© Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Sunday represented the Giants’ rubber match with the St. Louis Cardinals and a potentially immediate return to series wins after the All-Star break. There was not much of that first-half Giants offense on display, though. It was dominated by a failure to drive home runners and a deserved, but odd 2-1 loss in St. Louis.
It was one of those very slow, bullpen-heavy weekend matinees with a result defined by something weird, like, say, a ricocheted ball. The Giants got five stellar innings from Johnny Cueto, dented only by a solo home run from Paul DeJong.
In those five, Cueto allowed just two hits and a walk, with five strikeouts, and a whole lot of shimmies, including many of those to Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader, who seemed to get a kick out of the timing mix-ups. Bader eventually had the last laugh in the seventh, once Cueto had been relieved.
Cueto hit a pretty impressive milestone, reaching 2,000 innings pitched for his career, becoming the seventh Dominican-born player to achieve that feat, up there with the likes of Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez.
With Cueto out, San Francisco saw a scoreless, but jittery, two-hit sixth from Dominic Leone. John Brebbia was given inning No. 7 and failed to make it his own. Brebbia left an abysmal slider right over the heart of the plate, and was punished by Matt Carpenter for a ground-rule double into the right-field corner.
Carpenter was pinch-run for by Jose Rondon, who was moved to third on a sacrifice fly from DeJong, which proved crucial. Bader hit what would be the game-winner, and one of the weirder ones you’ll ever see. Lamonte Wade Jr. slipped as he tried to grab a half-swing bouncer towards first, which ricocheted backwards off the back of his glove.
Wade and Brebbia couldn’t decide who should grab the ball, and Bader reached safely, though the run would have scored regardless. Here’s what that nonsense looked like.
An excuse-me RBI single for Harrison Bader breaks the gridlock, finally, in the seventh inning: pic.twitter.com/tOhnnq2Tkk
— Zachary Silver (@zachsilver) July 18, 2021
The Giants could find no such nonsense of their own, with their lone run of the game coming from this walloped, second-decker home run from Darin Ruf. It came off the bat at a game-high 107.2 miles per hour and went 413 feet for good measure (that’s a Colorado 450).
Ruf launches one to Big Mac Land 💪🍔 pic.twitter.com/9MFnBh7UK2
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 18, 2021
But if that was supposed to be the early spark, it certainly didn’t catch. The Giants left the bases loaded twice and stranded 10 baserunners, going 0-for-7 with runners on.
Wilmer Flores was a huge part of those struggles.
Flores had a brutal first three at-bats, eventually finding some nominal recompense. That was no thanks to home plate umpire Todd Tichenor, who called him out looking on what looked like a cutter that just missed the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning. Regardless of the call, it was a pitch Flores should probably have protected against more diligently.
Another Flores strikeout looking happened in his next at-bat in the fourth, this time on a perfect 4-seam fastball from the Cardinals’ Wade LeBlanc, but with no one on.
He had an opportunity for redemption in a tie game in the sixth with runners on first and third with one out after LeBlanc had been relieved by the hard-throwing Ryan Helsey. But Flores instead flew out to shallow center and to the cannon-armed Harrison Bader, which meant that regardless of the throw, which was poor, the not so fleet-of-foot Donovan Solano had no chance to score.
It wasn’t just Flores who struggled to drive runners in, though. Brandon Crawford flew out with the bases loaded and two outs in the first and Mike Tauchman struck out on a foul tip with them loaded in the sixth.
There was one more chance for the Giants in the ninth, with both Alex Dickerson and a pinch-hitting Steven Duggar walking with one out. An Austin Slater deep fly to right should have at least advanced Dickerson and possibly Duggar, but Dickerson inexplicably failed to tag. It proved inconsequential, though, as Donovan Solano sealed the anemic offensive performance with a fly ball to center.
Now the Giants (58-34) will have to head to Los Angeles for a three-game split with the Dodgers (58-35), who are now just a half-game back.