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Giants opt out of the winning streak

It was fun while it lasted.

Carlos Rodón sitting in the dugout Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants might make the postseason this year. They also might employ the best starting pitcher in all of baseball.

Those statements are, of course, related. The former is true in part because the latter is true.

But here are two more statements:

The San Francisco Giants will probably miss the postseason this year. They also might employ the best starting pitcher in all of baseball.

Those statements, on the other hand, don’t appear related. But that’s only because they’re lacking in context. The Giants dream of success over the course of 162 games has a terrifyingly thin margin for error. They can’t afford to lose games that they should be winning, or blow opportunities to win games that are tailor-made for them.

And so the Giants probably missing the postseason is inextricably linked to them also employing arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball. Because they’re not doing enough with the latter, and that’s how they ended up with the former.

Let’s go back to a happier time: 2021. Let’s check in on the Giants ace: Logan Webb.

The Giants went 22-5 in Webb’s starts last year. They went 13-0 in his starts at home. When he allowed two or fewer runs, they went 17-1, including 11-0 at Oracle Park.

He was one of the best pitchers in baseball, and the Giants successfully converted his starts into wins at a higher rate than the free throw conversion rate of all but 59 NBA players last year.

And now we fast forward to a more somber time: 2022. And we check in on the Giants ace: Carlos Rodón. The Giants have lost more of his games than they’ve won, going just 11-13 in his starts. They’re just 6-5 when he’s at home. They’re 11-8 when he allows two or fewer runs, which is a worse winning percentage than five MLB teams. They’re 6-5 when he allows two or fewer runs at home, which is a worse winning percentage than nine MLB teams (you might notice that’s the same record as when they’re at home, runs allowed be damned ... because he hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a single start at Oracle this year).

The Giants, when arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball allows two or fewer runs while at home, are worse than the Seattle Mariners are on any given day.

Don’t you just love context?

Now you may not have watched the Giants 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, but you know what happened, because I just spent 400 words explaining it. Rodón was exquisite. He gave up just two hits and two walks in six innings, recording 11 strikeouts — it was his seventh time this season with double-digit strikeouts (the Giants are just 3-4 in those games, by the way).

And the Giants blew it.

Rodón did give up a run, the poor, incompetent soul. He should have known better. But you couldn’t even be mad at it, because it came on a double by Stone Garrett, representing the first career hit for a player drafted the same year the Giants last won the World Series.

Even when he got in trouble he looked brilliant, such as in his sixth and final inning, when the bases were loaded on a walk, a catcher’s interference error, and a hit batter. Rodón, knowing he had one batter left regardless of the outcome, bit down on his mouthguard and struck out Jordan Luplow on three pitches, one of which was a 97-mph fastball — tied for his fastest of the night, on his 105th pitch.

The Giants tried to help him. They just didn’t try quite hard enough.

They took a lead when LaMonte Wade Jr. — whose bat is getting hot hot hot — hit a third-inning solo home run.

They retook the lead in the sixth inning, when J.D. Davis hit his fourth homer with the team, despite this being just his 12th game.

They hung on to the lead in the seventh inning, when Brandon Crawford snagged a 112-mph one-hopper from Ketel Marte, making one of the best defensive plays of the season with the debonair swag of 007.

But then they stopped trying to help Rodón. In the bottom half of the inning, they put runners on first and second with one out. With a 2-1 lead in their grasp, the insurance run iron was hot to strike. And then Mike Yastrzemski, who had only just entered the game as a pinch runner, got picked off of second base, something that happens about as frequently as I publish one of these recaps with no grammatical errors.

And in the next half inning Dominic Leone allowed three hits, which culminated in a hanging slider across the plate that Jake McCarthy bopped for a two-run single, giving Arizona the lead.

Yet with a five-game winning streak hanging in the balance, and two come-from-behind walk-off home runs in the last three games, you still had faith. And when Tommy La Stella led off the ninth by striking out and stealing first base, you smiled. This is how it begins. This is where the magic resides.

And then Yaz doubled down on his short but awful game by hitting into a double play, Thairo Estrada popped out, and the Giants lost.