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Too little too late

Sabol launched 2 home runs with 5 RBIs while Webb threw another quality start, but the Giants still came up short against the Mariners

MLB: Seattle Mariners at San Francisco Giants Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

With runners on first and third with 2-outs in the 9th, Blake Sabol cleared a 3-2 fastball over the center field wall.

If this kind of late-inning stroke of magic had happened a week earlier, it would’ve won the San Francisco Giants the game—the epic culmination of a totally improbable comeback.

But that was June.

Sabol’s 3-run shot put the Giants within 1-run of the Seattle Mariners, eventually bringing the potential winning run to the plate, but Brandon Crawford waved through a hittable fastball to end the game short. 6 - 5 Mariners.

It’s July now. 40,000 fans at Oracle watched the postgame Independence Day fireworks show in sober silence, recognizing how far our country has come and how far it still needs to go.

Ditto for the Giants.

The formula that San Francisco has thrived on since their series in Colorado has always been a dangerous and unsustainable one: Bullpen picks up the starters’ slack while holding the line and keep teams from tacking on extra runs, while they wait for the offense to erupt against opposing relievers in innings 7 - 9.

It makes for some incredible baseball but the repeat exposure to high-stress situations placed on the bullpen, defense and bats have their cost.

The cracks are showing.

On Sunday against the Mets, Alex Wood came into the game with a 1-run lead in support of Ross Stripling, he ended up handing out 4 free bags and an infield single that turned into 3 runs. Another walk and defensive miscue by Luis Matos in right turned into a New York run.

A 2-run home run by Blake Sabol put the Giants back within a run in the 7th inning—generating a familiar buzz of excitement for San Francisco fans and heavy dread for New Yorkers—but Tyler Rogers and Ryan Walker gave up 3 runs over the next two innings. The game ended out of reach.

In Monday’s opener against Seattle, the bats mustered only 3 hits and 2 runs over 6 innings against starter Bryan Woo. The lineup struck out 5 times the first time through the order. The 3-run 9th inning homer fell flat because Camilo Doval surrendered a season high 4-runs the previous half-inning.

Woo’s only blemish was a 2-strike, 2-out fastball well above the zone that Sabol launched over the wall in the 4th to give the Giants a slim lead.

The bats then disappeared for the next four innings as Logan Webb worked to preserve the 1-run lead. He didn’t, and it isn’t his fault. Being handed a 1-run lead is like being gifted an analog multimeter for a birthday (which my beloved father has done to me): it’s practical, sure, and technically, the job was done as a gift was given, but it kind of misses the point.

A lead is a lead, but Webb’s night didn’t get any easier because of that measly cushion.

With an out in the 7th, the Mariners were able to tie the game when Kolten Wong scored on a Julio Rodriguez force out to Casey Schmitt. The ball-in-play had the trappings of an inning-ending double play ball, but it was hit too softly, a little bit too far to Schmitt’s right, and Rodriguez’s speed ensured the runner would score.

Webb left the mound with 2 outs in the 7th to applause. He scattered 7 hits allowing only 2 circumstantial runs while striking out 11, his third double-digit K total of the year.

Seattle’s first run was about as nit-picky as it gets. An infield single and one out bloop put two runners on and both moved into scoring position after a passed by catcher Sabol. Web then spiked a 2-strike change-up to Dylan Moore that ricocheted off Sabol’s glove, allowing Teoscar Hernandez to score. It was ruled a wild pitch but a more experienced catcher probably would’ve erred on the side of caution with a runner on third and dropped to both knees to smother the pitch rather than pick it with their glove.

Moore struck out, and LaMonte Wade Jr. saved two runs by snaring a line drive off the bat of Kolten Wong.

The inning captured the paradox of the Giants defense well. The team leads the Majors in errors by a wide margin with one of the highest percentages of unearned runs to earned runs allowed. Still they rank well in advanced defensive metrics according to Fangraphs (helped considerably by the likes of Thairo Estrada...welp.)

Mike Yastrzemski made a leaping snare at the wall with the late-evening sun directly in his eyes to save a run in the 1st. Wade reeled in a liner destined to be a 2-RBI double to end a threat. But pass balls by Sabol in the 4th directly led to a run made all the more conspicuous by the final score.

2 home runs and 5 RBIs with 2 costly miscues behind the dish for the rookie—it’s not the extremes but the routine.

Handed a tie-game in the 9th, All-Star Camilo Doval delivered one of his worst performances of the season, surrendering 4 runs on 3 hits.

The inning went sideways after Mike Ford lined a lead-off single to right and was replaced on the basepath by Jose Caballero. Doval has always struggled with runner management and Caballero was clearly in his head from the get-go. He took second easily before Doval hit Ty France with an inside fastball in 2-strike count.

It sounded like it hit the bat. It sure looked like it caught the knob but after review, New York ruled the call on the field stands. Huh…

Impossible to say if the ruling would’ve changed the end result, but the HBP definitely added to the stress. Doval’s velocity was down while he located his slider poorly. With runners on base he needed strike-outs and the Mariner’s wouldn’t whiff. Caballero stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by J.P. Crawford before Rodriguez and Hernandez added RBI hits.


As a team, Giants batters have a .705 OPS and a 92 tOPS+ and 90 sOPS+ in the first 3 innings (meaning players are performing below their average OPS as well as below the OPS relative to the league). Their OPS inflates to .767 in innings 7-9.

On one hand, it’s encouraging that the bats are capable of making up ground and maintaining a level head in high-leverage situations. But slow, non competitive at-bats to start games just pile undue stress onto other aspects of their game.

Over their last 13 games, the Giants have struck out 129 times and logged a .630 OPS. This past week the offensive numbers have been worse.

We’ve seen the benefits of the late offensive production, but that success is heavily reliant on solid defense and relief. The Giants haven’t got that since the calendar flipped to the 7th month.

Ultimately, the big hit can still come up short.