An arm the Giants didn’t know they would need and a bat they hoped they would not need helped the Giants combat an outfielder they deemed last offseason they did not need.
There was plenty of drama in a late-September contest that, an empty ballpark aside, felt like it had the postseason implications that indeed it possessed.
Daniel Robertson, forced into a left-field appearance, had a big assist and Alex Dickerson a big swing as the Giants survived a back-and-forth battle with Kevin Pillar’s Rockies, 5-2, on Tuesday at Oracle Park in a game that keeps them in solid playoff shape.
By percentage points at least, the Giants (27-27) moved into a three-way tie for the seventh and eighth playoff spots because the Brewers beat the Reds, all three teams now at .500. The Giants got help from their own bullpen (3 2/3 innings of one-run ball) and help from Gabe Kapler’s old bullpen, which played a big part in the Phillies (27-29) getting swept in a doubleheader by the Nationals. The Cardinals (27-25) won to create some distance in the NL Central mess.
The Giants have six more to play at home — two more with these Rockies before the Padres come to town — and hope their dire outfield situation will settle. But for one night, the limbs they could use from their outfield were brilliant.
It was Robertson’s throw from left field in the seventh inning that most impressed, gunning down Garrett Hampson, who was trying to turn a single into a double, in a one-run game to open the frame. Robertson hadn’t played the position in two years — and had played 31 innings there total entering play — but was forced into action when Luis Basabe came up lame running to first. There was no immediate update on Basabe, but a very-much makeshift Giants club made do.
Even with Robertson’s throw, the Rockies tied it in the inning because Kevin Pillar, whom the Giants could use right about now, doubled off Tyler Rogers to drive in one. Pillar, who homered Monday, may be trying to prove to Farhan Zaidi that his nontender was a mistake. As the Giants turned to an outfield of all natural infielders — Robertson, Mauricio Dubon and Darin Ruf — he had a good case.
But after Robertson’s arm came to the rescue, Dickerson’s bat saved the Giants in the bottom of the inning. Playing with a sore elbow from Monday’s drilling, the new father pinch-hit for Robertson and drilled a dinger to center, his 10th of the year, to unknot the game and give the Giants a lead they would not relinquish. Brandon Belt’s two-run double provided a cushion that Tony Watson and Sam Coonrod (third save) would appreciate.
While they didn’t count on Robertson’s arm being a difference-maker, the Giants had a better inkling that Drew Smyly’s would be important. The lefty put together another solid outing showing off the same upticked stuff that has been obvious since he was activated off the IL.
With a fastball that averaged 93.8 mph and again a solid curveball, Smyly was scoreless through five innings.
“We’re going to push him as far as he can go today comfortably and safely,” Kapler said before the game, then ran him out for the sixth, when a Pillar walk, Trevor Story single and Charlie Blackmon fielder’s choice cut the Giants’ lead to 2-1.
That would be the only run charged to Smyly, though, who struck out five in 92 pitches and 5 1/3 solid innings, because Trevor Cahill entered and evaded trouble with two strikeouts.
While the Giants will need some outfield clarity in the next few days, Joey Bart helped calm some catching fears on a day the club lost Chadwick Tromp. Bart went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, which is appropriately double the number of extra-base hits he had had in his past 24 games.
Austin Slater, too, had a big bounce-back game, reaching base five times and homering for the first time since Aug. 19.
Slater needs to DH these days, unable to throw with an flexor strain in his elbow. Mike Yastrzemski is not yet running with a calf strain. Dickerson’s elbow is hurting. Basabe is a question mark.
There weren’t too many functional outfield limbs for the Giants on Tuesday, but they maximized the wings they did have.