There were reasons to believe, in this case a starter on the mound who has reinvented himself. There were concerns, in this case at the plate, which has been the case much of the season. And more than anything there were frustrations, which will happen with a team in transition.
But a team in transition is almost never a team bound for the playoffs.
In a season that the Giants have trumpeted is about development, the latest development is the season is likely finished following a 1-0 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, getting swept in the series and falling 5 ½ games back of the Cardinals for the second NL wild card before St. Louis had played.
The Phillies, Mets, Brewers and Diamondbacks sit between St. Louis and San Francisco (63-65), which dropped a fourth straight game. If July were about a sprint to the trade deadline, August has been marked by stops and starts; losing seven of nine and winning six of seven before the current funk. When the pitching is on, the hitting isn’t. When the starters succeed, the bullpen doesn’t. The Giants have all the hallmarks of an average team, one that likely watched its playoff hopes, reinvigorated in the Arizona heat a series ago, get blown away in Chicago.
The Giants lost every which way at Wrigley; a poor start from Tyler Beede and an offense that went quiet; a home run derby that ended with disappointment; and Thursday, with some unfortunate defense and more baffled hitters, as they dropped to 3-15 at Wrigley Field over the past five years.
Jeff Samardzija was brilliant through seven innings in which one run was charged to him, which by all rights should have an asterisk. He was nearly untouchable, allowing two hits – one sun-enabled – and a walk. In 63 innings since July, Samardzija has allowed 14 runs, good for a 2.00 ERA.
His lone mistake was only striking out four and needing to rely on a defense that let him down.
Samardzija was pitching a perfect game through three until Jason Heyward lofted a lazy fly ball that Kevin Pillar lost in the sun. Nick Castellanos then grounded to Brandon Crawford, who botched the transition from glove to hand.
Samardzija got four outs, but couldn’t get five in the inning. After a double-play ball, Anthony Rizzo lined a single to center – the only legitimate Cubs hit of the afternoon – to give Chicago the only run it would need.
The Giants’ offense did not get a runner on third until Crawford tripled off Brandon Kintzler with two outs in the eighth. The Cubs turned to lefty Kyle Ryan, the Giants pulled Stephen Vogt for Austin Slater. On a 2-2 count, Ryan won, painting the inside of the strike zone with a fastball, and the Giants’ last hope died 90 feet away.
The Giants never sent more than four batters up in an inning. It was a constant struggle against Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks, who allowed three hits and struck out seven in seven innings – his fastest pitch an 88.7-mph fastball. With movement and an arsenal the Giants have rarely seen this year, they were off-balance throughout.
Mike Yastrzemski, who entered with a five-game hitting streak in which he was batting .423, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. The 3-7 hitters (Alex Dickerson, Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt, Pillar and Scooter Gennett) finished 1-for-16 with five strikeouts.
In these three games, at times the rotation, bullpen and bats disappointed. It adds up to a season that, while not a full-blown disappointment considering the expectations, is coming to a disappointing end.