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Leave ‘em loaded

The Giants continue to do what they do best

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In a 2-2 tie in the 10th with the bases loaded and 1 out, Patrick Bailey shot a grounder back up the middle that lifted off the arm of reliever Shelby Miller into the Los Angeles night.

For a moment it looked like another lucky break for the San Francisco Giants—a Thairo Estrada pop-up to center got lost in the lights and dropped for a single a batter earlier setting up this bases loaded threat. But the ricochet took a direct route to shortstop Chris Taylor’s glove a couple of feet behind second base. A couple of steps to the bag and a throw to first had Bailey out easily to complete the double-play, end the inning and keep the Giants from scoring.

In a 2-2 tie in the 9th with the bases loaded and 2 outs, Mitch Haniger waved through a diving sweeper from Evan Phillips, striking out for the Giants’ 27th out of the game and ending an inning that had runners poised at second and third with 1-out. Blake Sabol bunted Marco Luciano and Heliot Ramos into scoring position, but rookie Tyler Fitzgerald, in his 4th game in the Majors, flew out to shallow left, unable to score Ramos. Haniger, in his 7th season in the Majors, didn’t even get bat to meet ball.

Down 2 runs in the 3rd with the bases loaded and 2 outs, ahead in the count 1-0, Thairo Estrada inexplicably squared around to bunt. Lance Lynn’s four-seamer was vying for the infielder’s chin. What would’ve been a leverage count with the bases loaded, facing a fastball pitcher that isn’t known for his subtleties, instead turned into a laugh, a Sunday stroll as all 270 pounds and 36 years of Lynn came rolling off the mound to snare the ball belt-high and return it safely back to the Dodgers dugout. Threat (was there ever one?) neutralized. Inning over.

Why why why why on God’s green earth would you try to bunt in that situation? Lynn had been serving up fastballs for three innings and wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. The righty is often hard hit, frequently barreled and gives up a crap-ton of home runs. He had just walked 2 of the last 3 batters he faced and the other had singled—at the very least a walk brings in a run and cuts the lead in half. Beyond the minutiae of the game situation, Estrada has got to take into account the broader context. It’s the last road game of the season. Your team has played themselves out of the Wild Card race, are fighting for a .500 record, facing a team that has already clinched the division for the 10th time in 11 seasons and are also your opponents in a 140 year rivalry. There are times to be discreet or patient or cute—but this wasn’t one of them. Go up and hack, swing out of your shoes, try to hit the same pitch twice, wail—it’s the last week of the season, there’s nothing left to lose.

Instead the Giants are the punchline. Lynn returned to a smirking Dodgers bench and pitched through 3 more innings, giving up a 2-run homer to LaMonte Wade Jr. who FINALLY hit one of the thousand million fastballs that the starter offered up over the heart of the plate. The 5th inning HR was Wade’s 17th on the year and leveled James Outman’s 2-run drive off Tristan Beck in the 2nd.

The Dodgers next run would be the deciding one 8 innings later—a Chris Taylor single off Camilo Doval bringing home the automatic runner to seal the Giants 3-2 loss.

San Francisco out-pitched the Dodgers with 6 arms, limiting the potent LA lineup to just 6 hits and 1 walk. On certain metrics (just not the ones that matter) the Giants out-hit them too: collecting 8 hits with 5 walks and a HBP. But as we learned all season, opportunity does not lead to success. They left 11 runners on base and went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. That lonely hit being the pop-up lost in the lights that brought about…nothing. Three bases loaded opportunities brought about…nothing. Their 73 wRC+ with the bases juiced is 21st in MLB and their .591 OPS is 23rd—those stats will drop even further after Sunday’s loss. How can that be? How can a situation so primed for success end so consistently in gummed-up debacle and non-function.

Just add it to the list of mysteries or misfortunes or institutional failures that has mired this club. The biggest one of all, of course, being the team’s devolution on the road.

After an impressive 28-19 away record, San Francisco finished the season 6 - 28, morphing from some badass Mad Max Fury Road warlord into an unsettling mash-up of all the Wizard of Oz characters: cowardly and heartless with little common sense feeding into each other’s weaknesses to assemble a wandering Frankenstein’s monster of ineptitude.

The long and winding road of road games went from Champs-Elysées to Lombard Street to just free-falling off a cliff—a practice that generally ends with the ground. Can confirm...yes, the Giants have crash landed and are emerging from their rubble to meekly hobble home.