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Stranded runners

The Giants went hitless with runners in scoring position and couldn’t find a way to win a third straight walk-off

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants 4-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 11-innings is a microcosm of the team’s July.

Solid pitching delivered by 7 different arms kept the D-Backs in line but when the opportunities presented themselves, the bats couldn’t cash in, going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Consecutive one-out singles in the 2nd swelled into a bases loaded opportunity after a two-out walk by the recently recalled Isan Díaz, but the threat petered out on a ground out by Luis Matos.

Wilmer Flores launched a solo shot off right-handed starter Ryne Nelson to kick-off the scoring in the 3rd.

Patrick Bailey’s double in the 4th put runners in scoring position with no outs but a decisive hit remained elusive: Brandon Crawford scratched one run across with a sacrifice fly but two outs of no-consequence left the inning’s potential unrealized. The Giants haven’t scored more than one run in an inning sine Wednesday.

Another at-bat with a runner on second wouldn’t come until the 10th, a rally bureaucratically decreed rather than organically made.

Apart from Wilmer Flores, the greatest offensive tool for San Francisco was the wild pitch.

Down a run in the 10th, Brandon Crawford tied up the game on a spiked slider from Kevin Ginkel that kicked wide off Carson Kelly’s chest protector. Crawford advancing to third was even a gift—a missed strike-3 call meant Díaz got to see another pitch, which he rolled softly towards first.

A walk handed out to Matos and Austin Slater pushed the winning run into scoring position with two outs, but Ginkel sped up Flores with two elevated fastballs before dropping a tight slider at the bottom of the zone to fan one of the hottest bats on the planet.

Down another run in the 11th, another wild pitch advanced the Giants’ tying run to third with less than two outs. But again, an Arizona reliever shut the door, this time for the win.

Scott McHugh masterfully played his mediocre fastball off his devastating change-up: striking out Blake Sabol before Bailey grounded out to second to end the game and the month—fittingly with a crucial run stranded on the base paths.

A house full of table-setters but no table-clearers will not stand.

Even more needling was the relative ease the Diamondbacks operated under similar circumstances—Arizona hit 4-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Jakob Junis and Alex Wood limited them to just three base runners over the first five innings, and it wasn’t until Wood’s wild pitch with two outs in the 6th that the D-Backs had their first runner advance past first base.

Immediately presented with a runner in scoring position, Corbin Carroll singled to plate Arizona’s first run. Carroll then stole second and Christian Walker walked, setting up Lourdes Gurriel Jr. ‘s game-tying RBI double.

2 hits and 2 runs in 2 at-bats—damn. Pan over to the San Francisco dugout lab coats hurriedly whispering to one another, eyes fixed on their iPads, going over video, spreadsheets, tables and graphs, trying to comprehend, to desperately understand: how did they do that?

It wasn’t just that the Diamondback hitters brought their runners home, but how easy it looked for them. In the 10th, Emmanuel Rivera singled to score Jake McCarthy on the second pitch thrown by Scott Alexander. In the 11th, Ketel Marte took a little more time—fouling off three offerings from Taylor Rogers before lacing a ground-rule double.

Both Alexander and Rogers did well to limit Arizona to just one run in those extra innings, but the speed of Arizona’s RBI base hits felt so alien to us Giants fans. Gone was the sweaty palmed hand-wringing, the sharp pain in the lower back. In yesterday’s 11th inning, Schmitt was hit by a pitch and Brandon Crawford resigned to a sacrifice bunt but dropped it too perfectly up the third base line to load the bases before Joc Pederson singled in the winning run.

This feels nit-picky (absolutely it is, a run is a run) but it’s just illustrating the sluggishness of the offense. The labor required to manufacture a run. If they don’t hit a walk-off home run on the first pitch, get ready for a slog.

A month-long famine of key situational hitting: their .617 OPS was the worst production mark in the National League and third-worst in MLB. Diddo for their 63 wRC+. A 12-13 record over July and 4-4 record in one-run games abuts the miraculous.

The dearth of success with runners in scoring position is even more stark after San Francisco’s triumphant June in which they seemingly lapped the rest of the professional game with .952 OPS and 156 wRC+ —the Dodgers were in a distant second with an .864 OPS and 135 wRC+.

The higher the climb the greater the fall, I suppose. Striking juxtapositions. Feast-or-famine. After the month-long tumble, the offense finds themselves sun-burned and sunk in the sweltering heat of Death Valley, looking back at the distant impossible peak of Mount Whitney.