Spoil Sports: Giants win 4-1, keep the Braves from gaining the NL East lead

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–This time, the weight of a long, draining baseball season fell squarely on the shoulders of the Atlanta Braves.

The Giants–on the strength of a couple of good night’s sleep in their own beds–were poised to take advantage.

Austin Wynns drove in three runs, and Carlos Rodon cruised through five innings before a blister issue forced him from the mound. The Giants have won four of five, following a five-game slide.

“I think we’re more than capable (of being) a winning team,” Rodon said. “Unfortunately, the way it’s gone this year, it’s been up and down for us and we’ve kind of been behind often. But as of late we’ve played really well.”

The Braves looked sluggish facing Rodon and the four relievers that followed, with their top of the order guys–Ronald Acuna Jr. batting leadoff, Darby Swanson, Austin Riley and Matt Olson–all posting 0 for 4 games.

Charlie Morton, the Braves’ starter with a long history of success against the Giants (15 starts, four wins, 2.55 ERA coming in) took the loss, allowing four runs on four hits before he departed in the sixth inning. Morton suffered his first loss since July 27.

The Braves concluded an eight-game, three-city trip (Oakland, Seattle and San Francisco) with a thud. Manager Brian Snitker commented after the game that he felt like his club hadn’t been home in forever. It showed on Wednesday, their fourth loss in five games, and they failed to overtake the Mets for the NL East lead with the loss.

“You’re trying to win every game,” Snitker said. “Every game is big. They all mean a lot now.”

Rodon’s blister issue can’t be taken lightly. So much speculation has been spent on whether the former White Sox pitcher will opt-in to his $22 million option for next year with the Giants, or choose to test the free agent market. Which ever decision he makes, a bunch of money will be involved, and the Giants will want to make their best impression in hopes of keeping him.

“We felt like where we were in the season, it was the right decision to get him out of there,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “I don’t anticipate (Rodon missing time) but we’re going to be cautious with Carlos and talk to him tomorrow and see how he’s feeling and go from there.”

“It’s just something I’ve been dealing with all year,” Rodon said. “Whenever I get a lot of pressure on that slider, it just tends to crack and get that blood blister, so just something we’ve got to manage.”

Rodon improved to 13-8 with the win, matching Logan Webb for the team lead in wins.

The Giants open a weekend set with the Dodgers on Friday night. Webb will be matched with Los Angeles’ Dustin May in the opener.

Rockies Rise Up: After a string of poor results in SF, Colorado gets the best of the Giants with series-clinching 4-2 win

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The best case scenario for the up-and-down Giants was to use the Rockies’ visit as a confidence-building spring board into their big series with the division-leading Dodgers over the weekend.

That wasn’t how the last three days played out.

The Giants squandered a win-worthy pitching performance from Logan Webb, going the final seven innings scoreless in a 4-2 loss to Colorado on Thursday afternoon. Four errors, two in the same inning by second baseman Thairo Estrada, didn’t help Webb or the Giants.

“I don’t think we played our best defense,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It’s a really tough league when you’re not converting ground balls into outs. I think we’ve seen consistently a better brand of defense than we’ve played today.”

The Giants appeared to be doing their thing, scoring early with two runs in the second, and then turning to Webb to shut down an opponent that’s experienced very little success at Oracle Park over the last three seasons. Then a sloppy fourth inning turned that strategy to mush, as the Rockies struck for three runs, the product of three singles and three Giants’ errors. In that mix, Estrada first dropped a fly ball, then booted a ground ball when baserunner C.J. Cron apparently distracted him as he ran to second base.

All the upheaval definitely threw Webb off his game. The Giants’ pop-up ace was in sights of a 18th, consecutive start punctuated by a win at home, and he was pitching accordingly. Instead he was lifted in the sixth, trailing, after allowing six singles and a double to Charlie Blackmon. Webb struck out three, walked one and pitched efficiently, starting 20 of the 26 batters he faced with a strike.

Webb also got a great deal of support from Austin Wynns, the Giants’ newly acquired catcher in a trade with Philadelphia, who picked up a pair of hits, a run batted in, and almost immediately appeared locked into the program behind the plate.

He was awesome,” Webb said of Wynns. “He came up to me before the game … and he was like, ‘I watched your last four outings. You do this and this and this. I’m like, you know more about what I do than I’m actually thinking about doing.”

But none of the good stuff added up, not with the Giants’ offense absent after the second inning. In Monday’s loss to the Rockies, they did the same thing, scoring three runs in the first, and going the remaining eight innings scoreless. Austin Gomber, with six losses coming in and an ERA hoovering around six, made it work, throwing six innings to get the win. Manager Bud Black had kind words for Gomber and all his guys, who he noted didn’t give in to the prevailing story line of doom at Oracle Park, where they had lost 14 of 19.

“We strung some hits together,” Black said. “That was big as well. We stayed on the attack against a very tough pitcher. They helped us a little bit in the fourth defensively. But our guys kept battling.”

The Giants’ offense will get a boost from Brandon Belt and Lamonte Wade Jr., but neither slugger will be available for the Dodgers this weekend. The Giants are also down a starter with Alex Cobb on the shelf, meaning they’ll undoubtedly go the bullpen route in at least one of the last two games with the Dodgers giving the ball to Walker Buehler Friday and Julio Urias on Saturday.

Looking for the thrilling sequel to the 2021 NLDS series between the two clubs. Well, if so, the Giants are going to need to pick up their game under trying circumstances.

Jakob Junis gets his first appearance against the Dodgers in the Friday opener opposite Buehler at 7:15pm.