagged from first. You can see the aggressive base running took Slater by surprise. He flinched, then fired into second. The throw was on target but late. The gamble paid off (like gambling always does) and Ozuna scored on Contreras’s single to left.

McGee was pulled for Tyler Rogers and the rest is the rest.

Wednesday’s 9th inning was a completely different ballgame than its previous 8 innings. Bats, for the most part, were pointless. The hitters who held them superfluous meat tubes but for brief spikes of power from Mike Yastrzemski, Darin Ruf and Matt Olson.

Both starting pitchers Carlos Rodón and Charlie Morton traded high-90s heaters, biting breaking balls and swinging strikes for the better part of 7 innings. It’s hard to say who was better. Both players deserved the win, neither did.

Rodón continued his June return to form, following up his 8 inning, 8 K shutout against Pittsburgh with a cool 10 Ks over 7 innings, allowing just one earned run. The first hit was a cracked bat flare with one out in the 5th. Each of his strikeouts came on a swing. He generated 23 whiffs: 13 coming off his slider and 10 off his fastball.

Rodón and catcher Austin Wynns flipped the script on the aggressive Braves hitters, relying more on his sweeping slider to keep Atlanta from ambushing his fastball. Rodón ended up throwing his slider 52% of the time, a steep climb from a season average hovering around 30%.

The one blip on the night was a 2-strike jam shot that again SOMEHOW Ozuna muscled into center. He promptly scored on the next pitch with Matt Olson sending the 97 MPH fastball and Mike Yastrzemski into the center field wall for an RBI double. Rodón would leave Olson stranded and return to the dugout for the last time with the lead.

This was a game the Giants should’ve won. Blame the umpire, sure. But that’s a slippery slope, my friend. Look deeper. There were no egregious errors, but the defense wasn’t the sharpest when the game got tight. Jake McGee and Tyler Rogers didn’t put hitters away when they had the chance.

However you dice it, this was a game. If the pattern established in this series holds, tomorrow’s finale box score will read like Powerball numbers. Monday’s pitcher’s duel became Tuesday’s offensive brawl became tonight’s return to lights out power arms will be Thursday’s brunch bash.

Complete this sequence: Braves win, Giants win, Braves win, { insert team name } win.

The power of positive thinking. Manifest.