Even during this downward dip, this streak of series lost, the San Francisco Giants have been able to avoid the greatest shame of all: the sweep.
Try as the Angels, Rangers, Rays and Braves might, they could not knock them completely out. Another Cool Hand Luke reference: as much as these opponents have laid them on their backs and commanded them to stay down, the Giants have scrambled back onto their feet. To land a blow? Or just take another one in the jaw? Obstinate. Admirable. Admirably obstinate, San Francisco has, in this fourth straight series dropped (fifth counting Bay Bridge split), snaked yet another win from a superior opponent, and I can’t tell if it’s a sign of a deeper resolve, or how just the long season typically shakes out mathematically.
Sunday’s 4-3 win had both bravado and blunder.
Six Giants pitchers navigated Atlanta’s explosive lineup, limiting them to just 6 hits and 3 runs—none of them earned. But two costly errors by rookies Casey Schmitt and Patrick Bailey nearly cost them the game. The offense collected 10 hits in the match-up but left 12 men on base and went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. A bases-loaded opportunity in the 1st again buckled the bats, and they nearly bookended the game with a similar golden opportunity slipping through their fingers in the 9th. Still, two long-balls and two lost leads regained got the job done and secure the win.
MATOS MANIA in Atlanta ‼️ pic.twitter.com/jig7ndblZI— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 20, 2023
Nearly two months after his first Major League home run and a terrible bout of warning track power, Luis Matos announced his return to the Show with a solo home run in the 2nd.
But in the bottom of the inning a routine grounder ate-up Schmitt, and two batters later, Orlando Arcia lifted a go-ahead homer off Jakob Junis.
Down again, the offense wasted no time dusting themselves off and springing back on their feet. Thairo Estrada led off the 3rd with a double before Wilmer Flores launched a 0-1 slider into the left field bleachers. Flores’ team-leading 17th homer was his third of August. His month batting-line so far: .320/.382. /.560.
The Giants collected 9 hits and 3 runs over 5.2 innings against starter Max Fried, working 1 walk while striking out 6 times.
No. 1️⃣7️⃣ of the season for Wilmer pic.twitter.com/gASnaJhjNn— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 20, 2023
Most impressive of all is that on a muggy afternoon in the South, the bullpen kept the Braves’ earthbound with a 14-to-2 groundout to flyout ratio. Of Atlanta’s 6 hits, only Arcia’s homer went for extra-bases.
With a renewed lead in the 3rd, Alex Wood erased a lead-off single by eliciting a double play off the bat of Austin Riley, turned cleanly by recently called-up Casey Schmitt.
After a lead-off single in the 5th flipped Atlanta’s lineup over, Tristan Beck navigated danger by getting Ronald Acuña Jr. to ground into a 6-4-3 twin-killing. Beck allowed 2 hits and struck out 3 over 3 scoreless innings.
With the game at its high-noon, the Giants swooned in the heat.
Nursing a delicate 3-2 lead in the 8th, Taylor Rogers handed out consecutive 1-out walks. Gabe Kapler swapped Rogers for Camilo Doval. The closer, tasked with a 5-out save, gutted through a 9-pitch at-bat against Riley, K-ing him with a 98 MPH cutter placed just above the zone. But just when San Francisco had regained leverage in the inning, Patrick Bailey sailed a throw into left in an botched attempt to catch Acuña stealing third. The second night in a row the Giants lost a lead in the 8th, and it felt like after that blow, the team would just stay down.
But Doval trumped Marcell Ozuna (who had possessed the Major’s longest current hitting streak at the time) with another elevated cutter on the 8th pitch of the AB to end the inning and strand the go-ahead run at second.
In the 9th, the Giants were recipients of a minor miracle. After handing the lead to Atlanta with an error in the previous frame, Braves reliever Kirby Yates seemed to aggressively refuse the gift, insisting on San Francisco taking it back by walking lead-off Michael Conforto before hitting both Estrada and Flores to load the bases with no outs. And with this delicate and fragile gift, the Giants bats proceeded to handle it with the dexterity and grace of a toddler.
Bailey went down swinging on a shoulder-high fastball. J.D. Davis, for the second time today in a bases-loaded less than 2-outs situation, fanned. Kapler swapped Wade Meckler for Joc Pederson in the high-leverage situation and the button-pressed finally responded. Kind-of. Pederson played spectator on 4 pitches nowhere near the zone, and San Francisco retook the lead, reminiscent of his walk-off walk against San Diego in June.
Only the Giants could make a game-winning rally constructed exclusively by the opponent so labored and stressful.
Yes, Flem, the Giants will indeed take it pic.twitter.com/281KCts64h— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 20, 2023
Doval closed out the 9th with his 5th out of the game—a swinging strikeout of Arcia. Unfortunately, a player can’t be officially awarded a blown save, win and save in the same game, but for all intents and purposes, that’s exactly what Camilo did.
With the win today, the Giants showed off their pedigree as survivors. Stubborn, unheroic, assuming-the-fetal-position, scrounging crumbs, cockroach survivors. They kept their legs underneath them for now, gaining a half-game on the Dodgers (haha!) while maintaining the slim margin on their second place Wild Card position. Avoiding sweeps won’t get them to the postseason, but weathering the best of the best could be enough if they can capitalize on upcoming match-ups against direct competitors like Philadelphia, Cincinnati, San Diego and Chicago.
Easier said than done, but 21 hits over these last two games in Atlanta has got the Giants standing a little taller as they limp on to Philly.