When Carlos Rodón is at his best, there aren’t many better. He deserved a win. It seemed like he was going to get one.
But a disastrous performance from Jake McGee in a three-run ninth inning from the Braves sent the Giants spiraling to a head-scratching 4-3 loss.
There is no shortage of entertainment in this series, though.
An already enthralling Giants-Braves series retained its standard in the third of four games, but departed from the 22-run slugfest of the prior night and returned to the vein of the series opener.
It was a pure pitchers’ duel between the up-and-down, but always nasty Charlie Morton and Rodón.
The scoring was limited, but began promptly, with a Mike Yastrzemski get-out-quick home run on the first pitch he saw, and the sixth of the game.
Darin Ruf followed suit in the bottom of the fourth with a 413-foot, no doubt jack that left the bat at a blistering 107.2 MPH.
Those solo shots seemed, for the next four innings, like they might be the only run support Rodón needed to net the win. That was even while Morton was impressive in his own right, going seven innings and striking out 11 with a five-pitch mix punctuated by some filthy knuckle curves.
Morton allowed no walks and just three hits, but two of those left the park.
Rodón, for his part, was untouched until the fifth inning, when an Orlando Arcia bat poke resulted in a bloop single. His only baserunner up until that point was William Contreras, who walked in the second inning.
As usual, he almost exclusively employed his 4-seamer and slider, throwing just a pair of curveballs for fun in the later innings.
That mix, though, was relentlessly efficient, and he split his usage, near evenly, throwing 47 fastballs and 42 sliders.
The reason he can lean on two pitches for seven innings is because both are so diabolically difficult to hit. He’d pound each corner of the plate with the fastball, then come in with one of these sliders that left batters pondering the decisions which led them to that point.
The only challenging moment Rodón faced was in the seventh, his final inning of the night.
It was a quick-burst, if not short-lived assault from the Braves. Marcell Ozuna dunked a blooping single into right-center for just the second hit of the day, then Matt Olson ambushed him for 394-foot double off the center field wall on a first-pitch fastball. Until the ninth, that represented Atlanta’s lone run of the game.
Rodón avoided any further damage in that inning, if only by the skin of his teeth. After inducing a hard-hit William Contreras groundout, Orlando Arcia scorched a liner with an expected batting average of .570, but directly into the glove of Brandon Belt, who was aligned perfectly.
After that shakiness, Rodón finished, deservedly, on a high note. He reared back to close the inning with a 99 MPH four-seam fastball that seemed to rise from Adam Duvall’s chest to his eyes, leaving the Atlanta slugger and former Giant swinging at a figment of the past.
That strikeout was the 10th of Rodón’s night, marking his 15th career double-digit strikeout performance and the third of this season.
He was relieved by John Brebbia, who put in a near-flawless eighth inning, striking out a pair before drawing a groundout from the always-dangerous Ronald Acuña Jr.
With a one-run lead heading into the ninth inning, the Giants took an opportunity to secure a much-needed insurance run. A Darin Ruf hit by pitch, paired with a couple singles from Evan Longoria and Tommy La Stella netted San Francisco a third run of the evening.
As it turned out, that insurance run was inconsequential.
With an opportunity for his fourth save of the season, Jake McGee was miles from pinpoint. Trying to avoid a leadoff walk in a 3-2 count, he left a meaty fastball over the heart of the plate for Dansby Swanson, who obliged with a 412-foot dead-center blast to cut the Giants’ lead to one.
McGee didn’t exactly buckle down. He was tagged for a single by Ozuna, then gave up a deep fly out from Olson which advanced a tagging Ozuna to second on a bit of aggressive baserunning.
That decision to advance proved massive, as the next batter, Contreras, ripped a single down the line to score Ozuna from second and tie the game.
It was a spectacular implosion from McGee, who never appeared for a moment like he was going to close the game out. He now holds a 6.87 ERA on the season and has as many saves (3) as save opportunities he’s blown.
That two-run evaporation saw him removed from the now-tied game, putting Tyler Rogers in the spotlight.
Rogers secured a strikeout, but again, it was aggressive baserunning from Atlanta that put them in a winning position.
The not quite fleet-of-foot Contreras stole on a Rogers strikeout, and Duvall proceeded to exact revenge against his former team with a walk-off single to center. Contreras rumbled home, punctuating a comeback that energized the Braves and left the Giants frustrated again.