© Neville E. Guard | 2021 Sep 15
Emilio Pagán started the eighth inning by walking LaMonte Wade Jr. and Kris Bryant.
Then Brandon Crawford stepped up. The Oracle Park crowd greeted him with M-V-P chants. The Giants, trailing for three hours at that point, had life with the go-ahead run at the plate. Pagán started Crawford 2-0, making 10 of his first 12 pitches balls.
On the third Pagán pitch, Crawford popped up to Fernando Tatis Jr. along the outfield grass. Evan Longoria next flew out to center field on the eighth pitch of his at-bat. Steven Duggar, who slammed a solo home run the inning prior, struck out on a full count elevated fastball.
The empty eighth-inning presented SF’s best chance to complete a stunning comeback. Instead, they fell to the Padres, 9-6, to end its nine-game winning streak. It couldn’t last forever. For the Padres, superstars Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Adam Frazier led the way.
Even with the loss, SF (95-51) will still, at worst, split this series with the Padres, and maintain a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers in the division with a slightly easier remaining schedule down the stretch.
While the Giants were outplayed in a game it didn’t feature a traditional starter, Wednesday’s loss shouldn’t be a referendum on the bullpen game strategy.
In the three bullpen games preceding this one, SF allowed five earned runs. In the month of September, the bullpen allowed 12 earned runs in 58.2 innings pitched, its 1.84 ERA the best in baseball. SF’s bullpen also had the fourth-heaviest workload in that span.
SF has experienced plenty of success without traditional starters that one of their rotation arms that’s been out, Alex Wood, said the approach could be a viable postseason option.
And Wednesday, it’s not like the relievers got shelled. The same bullpen that allowed five runs in the first two innings held the Padres scoreless for the next four.
Four of San Diego’s first five RBI came on hits that dropped less than 150 feet from home plate. An uncharacteristic error from Brandon Crawford in the second didn’t help, either. The Padres only left the park once.
Still, opener Dominic Leone struggled, leaving runners on the corner and one out for Jarlin García in the first inning — two of which came around to score on a Frazier double.
García went back out for the second inning, where Trent Grisham led off and reached base on Crawford’s fielding error. Tatis Jr. drilled a single that hopped over second baseman Tommy La Stella’s dive and into right field. The National League MVP frontrunner was the last batter García faced.
Unlike in other games during San Francisco’s 11-2 September, the relievers tasked with getting out of jams underperformed. Littell, in for García, allowed a ground rule double to Manny Machado then a line drive single from Eric Hosmer. By the time Kervin Castro entered to become SF’s fourth pitcher of the evening, the Giants trailed 5-1.
SF got a run back in the bottom of the third via Thairo Estrada’s pinch-hit solo home run — which broke the franchise record for pinch hit homers in a season — but the teams traded zeroes for the next two innings.
Then, with Padres starter Joe Musgrove past the 90-pitch mark, Kris Bryant pounced on a first-pitch fastball for his 25th home run of the year. The solo shot made it 5-3 and Brandon Crawford followed it up with a triple, but he was stranded there. The Giants were chipping away.
Then Jurickson Profar blasted a 3-2 José Quintana fastball into left for a two-run insurance bomb. Quintana and the Giants were one strike away from heading into the seventh-inning stretch down 5-3.
Steven Duggar and Brandon Belt both crushed solo homers to right in the seventh to cut SD’s lead to 7-5. But SF’s home run-fueled comeback effort proved futile as they left two on in the eighth and scored just one in the ninth.
In the end, San Diego’s stars — along with Profar’s homer — made the difference. Tatis Jr. went 4-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. He, Machado and Frazier combined to go 10-for-15 with four runs and three RBI.
The rest of the Padres went 6-for-26 (.230). Even as SD left 10 runners on base, their headliner players did enough to fend off the Giants’ late-inning long balls.