Breaking Even: Giants win 8-1, finish season at .500 for the first time in franchise history

By Morris Phillips

Manager Gabe Kapler knows this situation all too well. The Giants franchise hasn’t ever experienced a break-even, season finish in their history dating back to 1883.

Finishing at .500 (81-81) one season after winning 107 games isn’t ideal, but it is history. The Giants finish to 2022 marks just the fifth time a 100-win club has finished the following season without a winning record. The Giants may have not wanted that distinction, but they’ll take this one: they’re the first team since the 1925 Cardinals to be as many as eight games below .500 with 16 games remaining to finish .500 or better. Beating the Padres 8-1 on Wednesday gave them a 12-4 finish, and a clear sign that the club is engaged, not splintering, under Kapler’s leadership.

Some good, some bad. But more good than bad, just ask the manager.

Kapler has five seasons leading a big league club under his belt–the last three in San Francisco–and his 2019 Phillies team also finished 81-81. Conversely, that club lost 12 of its final 17 to finish that season at .500, and in his first season in Philly (2018) Kapler’s club led the NL East in early August only to win just 16 of their last 49 and finish with a losing record (80-82).

On the final day of 2019, the Phillies fell behind the Marlins 4-0 only to rally and come up short in a 4-3 loss. Eight times that day, Phillies’ hitters came up empty with runners in scoring position when one, successful at-bat could have pulled them even with the Marlins and given them a chance to win, and post a winning record. The Citizens Bank Park fans weighed in as always, by cheering Bryce Harper, who completed his first season in Philadelphia with 35 homers and 114 RBI, and booing Kapler.

“Expectations were high and we didn’t get the job done, but it wasn’t for lack of effort,” Kapler said after that game.

Eleven days later, Kapler was fired by Philadelphia, which freed him up to interview and be tabbed by the Giants to become their manager in 2020.

This finish will be far easier to digest for the team and the manager. David Villar homered twice in the win over the Padres, the second one with style as Villar’s drive bounced off the racing Jurickson Profar’s glove and into the first row of seats in left field. That gave the Giants a 7-1 lead in the eighth inning as they took full advantage of a Padres’ team that was more focused on their cross-country flight to New York for their first their first post-season encounter with the Mets on Friday night.

Austin Slater also homered in the win, and Lamonte Wade Jr. had three hits and an RBI. The three knocks were just enough to get Wade’s batting average to .207, a far more dignified end to his season than with the .198 average he started the day with.

Mike Yastrzemski had a pair of hits and two RBI. Yaz finished the season as one of only four Giants to get over 100 hits (104).

Joey Bart had a day as polarizing as his season as a whole. While he finished with a single and a run scored, he also struck out three times. Bart will need to cut down on his strikeouts (112 K’s in 97 game appearances) going forward, but his first, full season as the club’s catcher was a success behind the plate. Bart’s defense was impressive and memorable, as was his handling of the pitchers. On Wednesday, Bart helped eight relievers navigate the paired-down Padres lineup, allowing just four hits and a run, with the run allowed by opener John Brebbia in the first inning.

Again the bad: the Giants finished the season with 28 losses to the Padres and Dodgers combined. Against all other opponents they were 71-53. The newly-configured schedule for 2023 will see the Giants play their two tormenters six fewer times each as MLB switches to a more balanced schedule with increased interleague play.

Will that help the Giants? It could, but a headline-generating off-season filled with a couple of splashy, free agent signings will be the key to answering that question. All signs point to the Giants being heavily involved in attempting to sign slugger Aaron Judge, as well as their own free agent, starting pitcher, Carlos Rodon.

The Padres (89-73) qualified for the post-season for only the second time in the last eight seasons, but now find themselves facing a daunting task. They’ll play a best-of-three series in New York against the 100-win Mets. In order to prevail, they’ll have to face the challenge of seeing standout starting pitchers Jacob de Grom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt on consecutive days. If they don’t prevail, post-season baseball won’t come to Petco Park.

From a business and a momentum-building standpoint, nothing could be more important. In 2022, the Padres drew 2,987,470 fans, the fifth-highest in the majors this year and the second-highest in franchise history behind 3,016,752 in Petco Park’s inaugural season of 2004.

“More than anything we want to win the series so we can see playoff baseball here in San Diego,” slugger Wil Myers said.

Multifaceted Giants better than high-powered Reds again, win 3-0

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Johnny Cueto left early, but the Giants’ bullpen made sure their veteran starter was covered late in their 3-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.

The win capped a 5-1 homestand for the Giants, with their surprising relievers getting the better of the Reds’ high-powered offense in high leverage situations for the second, straight day.

Cueto pitched into the sixth inning, but motioned to catcher Curt Casali that he couldn’t continue after striking out Nick Castellanos. Prior to that moment, Cueto cruised, allowing three hits and no walks with four strikeouts. The 35-year old veteran was diagnosed with tightness in his lat, and examined after the game to determine if he’ll miss any starts.

“It felt like he was doing fine,” Casali said of Cueto. “He might have maybe tweaked something compensating for another part of his body. You never want to see that, especially when he’s cruising like that. Hopefully he doesn’t have to miss a start, and if he does, hopefully it’s not too, too long.”

“We all had visions in the dugout of that being another deep-into-the-game Johnny Cueto start,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He just looked outstanding and totally in control.”  

The Reds, however, saw more than enough of Cueto, who picked up the win, and shutdown the best offense in baseball through the season’s first two weeks in the process.

I’m confident that we’re not going to have too many games like that with our offense,” Reds manager David Bell said. “At the same time, you have to give credit to Johnny Cueto. We’ve all seen him for a long time. I thought he was outstanding.”

Austin Slater doubled home Brandon Crawford in the fifth inning, then took third on a passed ball. Casali’s sharply hit ground ball was fielded cleanly by Eugenio Suarez, but his throw to plate was too late to catch the sliding Slater.

In the eighth, the Giants added on with Maurice Dubon’s RBI single which was actually a catchable pop fly that bounced out of Jonathan India’s glove allowing Evan Longoria to score from second base.

The Reds homered twice in Monday’s series opener, and twice more in the first inning on Tuesday, but Giants’ pitching shut them down after that with the bullpen coming up big both days.

In the eighth, after Jonathan India drew a leadoff walk, Tyler Rogers induced a double play ground ball from Tyler Stephenson. And in the ninth, closer Jake McGee allowed a base hit to Joey Votto, but struck out Eugenio Suarez on three pitches to end it while picking up his Major League-leading sixth save.

The Giants travel back east on Thursday before opening a three-game series in Miami on Friday night. Anthony DeSclafani will start for the Giants, while the Marlins have yet to name a starter for the 4:10pm start.

Giants dig too deep of a hole in 6-4 loss to the Astros, fall to 2-6 on road trip

By Morris Phillips

The series opener at Minute Maid Park afforded the struggling Giants one of two scenarios:

A well-placed opportunity against a good club on a bad stretch in the Astros, just off an ugly brawl and getting swept in Oakland, another distraction for the Major League’s most burdened ballclub in recent memory. Add to that Monday’s starter Lance McCullers Jr. sporting an alarming 9.22 ERA after three starts…

Or another sobering example of the marginally talented Giants being dealt too many road games against contending clubs in unforgiving stadiums in the first 20 games of a gone-before-you-know-it, 60-game season.

A 6-4 loss had the Giants firmly relegated to the second rendering with the Astros blasting off to 6-0 lead only to hang on as pinch hitter Evan Longoria lined out to end it with runners at the corners. McCullers was at his best, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh, after he allowed a career-worst eight runs in his last start.

The 26-year old right-hander retired 19 of the first 20 Giants he faced, with the one hiccup a hit-by-pitch facing Austin Slater leading off the third inning. Donovan Solano broke up McCullers’ gem with a sharply-hit grounder that eluded third baseman Alex Bregman and went for a double.

“We needed a win tonight. We needed to start the homestand on a big, positive note and we did that,” said McCullers, who missed the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery.

While the Giants couldn’t buy a hit, they stacked up the errors, two by Solano filling in at third, and one by catcher Chadwick Tromp, all in the first four innings. Those miscues made life tough for starter Logan Webb, who was charged with five runs, only two of which were earned, before he was lifted in the fourth inning.

“I think he can be proud of going through that lineup and not really giving up on much hard contact,” manager Gabe Kapler said in Webb’s defense. “I think we have better in us behind him that’s for sure.”

Connor Menez steadied the Giants with two plus innings of relief marred only by Martin Maldonado’s solo shot. That homer was the 28th allowed by Giants’ pitching, and it marked the 15th consecutive game they’ve allowed at least one home run, tying an ignominious  franchise record for the second time.

Solano’s double extended his hit streak to 15 games. He doubled again in the ninth, part of the Giants’ three-run rally to make things interesting. The 32-year old Solano is hitting .458, second only to Charlie Blackmon at .484 in the majors.

The Giants are 4-8 on the road, with all 12 road games at Dodgers Stadium, Coors Field and Minute Maid Park, traditionally tough places to play. The Giants’ stretch of 14 of 20 on the road to start the season ends on Wednesday.

Tyler Anderson starts Tuesday for the Giants on a matchup against Houston’s Brandon  Bielak.



Slater, Giants bring the noise to Oakland in 6-2 Summer Camp win

By Morris Phillips

Austin Slater knows he’ll be around, he just doesn’t know what his role will be. Given that, Monday’s exhibition in Oakland was about defining things.

Mission accomplished.

Slater had three hits, two doubles and five RBI in the Giants 6-2 Summer Camp win over the A’s. The utilityman was penciled into manager Gabe Kapler’s right-handed dominant lineup as the leadoff guy with pop. Given his success, and Kapler’s preference for platoons, don’t be surprised if Slater assumes the role again this weekend against the Dodgers, for the season-opening series in which the Giants expect to see lefty starters in three of the four games.

During spring and summer training, Slater seen time defensively at every position on the diamond except pitcher and catcher. The 27-year old carries a collection of gloves, and doesn’t seem rattled by all the uncertainty needed as a reserve. Kapler wasn’t around, but Slater’s sneaky good 2019 season helps his cause as well.

“I think guys are able to round out their game and not be so narrowed in on one specific position,” Slater said of his expansive skill set. “It helps you understand the game. It helps the team.”

Slater, singled in the first and doubled in the second off A’s starter Sean Manaea. The double came with bases loaded and cleared the bases. Then in the seventh, Slater took advantage of lefty reliever Jake Diekman with a two-run double.

Nine Giants pitchers, starting with Kevin Gausman, saw an inning of work, and none of the nine gave up more than one hit. Tyler Anderson surrendered Stephen Piscotty’s home run in the second, and 26-year Caleb Baragar gave up a hit, walk and a run in the fourth.

Chadwick Tromp doubled and scored, and Jaylinn Davis singled and scored twice for the Giants.

The abbreviated summer camp concludes Tuesday as the two teams meet again at Oracle Park in San Francisco.

Kapler and several of his players elected to kneel during the national anthem prior to the game. The socially conscious manager announced his plan to kneel before the game, while encouraging his players to kneel or do whatever they were comfortable with.

“I wanted them to know that I wasn’t pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality, and I told them I wanted to amplify their voices and I wanted to amplify the voice of the Black community and marginalized communities, as well,” Kapler said.


Pillar wins it late to give Giants the series; SF defeats Phillies 9-6

photo from  San Francisco Giants’ Kevin Pillar swings for an RBI triple off Philadelphia Phillies’ Nick Pivetta in the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, in San Francisco.

By Jeremy Kahn

SAN FRANCISCO — When the San Francisco Giants they knew that were getting a hitter with power and potential, and this season, Kevin Pillar has done just that.

Pillar went 2-for-4, including the go-ahead triple in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 9-6 before a crowd of 36,637 at Oracle Park.

The win by the Giants gave them the series, their first series win since winning two out of three against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.

Evan Longoria led off the inning with a single, and then after both Stephen Vogt and Scooter Gennett were retired by Jose Alvarez, Nick Pivetta came on to face Pillar and he put into the right-center field alley that easily scored Longoria from first base.

Brandon Crawford was then intentionally walked, so that Pivetta could face Will Smith, who was making his first ever plate appearance. With Smith at the plate, Crawford stole second and then Smith shocked everyone, as he lashed an opposite field single that scored both Pillar and Crawford; however, Bryce Harper nearly ruined it, as his throw just missed getting Smith at first base.

Joey Rickard then doubled Smith to third base, where he shared a laugh with Ron Wotus and after a Brandon Belt walk, Pivetta finally got out of the inning, as he got Mike Yastrzemski to ground out to end the inning.

This was a wild game that saw everything, as the Giants took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, as Belt led off the inning with a walk, Yastrzemski then doubled off the left field wall and then Longoria gave the Giants the lead, when he singled up the middle off of Phillies starter Jake Arrieta.

Vogt then singled off of Arrieta that sent Longoria to third base; however, Arrieta regrouped to get Gennett to strike out and then Pillar grounded into a double play that ended the inning.

That 2-0 lead by the Giants was gone by the top of the second inning, as the Phillies erupted for three runs and that was end of the night for Giants starter Conner Menez.

J.T. Realmuto and Scott Kingery each walked, and after Sean Rodriguez struck out, Cesar Hernandez singled to load the bases. Arrieta then struck out for the second out of the inning, but the Phillies got on the board, when Roman Quinn walked and then Harper hit a two-run single that gave the Phillies the lead and that was it for Menez.

Jandel Gustave ended the inning, as he got Rhys Hoskins to fly out to Austin Slater and stop any further damage.

In all, Menez lasted just 1.2 innings, allowing three runs on just two hits, walking three and striking out four.

The Phillies attacked the Giants again in the top of the third inning, as Hernandez hit a two-run single off of the Giants third pitcher of the game and second reliever, Andrew Suarez, who came on to replace Gustave, when Corey Dickerson came on to pinch hit for Rodriguez.

Unfortunately for the Phillies that was the score for just one-half inning, as the Giants came all the way back to tie up the game, as Yastrzemski hit his 12th home run of the season. Longoria then picked up his second hit in as many at-bats, and after a Vogt fly out, Gennett doubled in Longoria to cut the Phillies lead down to one. Pillar then singled in Gennett to tie up the game.

Menez, who went from being on the hook for the loss, ended up getting a no-decision and Arrieta also did not fare in the decision, as he went three innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, walking just one and striking out five.

Gennett gave the Giants once again in the bottom of the sixth inning, as he hit his second home run of the season and first at home. His home run landed in McCovey Cove, the 80th Splash Hit by a Giants batter since the ballpark opened on April 11, 2000.

Dickerson tied up the game in the top of the eighth inning, as his sacrifice fly that took Yastrzemski to the wall easily scored Realmuto from third base. Realmuto led off the inning with a single, then went to third on a Kingery double.

Smith, who came on to replace Tony Watson prior to the Dickerson sacrifice fly then walked Hernandez intentionally and Brad Miller flew out to Yastrzemski to end the inning.

In all, the Giants pitched the final 7.1 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, walking eight and striking out six.

Smith, who was unable to save the game for just the third time this season ended up with the victory, as he went the final 1.2 innings, allowing just two walks and a strikeout to improve his record to 4-0 on the season.

As a staff, the Giants walked 11 batters and this was the first time since September 20,2006 against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field where they won a game like that. It was the 11th time since moving to San Francisco in 1958 that the Giants (2019 J.G. Spink Award Jayson Stark gets credit for that stat).

NOTES: Gustave, Trevor Gott and Smith each made their first ever plate appearances during the game, and this was the first time since September 21, 1934 that three pitchers made their first ever appearances at the plate in the same game. Sherman Edwards, Whitey Wistert and Lee Grissom each went to the plate for the first time for the Cincinnati Reds in a 16-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field. That is the only other time since 1913 that this occurred in a game, according to STATS, INC.

The 11 walks by the Phillies are a season high, and the first time they turned the trick since April 26, 2009 against the Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium in a 13-2 Phillies victory.

Prior to the game, the Giants honored their 1989 National League Championship team, as Will Clark, Don Robinson, Bill Bathe, Chris Speier, Ernie Camacho, Brett Butler, Terry Kennedy, Craig Lefferts, Ernest Riles, Donell Nixon, Atlee Hammaker, Dave Dravecky, Greg Litton, Kelly Downs, Robby Thompson and Mike Krukow were joined on the field by coaches Bill Fahey, Dusty Baker, Norm Sherry and manager Roger Craig.

They also memorialized Jose Uribe, Wendell Kim, Hank Greenwald and General Manager Al Rosen.

Giants President then announced the surprise of the night, The Thrill of the Night, as the Number 22, worn by Will Clark will be retired during the 2020 season.

Clark will join Bill Terry, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry and Willie McCovey in that elusive club.

Christy Mathewson and John McGraw are honored by the team with the letters NY, as they never wore numbers for the Giants.

Jackie Robinsons number 42 is retired throughout Major League Baseball and is also on the façade on the Club Level at Oracle Park.

Ford Frick Award Winners Jon Miller, Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges are honored on the Club Level.

UP NEXT: Madison Bumgarner takes on the mound on Tuesday evening, as the Oakland As make their only trip to San Francisco this season. The As return to the Bay Area after splitting six games in Chicago will send Brett Anderson to the mound in the opener.

Comfortable Late: Giants hang around then pounce, beat the Cubs, 5-4

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s been nearly a year since the Giants sported a winning record, and this time, it feels like it fits.

The Giants rallied for two runs in the eighth, surprising the equally hot Cubs in a 5-4 win at Oracle Park on Monday night. The win was the Giants 16th in their last 19 games, which apparently is the length of time required for a bad ballclub to gain its footing.

In the previous three weeks, the Giants have crushed the ball, and overwhelmed the opposition on the road, and they’ve pitched, defended and picked their spots at home. On Monday, the Giants executed the latter, coming up with consecutive RBI doubles from Austin Slater and Joe Panik in the eighth to cap a comeback from being down 3-0 in the fourth.

By improving to 51-50, the Giants remained within two games of the second wild card placeholder, St. Louis. Just as importantly, they continue to gain the faith of their own front office, that now may be less likely to break up a good thing before the July 31 trade deadline.

“We’re playing our best baseball right now,” said Panik. “There’s something about this team. We’re a collective group. It’s not just one guy doing it all.”

With 61 games remaining, how could the previously last-place Giants pull this off and grab a wild card berth? Well, their schedule and the math make this three-pronged scenario a possibility.

First, they post a winning record over their next seven games leading up to the trade deadline. GM Farhan Zaidi continues to monitor the trade front while his team’s won-loss record weighs heavily on whether he buys or sells. Being at least 55-53 a week from now after the two remaining games against the Cubs, three at San Diego, and the first two of three at Philadelphia keeps the Giants where they are: a game or two out of the second wild card spot, and on the heels of the Cardinals, Phillies and Brewers, the teams they must catch.

Second, they need to win 36 of their remaining 61 games to gain an 87-75 record, which is modest, but could land them in a favorable spot when compared to the other three clubs, none of which have shown the ability to get hot and run away from the pack.

And third, the Giants only have 11 games remaining against the trio they’re pursuing. Seven road games at St. Louis and Philadelphia, and four home games against the Phillies. Their season series against the Brewers is concluded (Giants won 4 of 6 against Milwaukee). Win more than half of those 11 games, and it makes it far more likely the Phillies or Cardinals don’t get hot and approach, or reach 90 wins.

On Tuesday, Madison Bumgarner faces the Cubs in a matchup against Yu Darvish at 6:45 pm. And yes, it’s unlikely to feel or be treated like Bumgarner’s final start in a Giants’ uniform at Oracle Park.

“I’m proud of them and how they played their way into playing important games,” manager Bruce Bochy said of his Giants. “I can’t think of a season quite like this. We’ve had some ups and downs, but to go from where we were to where we are, it’s made this even more enjoyable.”