Bullpen Bopped: Giants upended by the Padres in 9-6 loss, NL West lead drops to 1 1/2 games

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–When you’re as good as the Giants have been in 2021, circumstances often don’t matter. This guy back in, that guy out with COVID, formidable opponent, less than ideal scheduling and travel, for the best in baseball Giants it hasn’t mattered.

On Wednesday night, with their bullpen showing strain, and the visiting Padres as desperate as desperate comes, the Giants’ circumstances did matter.

The Padres saddled all seven Giants’ relievers that pitched with at least two hits, in a 16-hit attack that overwhelmed the home team from the first inning on. San Diego broke a 5-game losing streak, and kept their dissipating playoff hopes alive with a 9-6 win.

It’s not ideal,” manager Gabe Kapler said of attempting to beat the Padres twice in three games by utilizing a row of relievers. “We have to make the best of it, and I think thus far we’ve been able to do that. Tonight was definitely not that. We just got beat.”

Minus Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto, the Giants have soldiered on with just three starters… for the first half of September. That’s a long stretch for a major league baseball to be out of its routine, and even more challenging at this stage of a long season.

The answer: the Giants won 11 of 14 despite all the upheaval.

“I think it’s pretty tough to ask them to go out there like this multiple times a week, but they’ve done it,” Brandon Belt said of the bullpen’s heroism. “They haven’t said a word, and they’ve gotten the job done, for the most part. Tonight we just couldn’t pick them up.”

Dominic Leone got the start for the second time in this series as the opener, and finally the bullpen ace with the ridiculously low ERA faltered. Two of three batters Leone faced drew walks, and big swinging Fernando Tatis Jr. singled to shortstop. Three batters into the game, Leone was done, after pitching five scoreless inning in three previous starts this month.

That start triggered the Padres, who have been in an incredible slide in which they’ve gone from wild card probables to barely breathing by losing 21 of 29. Adam Walker’s RBI double gave the Padres a 2-0 first inning lead, and they stretched it to 5-0 in the second when Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer came up with big hits off Jarlin Garcia.

Still the Giants battled, extending their streak of scoring at least six runs in a game to 10, the longest such streak in their San Francisco history. The biggest issues blunting the Giants’ comeback: Brandon Crawford’s second inning error triggered San Diego’s three-run rally, and Jose Quintana–the former Angel picked up off waivers two weeks ago–got taken advantage of. The 51st of his 52 pitches thrown in the fifth and sixth innings was hammered by Jurickson Profar, a home run that increased the Padres’ dwindling lead to 7-3.

Oh, and one other issue: the Giants’ offense wasn’t particularly efficient. They hit four home runs–from Belt, Thairo Estrada, Kris Bryant and Steven Duggar–but none came with runners on base. The club’s scoring in five of the nine innings included just one crooked number, a two-run seventh in which Belt and Duggar went deep, while pinch hitter and late lineup scratch Mike Yastrzemski, Buster Posey and Tommy La Stella recorded routine outs.

For the Giants a long night, a unique night, but one in which their nine-game win streak (their longest since a 10-game run in 2004) ended, and the Dodgers won, decreasing their division lead to 1 1/2 games. The Giants had 40 at-bats, none of which involved a pitcher. They employed four pinch hitters, they had nine hits–six of those for extra bases–and drew five walks, and one hit batter (Crawford) but couldn’t overcome the Padres’ hit parade.

But they came close.

The Giants conclude their series with San Diego on Thursday afternoon as Kevin Gausman gets the start in search of his 15th win. Pierce Johnson, the San Diego reliever will oppose Gausman, as the Padres might show vulnerability with a bullpen game of their own just hours after the long Wednesday night game.

No Time to Let Up: Giants open homestand with a 9-1 thrashing of the Padres

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The best record in San Francisco Giants history through 144 games. At least six runs scored in each of the last eight games, all wins. Four more homers on Monday night.

And one more: a playoff berth–considered highly unlikely when the season began–clinched earlier on the calendar than the club has done previously in franchise history.

The Giants are once-in-a-generationally hot, and they’re not showing any signs of letting up.

“We’re definitely happy that we’re going to the playoffs, there’s no doubt about that,” Brandon Belt said. “But we want to win the division. This is the first step, but we didn’t come here just to make it in.”

“You have quite a few World Series champions in that room and people who understand that this is one step in the direction that we want to go, but not the ultimate goal,” manager Gabe Kapler added.

An 9-1 thrashing of the helpless Padres on Monday happened so fast, the final five innings held no intrigue–and almost no additional scoring. The Giants put up five in the first, and three more in the fourth to lead 8-1.

And this was bullpen night, which is usually problematic given the Giants currently have two empty slots in their rotation, but on this occasion was supreme. Dominic Leone started (for the third time, the first was September 5) and he remained perfect. Leone threw a pair of scoreless innings, and has five scoreless in total in his three starts.

Jose Alvarez followed, allowing the Padres’ only run on Fernando Tatis’ RBI double, and the relievers rolled out from there. Six in all saw action with rookie Kervin Castro pitching the eighth and ninth. The Giants are expected to again turn to their relievers on Wednesday as Johnny Cueto and Alex Wood remain on the shelf.

Tommy La Stella opened the scoring with a 414-foot shot to straight away center field. Evan Longoria capped the five-run frame with three-run shot. Those home runs sandwiched Lamonte Wade Jr.’s triple that scored Darin Ruf.

Yu Darvish took the loss, allowing all four home runs, which included bombs by Belt and Mike Yastrzemski, both of which traveled further than La Stella’s in the first. Darvish–at least in Giants’ broadcaster Dave Fleming’s opinion–maybe the poster child for the hastily-adopted rules aimed at eliminating pitchers using sticky substances to grip the baseball, and maximize the ball’s rotation. Darvish has won just twice since the new rules took effect, he was 6-1 in prior to that.

The Giants were in their fine-tuned, power swinging mode with just eight hits to score nine runs. Six of the eight went for extra bases, all previously mentioned with the exception of Brandon Crawford’s double that contributed to the team’s eighth inning rally that capped their scoring.

The Giants won’t see much change in the NL West standings–the Dodgers were winning 4-1 in the seventh at the time this article published–but the pressure is on the defending champions, as their equally hot play hasn’t earned them in any traction in the race for the division title. Only 18 games remain, and the Giants have the friendlier schedule with 12 remaining home games.

One last reminder of how hot the Giants are: if they capture 14 of their last 18 games, that would give them 108 wins on the season. While that would require an insanely torrid pace, one the team can’t be doggedly pursuing with the playoff preparation their biggest priority, it would mean incredible history. Only the 1975 Reds and 1986 Mets have won that many games in the divisional era which dates back to 1969.

On Tuesday, the Giants battle the Padres again with Anthony DeSclafani and Jake Arrieta the listed starters for the 6:45pm start.