Bad, Good: X-Ray reveals fracture in Brandon Belt’s thumb as Giants hope to capture NL West title

By Morris Phillips

The Giants have announced that first baseman Brandon Belt has a fracture in his left thumb, the result of a 93-mph fastball thrown by Lucas Gilbreath that clipped Belt as he squared to bunt in Sunday’s game in Denver.

Belt recoiled in pain upon the impact of the pitch and was removed from the game. The 33-year old in the midst of perhaps the biggest month of his career (.349 with 9 home runs, 18 RBI and 30 hits) expressed doubt that the injury was serious after the game, but it’s clear he will miss the final week of the regular season and at least the start of the playoffs.

Officially, the team said that Belt will meet with doctors tomorrow and in the days after to develop a plan of action, and a determination of how long he will be out. An update is expected after the first meeting with doctors tomorrow.

Belt suffered a broken left thumb in 2014 and missed 51 games. On that occasion in which he was hit by a pitch thrown by the Dodgers’ Paul Maholm, and the initial prognosis was that he would miss six weeks, and he ended up missing eight. In 2014, Belt played in a career-low 61 games (in 2020, Belt played in 51 of 60, the shortened season impacted by the COVID crisis) finishing with just 12 homers and 27 RBI. But that season, Belt was healthy for the postseason, hitting .295 with 18 hits in 17 games as the Giants captured the World Series title.

The difference between the two injuries? Belt (and manager Bruce Bochy) knew immediately his thumb was broken in 2014, but the injury transpired in the season’s 36th game, early enough for him to recover and aid the team’s postseason push.

This time, the timing couldn’t be any worse. Not only are the Giants battling for the division title with six games remaining, a potential showdown with the Dodgers would begin October 8, a date that might not be possible for Belt to meet even if his fracture doesn’t require surgery and he makes a quick recovery.

Besides the Belt injury, Sunday was another revelation for the club in that they again came up big late in a ballgame, besting the Rockies 6-2 and sweeping the three-game series in Denver. That, along with a Saturday loss by the Dodgers to Arizona in which starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw was roughed up for four runs before being lifted in the fifth inning of a 7-2 decision, gives the Giants a two-game lead with six games remaining.

According to’s playoff odds, the Giants now have 90.3 percent chance to capture the division, with the Dodgers clinging to hope with a 9.7 percent chance to prevail. The Giants have the easier schedule with home games against the Diamondbacks and the Padres, while the Dodgers close with the Padres for three, then the Brewers for three. Milwaukee has clinched the NL Central, but in a bit of scheduling intrigue may not be content to play their backups as they will be visiting Dodgers Stadium for the first time in 2021, and may want their regular lineups battle tested against the team they lost to in Game 7 of the 2018 NLCS.

The Brewers quietly could be planning big things. They have held of the challenge of the Cardinals–currently riding a 16-game win streak–and have several things in their favor heading into the final week:

The Brewers can, again, both rest and prepare, more likely with them playing their backups in a series with St. Louis beginning Tuesday, then ramp it up for the Dodgers over the weekend without hampering their preparation for Game 1 of the NLDS with them likely hosting Atlanta on October 8. Milwaukee already knows it will have home field advantage in the NLDS, and that they will avoid consecutive series against the teams with the NL’s best records, the Giants and the Dodgers. Also, if the Dodgers prevail over the Giants in a likely NLDS showdown, and the Brewers advance, Milwaukee would have home field against Los Angeles in the championship series.

Not what Giants’ fans would want, but Milwaukee is formidable with starters Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff along with closer Josh Hader (34 saves). Also, they’ve qualified for the postseason for the fourth straight season and have that 2018 disappointment they like to settle with Los Angeles.

For the Giants, especially with Belt injured, winning the division as quickly as possible is an even bigger aspiration. Look for them to go all out to sweep the D’Backs and put tremendous pressure on the Dodgers going into the final weekend. As an aside, Madison Bumgarner is the announced pitcher for Arizona in Thursday’s series finale, which would be his first time pitching in San Francisco since he signed with the D’Backs in the offseason prior to the 2020 season.

Also, the Giants would like to end things in the NL West as soon as possible to clear the path for Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir to pitch in the same game to test both veterans’ postseason readiness. If the division is clinched, that pairing of Cueto and Kazmir could come Saturday against San Diego.

On Tuesday, the Giants open their series with Arizona in front of a large, home crowd and Logan Webb on the mound. Arizona has announced Luke Weaver as their starter. Weaver is 0-4 with a 7.94 ERA in his five starts on the road.

Tight Squeeze: Giants’ NL West lead just one game after 7-4 loss to the Padres

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Well, this divisional race won’t be blurting out magic numbers anytime soon… if at all.

The Giants fell to the Padres 7-4 on Thursday afternoon, a second consecutive loss after nine straight wins that has the upstarts clinging to a one game lead over the establishment with 15 games remaining for both.

San Francisco’s season for the ages could also include a regular season finish for the ages. With the two best teams in baseball battling in one division–along with being long time bitter rivals–it doesn’t get any better than this. The Padres–with six games remaining with San Francisco, and three with Los Angeles–will have a say along with trying to further their own playoff hopes.

“The Padres are fighting to get in, too, and we’re fighting to win a division. They’re certainly not going to roll over and just hand it to us. They have some guys who are having some really good years. I know they’ve had some injuries over there, but they’re a good team, and we’ll see them a bunch over these next two weeks,” Kris Bryant said.

On Thursday, the Padres were very good. Losers of 21 of 30 coming in, they roughed up Kevin Gausman with eight hits and four runs through five innings. Gausman was looking for his 15th win, but he left early, trailing 4-0. After putting up a paltry two runs in two lopsided losses to start the series, the Padres bounced back with 30 hits on Wednesday and Thursday, many of them of heavy contact variety.

“I think we can chalk it up to kind of running into the best version of them,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

The Giants streak of scoring at least six runs ended at 10 games, and again, like Wednesday night, the offense came in pieces not chunks. After Pierce Johnson and Nabil Crismatt shut the Giants offense down through five innings, they scored single runs in innings six through nine. Not only was the output lacking, the hosts failed to put the pressure on the previous faltering guests by climbing within a couple of runs. The Padres’ three-run seventh keyed by pinch hitter Wil Myers and Manny Machado ended all the suspense.

Evan Longoria homered in the eighth inning and contributed two hits. And all eight position players in the starting lineup had at least one hit for the Giants, but with runners on base the whole lineup couldn’t produce. The Giants finished 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

On Friday, the Giants open a series with the Braves, leaders of the NL East. Red hot Logan Webb will face Ian Anderson in the opener at 6:45pm. The Dodgers were off on Thursday, and they travel to Cincinnati for a meeting with the Reds to start their final, 9-game road trip of the season.

Back To Jacks: Giants go home run-happy once again in 10-5 win at Colorado

By Morris Phillips

Now that the pressure’s off, the Giants are swing happy once again.

Definitely a statement made tongue in cheek, but the Giants are done battling the Dodgers for now, and they looked loose and lethal in whipping the Rockies 10-5 on Labor Day afternoon in Denver.

The final 25 games of what’s becoming a signature season in the century plus history of the franchise promise to be jam-packed with tense moments. Those moments just didn’t surface on Monday: Kevin Gausman pitched the Giants into a comfortable place, and the team’s home run bats took it from there. A short turnaround from a late afternoon start in San Francisco to an early afternoon start two time zones away didn’t take away from the effort either.

“To be honest, I was expecting everyone to be a little sluggish,” starter Kevin Gausman said. “We expended a lot of energy that last series just mentally. And being locked in every single pitch and to come out, from the get-go, they were locked in. Quality at-bats and really making Freeland work.”

“The whole crew has a very, very quick turnaround and tired eyes this morning,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “These guys got ramped up well, got prepared and ready to hit, obviously, from the first pitch.”

Darin Ruf starred as the unlikely catalyst, thrust into the leadoff role in the absence of injured Austin Slater, who has concussion symptoms. Ruf homered in the first, and tripled in the four-run fifth, as the Giants jumped to a 8-1 lead and chased the Rockies’ Kyle Freeland, who beat the Giants earlier at Oracle Park and had been on a roll since the All-Star break. Freeland was looking to build on his 5-1 record against the Giants at Coors Field in his 10th home start against the visitors, but he was in trouble from the start.

Ruf and Buster Posey hit homers in the first inning, and Thairo Estrada homered in the fourth and the fifth innings. Ruf’s two-run triple capped the rally in the fifth. That blast came off Ben Bowden, who was summoned to replace Freeland.

Gausman turned in his most impressive and lengthiest outing since the All-Star break, pitching seven innings, allowing five hits and three runs. The Centennial, Colorado native may have energized by participating in the first starting pitcher matchup between Denver-area natives (Freeland is from Denver), but after some short outings in early July, he’s been trending back toward his season start and he picked up his 13th win for his efforts.

“I almost talked to Kap before the game, ‘Let me go 130 pitches, whatever it takes. These guys need a day off.,'” Gausman said. “I had some quick innings, some long (at-bats) and then followed by a one-pitch out.”

Despite their ragged effort, the Rockies stand as one of the Giants most formidable obstacles down the stretch. The Giants finish a 16 games in 16 days stretch here this week, and return on September 24 for three more meetings. While the Rockies have been dreadful on the road, winning just 18 of 68 games thus far, they’re 45-25 at home, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde peformance that would be the biggest differential in home and road performance in the history of the Major Leagues if the percentages persist.

Freeland loomed as a big portion of the challenge facing Giants, as did the short turnaround, but at least on Monday, the Giants were up to the task.

On Tuesday, the Giants return to normalcy so to speak with an announced starter in Logan Webb, who may also give the bullpen a breather if he can continue his lengthy success now spanning more than half the season. The Rockies have announced Chi Chi Rodriguez as their starter.

Giants lose again to the Brewers, 5-2, fall behind the Dodgers in the NL West

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–After 115 days, the Giants are looking up.

A fourth, consecutive loss on Wednesday night allowed the Dodgers to pass the Giants in the NL West standings, just one game prior to the final meeting between the rivals in 2021.

With the additional drama of determining the division winner, the series takes on even more importance. But first, the Giants get one more opportunity to figure out the Brewers.

“Any time you have a little losing streak, it’s not fun,” catcher Buster Posey said. “This group’s shown an ability to bounce back throughout the year and that’s just what you have to believe you’re going to do.”

MIlwaukee jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second on Lorenzo Cain’s RBI hit that scored a pair of runs. Then with the score tied 2-2, the Brewers took advantage of the Giants’ bullpen with a run in the seventh, and two more in the ninth. Dominic Leone, who has been dynamite for the Giants pitching in setup roles, allowed a walk and an infield single in the seventh inning and took the loss.

The Giants’ offense managed eight hits–four of them doubles, two of those from Kris Bryant–but couldn’t come up with the big hit at any juncture along the way. They finished 2 of 14 with runners in scoring position, and also saw Lamonte Wade Jr. crush a ball in the eighth that looked like a game-tying home run but fell short for a table-setting double. Reliever Jake Cousins escaped damage when with two runners on, he struck out Austin Slater and got Thairo Estrada to ground out to end the inning.

Starter Kevin Gausman was effective, departing in a 2-2 tie after five innings. Gausman allowed just four hits and a walk while striking out seven. Five relievers followed Gausman, with Leone the tough-luck loser, and John Brebbia the only one of the quintet that got roughed up. Brebbia pitched the ninth, allowing Cain’s lead-extending home run, and Wily Adames’ RBI double.

While the Giants have slumped, the Brewers have soared, moving 30 games above .500 for the first time in more than 10 seasons. Milwaukee has a huge lead over Cincinnati in the NL Central, and is on track to best their franchise record with 99 wins on the season. They also are a dark horse candidate to sneak in and steal the NL’s best record from the Giants and Dodgers, which would put a new spin on the post season matchups.

The Giants have been hit hard in this stretch by injuries with Evan Longoria again out with a hand issue, and Johnny Cueto–Tuesday’s starter–back on the injury list for the third time. Also, Tommy La Stella is unavailable, and Wilmer Flores departed Wednesday’s game with a left hamstring injury.

Regardless, the Giants will have to answer the questions. In their most critical stretch of the season–10 games against the Brewers, Braves and Dodgers, they’re 1-5 against three teams that will undoubtedly comprise their two post-season opponents prior to the World Series if they get that far.

“I think now is the right time to really show a sense of urgency, continue to dig in on our process, but also not to have any panic,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “There’s no need for that.”

The good news? The Giants’ battle back up in the standings has an obvious path with Logan Webb–arguably the hottest pitcher in the National League–due to start Thursday afternoon against the Brewers. Webb has captured seven, consecutive decisions and allowed just six earned runs in his six starts in August.

And the pressure? If Webb falters, the Giants fall back to Anthony DeSclafani in the opener of the Dodgers’ series on Friday, and DeSclafani has had no success against the Dodgers this year, losing three decisions and allowing 22 earned runs in the process. Consecutive losses would put the Giants two games back with 27 remaining, increasing the doubt and the urgency.

On Thursday, Webb will be opposed by Milwaukee’s Eric Lauer, who has a 4-5 record with a 3.61 ERA.

Kris Boss: Bryant homers twice, Giants outlast the Mets, 7-5

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–On 77 occasions this season, the Giants have felt great about themselves and their play. After Monday’s win, that good feeling was running rampant throughout their clubhouse.

“We’re working the ball through the middle, we’re not letting the starter steal strikes from the very first pitch and we’re ready to go right when the bell rings,” Monday’s hero Kris Bryant said. “It’s really fun to be a part of.”

Bryant homered twice–the first time to give the Giants the lead, then later to build on that lead–and the Giants outlasted the Mets, 7-5 at Oracle Park. The team’s big trade deadline acquisition had gone more than two weeks without home run after doing so in his first game with his new club on August 1.

“After the second one, obviously back-to-back is going to get the crowd going,” Bryant said. “I felt that one. That one, I just can’t thank (the fans) enough. They’ve embraced me with open arms and it’s really been a great time playing in front of them.”

Bryant’s second homer in the seventh came one pitch after Brandon Belt connected, and extended the Giants lead to 6-3 in a game the Mets briefly led 3-2 in the fifth inning. The Mets answered with Jonathan Villar’s two-run shot in the eighth, but Jake McGee closed the door after that, pitching a 1-2-3 ninth for his career-best 26th save.

Bryant and McGee weren’t the Giants only stars on the night. In fact, there were a bunch as the club bagged its most satisfying win in weeks, and maintained its four-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West.

Kevin Gausman picked up his 12th win–a career high–by pitching five innings, allowing three runs while striking out seven. The seven strikeouts caught notice as the team’s ace has struggled since the All-Star break. On Monday however, Gausman had great fastball location, and life on his cutter, as Mets’ hitters struggled to find balance attacking his pitches. Still, Gausman’s outing wasn’t without its wart: Pete Alonso’s hard hit triple keyed a three-run fifth that briefly gave the Mets the lead.

Brandon Crawford continued his hot hitting with four hits, Wilmer Flores knocked in a run against his former team, and Brandon Belt came up big with his pinch-hit home run in the seventh.

A couple of the Mets complained about the scheduling that saw the team play at home in Citi Field on Sunday night against the Dodgers than have to fly all the way across country to face the Giants on Monday night. The Dodgers made the same trek, and survived, beating the Pirates 2-1. And to be fair, the Mets survived too, thanks to starter Rich Hill, and his underwhelming but effective repertoire that kept the Giants under raps until the fourth when they strung together five, consecutive hits for a 2-0 lead.

The Mets are in the midst of a concerning stretch of 13 games against the Giants and Dodgers that could decide their fate in the NL East. The club had lead the division until they slumped coming out of the All-Star break, allowing the Phillies and Braves to surge. The Mets are 0-4 in the stretch so far, a stretch which as challenging as any in the last 40 seasons at this stage of the season. Both the Dodgers and Giants have winning percentages above .600 and no club has faced teams with such superior win percentages 100 games into a season for this lengthy a stretch since the Blue Jays did it in 1980. The Jays didn’t fare well either, winning just four of the 13 games.

The Giants moved a season-best 35 games above .500, and have the second-best, 119-game start to a season in San Francisco Giants history at 77-42. The Giants have won 16 of 21, and a much more modest stretch of 23-20 to end the season would net them 100 wins.

On Tuesday, the Giants welcome the much anticipated appearance of Logan Webb, who will be trying to win a sixth, consecutive decision dating back to May 11. New York will counter with Marcus Stroman, who will be facing the Giants for only the second time, and the first as a Met.

What Else is New? Giants beat the D’Backs and hit a bunch of homers in the process

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Quite simply, the Arizona Diamondbacks are the most essential opponent in the world.

For example, without them, there wouldn’t be a best in baseball San Francisco Giants.

After Wednesday night’s harder-than-it-looked 7-2 victory over the D’Backs, the Giants are 32 games above .500 for the first time since 2003, but they’re 12 games above .500 against Arizona alone.

That’s a big chunk of a 110 plus game win-loss record, but that’s how division races are won, and how teams make postseason runs. Pick a divisional opponent, and over the course of 19 meetings, smash that opponent.

The Giants have done that, and it’s not over yet. They’ll get a chance to improve their 14-2 record against Arizona at the end of September, perfect timing for a first place club to get a little pick me up.

On Wednesday, the D’Backs allowed the Giants four home runs–their speciality–and a comfortable landing spot for Kevin Gausman after the birth of his second child allowed him to miss a start last week. Beyond that, Merrill Kelly, a guy who has twice previously beat the Giants at their own game–controlling “time of possession” as they call it–had a rough night, starting with him throwing 31 pitches in the first inning, insuring that he wouldn’t last as long as seven innings as he had done twice previously this season.

Kelly only made through five innings, as he couldn’t locate his cutter and control the inner half of the plate as he had done famously, having allowed just nine runs in 24 innings over four starts against the Giants earlier this season. Twice, Kelly had pitched into the seventh inning, and that’s a feat that has only been accomplished 10 times in 113 games against the Giants coming in. Most nights, the Giants wear down the opposing starter, but Kelly appeared to have the elixir with his cutter riding in on the inner half. On Wednesday, that pitch deserted him.

“This was the fifth or sixth time I think we’ve faced him this year,” Brandon Crawford said. “I think we did a good job of picking good pitches to hit. We put some good swings on the ball, and we were able to score some runs.”

With that Kelly issue solved, the Giants pounced building a 5-2 lead after five innings. And while the D’Backs didn’t disappear late, or blow a sizeable lead, or extend a once-in-a-baseball-life road losing streak, they did have their signature moment. Ketel Marte, an excellent centerfielder, saw Lamonte Wade Jr.’s two-run blast ride off his glove and over the wall in the fifth to extend the Giants’ lead. A highlight not to miss, from the numerous camera angles, saw Marte not have his finest moment and he nearly threw his glove in disgust. But to be fair, catching home run balls isn’t easy business and this one–after he located it and made his move on it–just got on him too fast. Wade’s ball was going out either way, Marte just added to the drama with his near miss.

Before Wade connected, Buster Posey gave the Giants a 3-1 lead in the third. And after, Crawford connected in the seventh, and pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson in the eighth. The big night for big flies increased the Giants’ season total to 174, the best total in baseball. In all, the Giants piled up 14 hits, six of those for extra bases, including Wilmer Flores’ softy that was well placed enough to set the Giants up to break a 1-1 tie in the second inning.

Gausman had his struggles in winning for the 11th time, and the staff ace needed 89 pitches to labor through five innings. But he limited damage, as he always does, and kicked in a pair of singles to boot, one that gave the Giants that 2-1 lead. Gausman was a life long American Leaguer with just two career hits before this season, but this season he has eight hits, the perfect additive for a hurler needing a pickup.

The Giants’ bullpen was near perfect again, handling the last four innings while allowing just two hits. Dominic Leone is quickly becoming the star of the bunch, making 31 appearances now while keeping his ERA insanely low (1.99).

Logan Webb gets the start on Thursday in a matchup with Colorado’s All-Star starter German Marquez. The Rockies had won five of six, but dropped their last two in a matchup with the first-place Astros.

Here Comes the Trade Deadline: Giants will be buyers, albeit smart buyers

By Morris Phillips

The Dodgers have the shiniest rings, the flashiest talent and superior depth, and money, always good at the trade deadline.

The Padres have a deep roster, Fernando Tatis Jr. and a wheeler-dealer mentality that trumps any seen previously at the big league level.

The Giants? They have a two-game lead in the NL West, the most remaining home games, and a pragmatic approach that’s almost guaranteed to underwhelm most trade deadline evaluators.

How will the Giants make this work?

As best they can, given their obvious restraints.

Team president Farhan Zaidi has made a bunch of progress in his nearly two years at the helm. The Giants farm system is healthy, the salary structure has clear definition, and this summer–when numerous, big ticket contracts come off the books–is the critical period for the organization to strike in the free agent market.

But the team wants to win now, and capitalize on its stature of being ahead of schedule, and ahead of the pack with MLB’s best won-loss record through 99 games. The schedule will be a factor in the decision making: only six of the remaining 63 games are against the Dodgers. Instead the Giants will see San Diego and Colorado 10 times, and Arizona nine. They’ll also see Milwaukee seven times, and the Braves and Mets six times each. Their home heavy schedule is considerably softer than say the Dodgers, who are on the road for 12 of the next 17, and nine straight within the last three weeks of the season.

The Giants won’t do as much as the Dodgers or Padres. The Dodgers want another starter–Trevor Bauer may not pitch again this season–and that won’t be cheap. The Padres are weighing big options as well. The Giants will settle for an extra bullpen arm, or an under-the-radar starting pitcher as long as neither cost them a Joey Bart or Marco Luciano, who are being groomed to be future, homegrown stars.

Positionally, the Giants will rely on their trainers to get Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford healthy. With those four in the mix, the Giants will be loaded with lineup options around the diamond. Any new names added to that mix would have to be overwhelming, and likely replace on the names already in the fold.

San Francisco Giants podcast with Marko Ukalovic: Has Gausman run out of gas, concerns in most recent outings

San Francisco Giants number one starter Kevin Gausman seen in a previous game has struggled in his last two outings including Saturday night at Oracle Park on Sat Jul 24, 2021 against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates (Mercury News file photo)

On the San Francisco Giants podcast with Marko for Morris:

#1 San Francisco Giants starter Kevin Gausman was all the rage going into the All Star Break with a record of 9-2 he was the ace of the Giants pitching staff and is the number one starter. But his last two games have been rough particularly his last start on Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates were he got lit up in four plus innings for eight hits and six runs.

#2 In his first loss last Monday the Dodgers scored six runs and eight hits off Gausman in over four innings of work identical numbers of his work on Saturday night against the Pirates.

#3 Gausman’s splitter was dropping and he didn’t have Pirate hitters hitting off balance like he did in his previous wins. He didn’t have his old effectiveness and also didn’t throw as many splits. Could Gausman be hurting, is his mechanics off?

#4 Gausman’s wife Taylor was giving birth and experienced complications and Gausman had to take emergency family leave to be with Taylor in Louisiana that could also be on Gausman’s mind as well.

#5 The Giants have Monday off and host the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night at Oracle Park in San Francisco. The two clubs last met last week and the Giants took three out of four in LA. After this rough Pirates series could the tide change in the upcoming series on Tuesday?

Marko Ukalovic filled in for Morris Phillips who does the Giants podcasts each Monday at

Giant Jump: Posey gets plenty of help in dispatching the Dodgers 7-2 in big series opener

By Morris Phillips

Weren’t expecting Buster Posey to go star power on his first at-bat off the injured list? Probably weren’t expecting the Giants to move into first place in the NL West and stay there for nearly two months either.

The Giants got the jump on the Dodgers in this critical, four-game series on Monday with a 7-2 win, and they did it as only they can: with contributions from a bunch of guys, some of them virtually nameless.

Posey was the biggest name, homering in the first inning to put the Giants up 2-0. In a series involving baseball’s two best teams, his blast made a statement.

“To see him come out, step up to the plate and hit a big home run for us was incredibly impressive,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I thought he had great at-bats throughout the night.”

The disappointment of not making the statement Posey did stung the Dodgers. Manager Dave Roberts sure expressed that, after his club couldn’t push across any runs for the game’s final eight innings.

“Obviously we’ve got these guys three more times” this week, Roberts said. “I know my focus is to win a baseball game tomorrow. That’s all we can control.”

The Dodgers blew anoher opportunity to catch the Giants atop the division, they’ll get more opportunities, but so far none have been cashed in. Meanwhile, the Giants continue their unlikely season with their postseason and division win probability numbers increasing substantially. The Giants moved into first place May 31, and despite some hiccups, they’ve remained there ever since.

The first inning had all the fireworks with both teams coming up with back-to-back homers. Posey and Wilmer Flores gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, then Max Muncy and Justin Turner answered against Kevin Gausman, who had a rough return from emergency leave due to complications with his wife’s childbirth.

Not much offensively happened after the first, but both pitchers were doomed. The Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin lasted just four innings, Gausman three.

“I’m not locating well with the heater,” Gonsolin said. “Slider is hit or miss. Splitter is about hit or miss. Curveball’s actually decent right now.”

Gonsolin’s only gone past the fourth inning once in seven starts. That’s an issue for the Dodgers now that Trevor Bauer’s availability is at the height of uncertainty. The Giants exploiting the issue of Los Angeles’ thinning starting rotation only exacerbated what was already a problem. The Dodgers don’t have an announced starter for Tuesday–they’ll throw Julio Urias and Walker Buehler in the series final, two games–and they don’t have the injured Clayton Kershaw either. The Giants won’t see him, but David Price is also being given an opportunity to start some games, and heralded rookie Josiah Gray could make his debut on Tuesday.

The Giants have Alex Wood taking the mound on Tuesday. Wood had a rough stretch, but four of his last five starts have resulted in Giants’ wins. Having a former Dodger facing his ex-teammates in this spot provides tremendous motivation. For the Giants, Tuesday’s matchup against the Dodgers’ unknown is a win.

Five Giants relievers followed Gausman Monday, and they completely shut everything down. Only closer Jake McGee allowed a hit, and the Giants cruised in a game that could have been filled with continuous stress.

Jason Vosler, Thairo Estrada and Austin Slater provided RBI hits in a four-run seventh inning. Estrada, the former Yankee who hit just four homers in 61 games with the Bombers the last two seasons, now has a prominent spot with the Giants replacing Brandon Crawford at shortstop. On Monday, he delivered.

The Giants also produced an impressive hit total of 12 against a pitching staff that’s been difficult for them. The Dodgers managed just four hits, and their crowd of 50,000 plus was near silent for most of the game.

Cardinals beat Giants at their own game, win series opener 5-3 at Oracle Park

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Major League hitters don’t come to the park at spray line drives all over the place for nine innings like in days past. Now, they sport paltry batting averages, pick their spots and keep their focus on trying to impact the game with something big.

That’s the Giants winning style. And on Monday, the Cardinals adopted that style and thrived.

Matt Carpenter’s two-run triple in the seventh inning broke a scoreless tie, and sent to the Cardinals to a 5-3 win at Oracle Park in the opener of the Giants’ final homestand before the All-Star break. The Cardinals came to San Francisco sporting a chip on their collective shoulders from too many, narrow losses in recent weeks.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games and we’ve won some and we’ve lost some lately that have stung,” manager Mike Shildt said.

Carpenter cashed in a competitive at-bat against Giants’ All-Star Kevin Gausman, who was on his way to dropping his miniscule ERA even lower when he left a pitch over the plate to Carpenter in a hitters’ count. The breakthrough wasn’t easily had; Gausman had dealt to that point, allowing just one hit over the first six innings.

Carpenter, hitting just .174 coming into the at-bat, described his blast off the base of the left field wall as a breath of fresh air.

“I’d be OK if that was the swing that turned it around,” Carpenter said. “If we can have those kind of competitive at-bats that we showed and we did against a guy who is as good as anybody we’re going to face all season — if we can do that consistently, we’re going to catch some people.”

While the loss kept the Giants from extending their lead in the NL West, and their perch above all MLB clubs with the best record in baseball, the Cardinals got a needed boost from their spot in fourth place in the NL Central. For a proud franchise like St. Louis, the season hasn’t been what’s expected, but they’re of the mindset to turn it around even if that transition comes against the Giants, who they host coming out of the All-Star break next week as well.

The Giants attempted to rally with a run in the eighth and two in the bottom of the ninth, but came up short. Gausman suffered losses in back-to-back starts for the first time this season, and the Giants failed to build on their home dominance after 26 wins in their first 37 home contests.

Kwang Hyun Kim matched Gausman with a seven-inning outing in which he allowed three hits and two walks and departed with a 2-0 lead. Alex Reyes pitched an eventful ninth inning, allowing RBI singles to Donovan Solano and Steven Duggar, but he closed out with a strikeout of LaMonte Wade Jr. with a runner at third base.

Curt Casali got the start behind the plate in place of the injured Buster Posey, who injured his finger in the finale in Arizona on Sunday. Manager Gabe Kapler didn’t offer much of an update on Posey, other than to say that he remains on the roster, and the possibility of him avoiding a trip to the injured list is still a possibility.

The Giants are also awaiting updates on Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella, Mike Tauchman and Brandon Belt as a major chunk of their offense is on the shelf heading into the break. Only Longoria appears to be a possibility to return to action during this homestand that concludes with the Washington Nationals over the weekend.

On Tuesday, veteran pitchers Adam Wainwright and Johnny Cueto matchup in the series’ second game at 6:45pm.