© Orlando Ramirez | 2021 Sep 21
SAN DIEGO — On Tuesday, San Diego’s two biggest athletes addressed the media together for the first time since they were caught on camera screaming at each other in the dugout. The Padres organization fired its farm director of seven seasons. Then they blew a 4-1 lead to the Giants for their fourth straight loss and ninth of its last 11 games.
The team many predicted to compete not just for the division, but for a World Series title, is effectively eliminated from the playoffs with 11 games left. Five games back of the second Wild Card spot, its playoff odds, per Fangraphs, were 3.6% heading into Tuesday.
The see-sawing game saw four lead changes, but San Francisco (98-53) strung three consecutive singles together against Padres closer Mark Melancon in the top of the ninth to take the final lead. LaMonte Wade Jr. added to his remarkably clutch season with a go-ahead RBI single into shallow left, scoring Brandon Belt from second. Tyler Rogers overcame a Brandon Crawford throwing error and soft infield single to earn the save and secure the 6-5 victory.
San Francisco’s win keeps its division lead at one game. With 11 regular season contests left, the Dodgers and Giants remain neck and neck. Any misstep could be costly, just as energy jolts can make all the difference.
Before the Giants needed the big ninth inning to put San Diego away, the Padres tied the game at 5-5 with Austin Nola’s home run in the sixth inning. Manny Machado and Steven Duggar traded deep flies that would’ve left most ballparks, but the teams entered the ninth deadlocked.
San Francisco fell behind Tuesday as starter Kevin Gausman stumbled. It was the first time since he joined the Giants that Gausman allowed three homers in a single game. The three solo shots left San Diego bats at 108.7, 108.9 and 112.3 mph. Each came on a splitter, the ace’s best weapon.
Gausman tries to throw his split-fingered fastball for a strike-ball, meaning it appears to hitters as a strike before falling out of the strike zone. When he hangs it in the strike zone, the pitch becomes much less effective.
Opposing batters entering Tuesday were hitting .130 when facing Gausman’s splitter. He’d allowed just two home runs off the pitch, which he’d thrown 972 times in 2021. That total more than doubled on 23 splitters delivered Tuesday.
Kevin Gausman has allowed 3 HR on his splitter tonight, the most in a game of his career on the pitch
Only other times he'd even allowed 2 HR on his splitter in a game:
7/14/17: to Ben Zobrist, Willson Contreras
7/22/15: to Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 22, 2021
The last time the Giants faced Joe Musgrove, he held San Francisco’s lineup to three runs in six innings en route to a 9-6 Padres win.
This time, six days later, Musgrove was erratic. He allowed a leadoff home run to Tommy La Stella and then loaded the bases in the first inning — but escaped. He retired the next nine batters he faced before running into more trouble in the fifth, allowing three consecutive hits and two runs.
The Giants were chipping away. The 4-1 deficit became 4-3. It was a slow-burning comeback.
Then Padres manager Jayce Tingler sent Musgrove back out for the sixth inning at 82 pitches. Kris Bryant and Brandon Crawford smacked back-to-back doubles to lead off the inning.
Bryant’s on-base streak extended to 19 games, and he trotted in casually from second to tie the game 4-4. Crawford, in addition to the RBI double, made two fantastic plays in the field — one catching Musgrove in a pickle and another charging a chopper up the middle to end the fifth inning. Crawford crossed home on Mike Yastrzemski’s sacrifice fly to give the Giants its first lead since La Stella’s blast.
Musgrove didn’t make it out of the inning. By the time Tim Hill relieved him, the Dodgers beat the Rockies in Denver when Colorado failed to score the tying run from third with no outs. San Francisco’s lead dwindled to 0.5 games, but only momentarily.
This is how it’s going to be for the rest of the season. The Giants don’t scoreboard watch, per se — they have enough to focus on — but they’re aware of the Dodgers. The Dodgers are tired of hearing about the Giants.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler already received questions about a hypothetical Game 163 before Game 160. The chatter isn’t going away anytime soon. Only Giants wins can shush it and keep LA at arm’s length. Against the Padres Tuesday, SF’s comeback and ninth-inning rally did the trick.