The smile on Gabe Kapler’s face as his team made their way off the field appeared painted-on. A veil more than anything. Laugh so you don’t cry. Best to dress up in neon colors and pink jumpsuits and cowboy frills because it’s too difficult for the San Francisco Giants to look themselves in the mirror right now, considering how they just dropped 3 games to the Colorado Rockies; how the team’s postseason odds are hovering at a hair above rock bottom; how they have forfeited control over their playoff fate; how they were a wrist-flick away from being swept; how they had a 9-0 lead in the 6th inning but defensive miscues leading to extra outs and lackluster relief work allowed the Rockies to bring the winning run to the plate before the final out was recorded.
Repeat after me: a win is a win is a win is a win…even when its pretty dang unconvincing, and San Francisco isn’t really in the position to be nit-picky about how they get ‘em. Still, Sunday’s victory didn’t feel victorious, nor, from a fan’s perspective, did it do much to embolden our worn and tested and overall grouchy spirits. While the Marlins are taking it to the Braves 16-2 in pursuit of a Wild Card berth, the Giants are barely holding on in an 11-10 win against the Rockies.
The Coors finale started as it opened with starters Sean Manaea and Chris Flexen trading zeros until the 5th inning. Manaea worked around a leadoff double from Charlie Blackmon in the 1st and kept Colorado from advancing into scoring position again until the 5th. Trying to protect a 1-run lead, Manaea dropped a comebacker off the bat of Brenton Doyle (the first of three errors to be committed by a San Francisco pitcher), who advanced to third on a single from Austin Wynns, but the starter was able to get Blackmon to pop out and induced a groundout from Ezequiel Tovar to strand the runners.
The Giants didn’t record their first hit against Flexen until J.D. Davis’s single to lead-off the 5th. One batter later, Davis would score from first on Mitch Haniger’s double that short-hopped the wall in right-center.
Haniger gives the Giants a 1-0 lead pic.twitter.com/Lk07pI0oB7— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 17, 2023
An inning later, the bats knocked Flexen from the mound with three straight hits.
Thairo Estrada kicked off the rally with a leadoff single then stole his career-high 22nd base before Joc Pederson doubled him home. Flexen would be swapped from Matt Koch after Michael Conforto’s single. Koch would give up three more consecutive hits culminating in Haniger’s second double that drove in 2 runs and put the Giants up 5 to 0.
With two outs, Brandon Crawford slugged a 3-run homer (his 7th of 2023). The scoring would culminate in Estrada’s RBI single, scoring Yaz from second. The 10th hit of the inning came on a drive to left from Pederson that was incorrectly ruled a catch by umpire Lance Barkdale, but in the confusion resulted in Estrada being thrown out at third to end the inning.
Are the Giants ... back?? pic.twitter.com/O1SJyYg4hW— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 17, 2023
Both Pederson and Estrada had multiple hits in the inning, and the only batter in the order to not reach safely in the inning was Patrick Bailey. The 10 hits were the second highest hit total in an inning in San Francisco history (the record of 11 was set in 1966). The offensive outburst in that single frame matched what the team had managed to do over the last 27.
9 runs certainly felt like it would, or should, be enough—but it wasn’t.
The Rockies roared back with 5 of their own in the bottom of the frame. Hunter Goodman launched the first homer of his career—a two-fer off Manaea. The southpaw would be pulled for John Brebbia after the following batter singled. His pitching line: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 3 K.
Brebbia would find himself in hot water after another come backer SNAFU. Confusion on who was covering second between Crawford and Estrada led to Brebbia’s throw being bobbled and both runners being safe. At the top of the at-bat it does look like Brebbia gestures towards short to confirm with Crawford that he would be the one covering. If that was the case, Brebbia’s intended target for the throw wasn’t the agreed upon one. On the replay it looks like Brebbia’s view of Crawford may have been obscured by the umpire as both middle infielders converged on the bag, and he just chose to throw to Estrada who was giving the right-of-way to Craw.
Whatever it was, it looked bad and instead of an inning-ending double-play the defense was forced to get extra outs—which never goes well at Coors. Two pitches later, Doyle homered to deep left to put the Rockies back within reach.
Patty Barrels to the wall pic.twitter.com/fqsvgyx8DF— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 17, 2023
Bailey would cash in his clutch hit in the 7th with a 2-out, 2-run double that would relieve some of the pressure brought on by the earlier Colorado rally. The Giants would certainly need it.
With an off day on Monday and the general sense of urgency with there being 15 games left in the season, Kapler decided to manage the final innings as if the 6 run lead was whittled down to 1. Tyler Rogers and Camilo Doval did their best to make that a reality.
Rogers allowed a run on 2 hits and a walk in the 7th. Since July 1st, the submariner has pitched 28 innings with a 5.14 ERA with a 1.32 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .278 off of him and his WAR according to Fangraphs in that time is -0.3.
After Luke Jackson pitched through the 8th, enter Camilo Doval, fresh off a blown save on Thursday and looking for a bounce back performance. The closer didn’t get through the inning. Lead off double and single set up a sacrifice fly for the Rockies 7th run. Doval got his first strikeout of the series after hitting Rodgers to put two runners on, and a wild pitch advanced them into scoring position. Kris Bryant tapped an outside slider up the first baseline which would presumably end the game, but Doval never came up with the ball. Bending over to glove it and tag Bryant he simply never got the ball in the web and ran past it, allowing another run to score.
Elias Diaz then slapped a single to right field to score two and bring the winning run to the plate. At that point Kapler had enough and signaled for Taylor Rogers to face the lefty Blackmon who mercifully lined out to Estrada to end the game.
San Francisco finally snapped their 9-game road losing streak. Their chances took a serious hit after this series and looking back their season might be defined by their performance on the road. The Giants have gone 33-42 overall as the out-of-towners, but this away win is just their 5th since July 19th. Their last series win as visitors was their sweep of Pittsburgh right after the All-Star Break.
Coming into Sunday’s game, the Giants were nursing slim 11.2% playoff odds (per Fangraphs) while the Reds, Marlins and Diamondbacks all have odds in the 40% range. An 11-10 final is as good as an outcome as a 11-0 blowout in terms of the Wild Card chase, but the win rang as dully as their 9-8 see-saw win over Colorado on September 8th. That one did little to assuage brewing concerns, and this one again leaves more questions than answers. They are hanging on, but only numerically. The games will dry up and the numbers will eventually wind down. The win today just bought themselves a little more time before a proper reckoning. Based on the sloppy play and gassed bullpen, I imagine it’s coming soon...