Philadelphia: 1 | 3 | 1
San Francisco: 3| 5 | 0|
By Lewis Rubman
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The Giants opened their current homestand last Saturday hoping to rekindle their fleeting, flickering hopes for an NL wild-card berth. The Washington Nationals dimmed that prospect considerably, sweeping the Giants 4-0, 5-3, and 4-1, thereby putting themselves 2 games in front of the Phillies, who began play in San Francisco Thursday evening with 1/10 of a percentage point lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for a chance to duke it out in the play-in game against the eventual number one seed. The Cardinals and the Mets were but 1/2 a game behind Philadelphia and Milwaukee, four teams only 1/2 a game apart! The Giants, separated from St. Louis and New York by the Diamondbacks, trailed those tied-up rivals by another 2 games.
By game time today, after the Giants and Phillies had split the first two games of their series, the Nationals remained in the number one wild card spot, 1 game ahead of the Brewers. The Cardinals, Mets, and Phillies were in a three-way virtual tie, a 1/2 game behind Milwaukee. St. Louis was leading the other two by one-tenth of a percentage point. The Giants had slipped to 4 games behind Milwaukee Opening the game for the Giants was Jeff Samardzija. The Shark, whose lackluster 8-9 record and 4.70 ERA for the season was offset by his performance over his previous seven starts, in which he went 4-2, 2.11 ERA, including a six-inning, three-hit, scoreless stint against Philadelphia on July 31. Facing him for the visitors was Vince Velázquez, who brought an above-average fastball and a 4-6, 4.23 record with him to the mound. He throws the four-fingered variety of that pitch about 65% of the time.
It didn’t take the Phillies long to get to Samardzija. Corey Dickerson blasted the Giants’ pitcher’s 10th offering over the center-field fence for his seventh homer of the season, putting Philadelphia on top, 1-0. Samardzija settled down to retire the next 20 batters he faced, although Dickerson threatened to do more damage with a tremendous blast to left-center that Kevin Pillar corralled just in front of the fence in the top of the fourth. In the top of the eighth, César Hérnandez’s fly ball landed in front of Mike Yaztremski in left for Philadelphia’s second hit of the afternoon. He was wiped out Scott Kingery’s around the horn double play, capping a spectacularly dominant performance by the Giant hurler.
Meanwhile, in the Giants’ half of the second, they got back the run Saamardzija had surrendered in the first and more. Velásquez plunked Scooter Gennet with a 94 mph four seamer, brushed back Evan Longoria with another, clocked at 93 mph, and then paid for it when the Giants’ third sacker smacked the next pitch into the left-field bleachers for his 14th round-tripper of the year and a 2-1 lead for the Giants. Pillar duplicated the feat to lead off the fifth, giving him 15 home runs for the season and a career-high 60 RBI, while upping the home team’s advantage to 3-1.
Velásquez was removed in the top of the sixth when Brad Miller pinch hit for him and struck out. The Phillies’ starter’s line was three runs, all earned, on three hits, three strikeouts, a walk, and two home runs in five innings. He threw 77 pitches, of which 53 were strikes. His replacement on the mound, José Alavarez, gave up two hits in the sixth, but escaped without giving up a run when Pillar grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Following Alvarez was Blake Parker, who pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, helped by a beautiful play by second baseman Hernández on Brandon Belt’s broken-bat grounder up the middle for the third out. Zach Eflin pitched the bottom of the eighth for Philly. He, too, escaped unscathed thanks to the pitchers’ best friend.
Will Smith took over for Samardzija in the top of the ninth. The Shark’s line for eight innings of work was one run, earned on Dickerson’s second inning dinger, two hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. 65 of his 103 pitches were strikes. He got the win.
Velásquez was the losing pitcher, and Smith, who pitched a rocky final frame, earned safe by striking out Dickerson with two on and two out to close out the game.
When the dust had settled after this afternoon’s fray, the Giants found themselves three and a half games out of a playoff spot, looking up at Arizona, Philadelphia, New York, and St. Louis in a neck and neck race.
Tomorrow’s 4:05 game will be preceded by a reunion of the 1989 Giants, a prelude to next Tuesday and Wednesday’s San Francisco half of the interleague Bay Bridge Series. The starting pitchers are slated to be right-hander Jake Arrieta (8-8, 4.41 ERA) for the Phillies and southpaw Conner Menez (0-1, 5.73 ERA).