On a night Oracle Park hit rock bottom, the Giants showed how they might be able to help their home bounce back.
And why the fans are staying away in the first place.
The night’s attendance – 26,826 – was the lowest of a season that is over, playing against a Pirates team whose year is similarly in the tank, and represented the smallest turnout in the park since 2009. The team is tired, the crowd is tired and new blood would be a contributor to helping the park comes alive again.
But the biggest contributor would be more victories, which the Giants couldn’t secure.
Mauricio Dubon flaunted the instincts the Giants have raved about, Jaylin Davis recorded his first career RBI – in his home debut – but a bullpen lacking Will Smith and Tony Watson folded late in the Giants’ 6-4, series-opening loss to the Pirates on Monday.
The Giants entered the ninth with a 4-2 lead and without Smith, who hasn’t pitched since experiencing back soreness Saturday, and Watson, whose season may be over with a small left fracture in his left wrist. Tyler Rogers walked one, Fernando Abad loaded the bases with one out and Jandel Gustave gave up a game-tying single to Kevin Newman, followed by a go-ahead RBI single to Bryan Reynolds – whom the Giants gave up in the Andrew McCutchen trade.
Jose Osuna floated a shallow fly ball to Davis in right, and Davis came up firing a strike to Buster Posey – who dropped the ball for the Pirates’ final run in a game that would be described as a back-breaker if it occurred when the Giants still had hope for this season.
So in a way, the crowd picked an apt day to stay away, as the Giants dropped to 69-75 and Bruce Bochy remained at 1,995 wins for his career.
For the Giants to earn more ticket sales, they’ll need wins. Before their meltdown, they showed how they can wind up on the other side of these nail-biters.
Dubon and Davis looked solid, and the Giants of old came through, too – Madison Bumgarner throwing seven solid, two-run innings.
Bumgarner was the throwback he’s been for most of this season. He looked on fumes in the seventh, when he put two on without an out and the Giants’ bullpen got busy. But Bumgarner got two pop-outs to second and struck out Reynolds with pitch 99, punctuated with a fistpump.
Rogers, too, gave the fans a tease for next season, the rookie easily getting through a nine-pitch eighth as he earns more and more trust from Bochy.
But it was Dubon’s smarts that stood out in their most-promising inning.
Dubon (1-for-4) was on second and Mike Yastrzemski on first in the fifth with Buster Posey at the plate when Yastrzemski began dancing off first. Catcher Jacob Stallings, who also homered off Bumgarner and had thrown out Davis at second on a steal attempt, tried to nail Yastrzemski. He got back safely, while Dubon took off for third and nabbed the bag without a throw. With two outs, Brandon Belt doubled in Dubon and Yastrzemski, giving the Giants a 3-1 lead.
The next inning, the heady Dubon again showed off the natural baseball instincts he’s purported to possess.
After a Kevin Pillar double, Brandon Crawford single and slow RBI groundout for Davis (1-for-3), Dubon hit a sure groundball out, but second baseman Kevin Newman caught Crawford in between second and third. Dubon never stopped running and Crawford extended the pickle as long as possible, as a fielder’s choice wound up with Dubon at second. He wouldn’t score, but it was the type of smarts that he brings to the team.
The little glimpses of youth show hope for the future. A future the team hopes will include more fans in the seats. But they’ll need wins to really earn the fans’ trust back.