Twenty-one-and-a-half games separate the Dodgers and Giants in the standings, but the gulf feels somehow even wider than that.
For the first time since 1979, the Giants have lost eight straight games to the Dodgers. The gap is so wide, an exasperated Gabe Kapler earned his first ejection as Giants manager. It was a last gasp for Kapler, who philosophically doesn’t believe in faux-macho gestures to rile up a dugout.
The Giants (51-55) ultimately fell to a 5-3 series finale loss. They’re 3-12 since the All-Star break and will carry postseason odds of below 5% into Friday’s off-day.
In the Giants’ eight consecutive losses to their rivals, they’ve been outclassed in the field, on the mound, in the batter’s box and on the base paths.
During the four-game sweep in Dodger Stadium, the Giants never held a lead for a full inning. Mistakes in the field and bullpen blow-ups cost them.
This four-loss week, blew two bases-loaded chances in a game, and got embarrassed in Thursday’s finale. Just about every inning, the Dodgers proved their supremacy.
“They do a lot of everything right,” Wednesday’s starter Alex Cobb said. “Beyond being a superstar team, they do everything right. They run the bases well, they play incredible defense and they control the strike zone really well. Definitely shouldn’t be on the skid that we’re on, but they’re doing little things better than we are right now.”
The inverse could apply to the Giants. They have a dearth of star-level position players, they find ways to lose, they run into outs, they play league-worst defense.
“We’re just not playing good enough baseball,” Kapler said after SF’s seventh straight rivalry loss. “It’s simple and straightforward…Against a team like the Dodgers, you have to play your absolute best baseball.”
Injuries, especially recently, have contributed to San Francisco’s struggles. Brandon Crawford (knee) and Thairo Estrada (concussion) on the injured list pushes journeyman Dixon Machado into the lineup. Evan Longoria (hamstring) forces a combination of David Villar or Jason Vosler into action. Switch-hitting Bryce Johnson is up to try to shore an outfield defense that has constantly given teams extra bases.
J.D. Davis’ first home run as a Giant gave the Giants an early lead. The Elk Grove High School produced extended his arms for a 2-2 Clayton Kershaw changeup, flicking it over the Levi’s Landing sign for an impressive opposite-field shot.
But that lead was never going to hold, even despite the optimized outfield converting a rare relay throw to preserve it.
Junis walked ninth hitter James Outman with two outs in the fourth, a recurring theme for the Giants this series. Walking the ninth hitter to face the vaunted top of the Dodgers order can’t be the best strategy.
Instead of letting Junis face Mookie Betts a third time, Kapler tapped reliever John Brebbia, who had struck out the former MVP in a high-leverage spot two games prior.
But Betts wouldn’t lose the same battle twice. His 25th homer of the year soared into the left-field bleachers and gave Los Angeles a 4-2 edge.
Though Clayton Kershaw left early with a back injury, that two-run lead was enough for the Dodgers. They don’t need their future Hall of Famer to hold off these Giants.
Kapler’s ejection came after the fifth. Jarlin García, who struck out James Outman to end the inning, mocked Los Angeles’ go-to gesture by knocking the side of his head with his fist. He and Betts, who was waiting on deck, exchanged words.
Then Kapler came out of the dugout to stick up for his reliever. Several magic words later, first-base ump Phil Cuzzi tossed him.
Kapler’s ejection preceded Trea Turner’s solo shot. As Turner rounded third, he and his teammates in their dugout pounded their fists against the side of their head — the celebration derived from a famous scene from “The Wolf Of Wall Street.” It doubled as a chirp at García.
The Giants had gotten caught up in mind games, and couldn’t even win those.
And their manager had to watch history unfold from the clubhouse.