It took a few games, but Juan Soto finally has his home run in a San Diego Padres uniform. It couldn’t come against the Dodgers? No, of course not. It came against Alex Cobb and the San Francisco Giants in San Diego’s 7-4 victory on Tuesday night.
Cobb was far from the sharpest he’s looked this season. He needed 91 pitches to get through five busy innings, surrendering a pair of walks and six hits, including Soto’s aforementioned homer. Still, it was in line with what the Giants have seen all season from Cobb. He racked up seven strikeouts alongside plenty of swings-and-misses but could not pitch around his baserunners enough to take his start from solid to outstanding. Five innings of three-run ball was enough to be competitive, but far from a dominant outing.
Giants outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. has quietly rebounded from his atrocious start to this season over the past few weeks. He blasted a solo homer off Padres ace Joe Musgrove in the top of the first inning to give the Giants an immediate 1-0 lead. He’s now hitting .233/.361/.667 with 3 homers in his past 15 games (only 36 plate appearances, but still a positive sign).
Musgrove, though, quickly reverted to his ace form. The Giants managed just five more hits across his seven innings of work. They were unable to score another run. Luckily, they were able to get things going against the Padres bullpen.
Evan Longoria and Joc Pederson singled for a small two-out rally in the eighth inning, but Thairo Estrada popped out, leaving them stranded.
A pair of doubles by Padres first baseman Josh Bell and shortstop Ha-Seong Kim against Dominic Leone in the bottom half of the inning put the Pads up 4-1 heading into the ninth.
All hope was not yet lost, though. Because the Giants got to face the one pitcher they wanted to see most... Josh Hader. Baseball is fun because it is madness. Hader has arguably been the most dominant relief pitcher in MLB over the past five years. His ERA against the Giants entering play was 40.50 this season compared to a sub-3.00 ERA against all other teams.
Rather than a walk-off homer to Yastrzemski, this outing Hader was plagued by nonexistent control. He walked Yaz to leadoff the inning before a bloop single by Wilmer Flores. Then he hit Austin Slater and walked Austin Wynns to bring the Giants within two.
With the tying run on second base, J.D. Davis dealt with some bad luck calls early in his at-bat, putting him in a pitcher’s count. Then, with two strikes, Hader threw a pitch that was off the plate for its entire trajectory and was somehow called a strike anyway. It was an undeniably tough break for the Giants, but the bases were still loaded with just one out.
Hader never really calmed down. After striking out Davis, he immediately walked Brandon Belt to bring another run in and failed to put away Evan Longoria who nearly lined a bases-clearing extra-base hit to left field. Instead, Jurickson Profar made an incredible diving catch that probably saved the Padres the game. For the moment, though, Slater tagged up from third and tied the game at 4. Hader had blown the save. The Giants’ hopes were still intact.
After Hader left his outing on Tuesday, his ERA against the Giants this season was still 40.50.
The Giants have no business sporting this much ownage over such a dominant pitcher. Of course, there is some explanation for it. Michael Ajeto over at Baseball Prospectus broke down how Hader is not quite matching his previous levels of dominance this season if you’re interested in a nice breakdown of some advanced numbers. However, even that doesn’t explain why all his no good very bad outings are coming against the Giants.
Tim Hill replaced Hader and immediately struck out Joc Pederson to end the rally, and Tyler Rogers came out for the bottom of the ninth. Profar knocked a one-out single to center and then Juan Soto reached base on catcher’s interference. The Giants defense actually played well on Wednesday, continuing to show a far better defensive ability now that most of their lineup is healthy. However, Giants fans have seen this story all season long: error followed by even worse thing. Manny Machado sat on a 2-1 slider from Rogers and sent it well into the left-field bleachers for a walk-off three-run homer.
So well... it was fun while it lasted.
The Giants are now back two games below .500. They will face the Padres again tomorrow at 1:10 PM Pacific Time and hope to get back on the winning side of the equation.