For the 10th straight time, the Giants played a game that was decided by two or fewer runs. They’ve won four of those 10, and just one of their previous six after Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the last-place Reds.
The defeat to Cincinnati comes on the heels of a 1-3 series in Atlanta in which the Giants got walked off twice. In its lone loss to Pittsburgh, San Francisco got walked off, too.
Tight games haven’t been kind to the Giants this year. After going 31-17 in one-run contests last season, SF is 9-14 in the same situation. A healthy amount of that can be chalked up to luck, but trends as stark as that contain more than misfortune.
“I think it’s just making one more play — we probably made that one more play last year,” manager Gabe Kapler said postgame. “Getting one more hit. Probably got that one more hit last year. Making one more pitch — we probably did that more last year. That’s still in there. That talent level and those big moments haven’t gone away. They just haven’t shown up this year, and we’ve got to keep working to try to find those.”
The Reds entered Friday on a seven-game losing streak, then rode a dominant pitching performance from starter Graham Ashcraft to a victory in front of an emotionally charged Oracle Park crowd.
The loss drops the Giants to 38-32 and 6.5 games out of first place. Two weeks ago, after sweeping the Dodgers, that gap was 3.5 games. San Francisco is half a game out of the wild card, but needs to leapfrog two teams to get the expanded third spot.
Alex Cobb, San Francisco’s starter on Friday, has noticed. He checks the standings, as a fan and as a competitor.
“Probably don’t look every day, but you start winning some ballgames, you like to see where you’re at,” Cobb said. “Start losing some ballgames, see how far back you fall.”
Cobb, an 11-year veteran, provided a rare June big-picture look from the Giants’ clubhouse.
“I don’t think it matters who the opponent is right now,” Cobb said. “I think we, for the first time, slipped out of the wild card spot the other day. We see that. Every win is going to be valuable from here on out. There’s a lot of good teams that are on our tail that we’re now trying to climb over to get back into that. The team, whatever name’s on the front of the jersey doesn’t really matter. It’s piling up wins right now. We know we need to take advantage of the teams that the caliber of ball they’re playing isn’t where they want it to be. We have to take advantage of that, but we just need wins.”
The Reds have the worst record in the National League. SF has two more games against Cincinnati, then five more against the sub-.500 Tigers and White Sox on this home stand.
But banking wins against any opponent is a challenge. It’s why the Giants celebrate every win in the clubhouse with blaring hip-hop, an orange inflatable stick figure and beverages. It’s what makes the 107-win campaign last year so impressive in hindsight.
It’s also what the Dodgers (44-25) and Padres (45-28) have done to turn the National League West into a three-team powerhouse.
“It’s a division that doesn’t allow you to go through slumps,” Cobb said. “You might get one of those teams a night that doesn’t win the ballgame or the series, but the other one’s not going to. You’re trying to climb up the division with two teams in front of you, your margin for error is much smaller. You can’t go on those losing streaks. You’ve got to find a way to snap those quickly. That Atlanta series was tough. We were in every ballgame. Tonight was tough. Somebody’s got to step up. Hopefully Webby can step up tomorrow and stop the bleeding.”
Turning the tight losses into wins will be necessary for the Giants to achieve anything of significance.
“It’s a good sign,” Cobb said of playing close games. “It’s there, it’s just not all clicking at the same time. We know we’re close, we know we’re a good team. We don’t feel like we’ve played good ball, probably since that beginning stretch when we went on a tear. But we know we’re capable of being that team. Just waiting for that streak to hit.”