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Spectacular relay preserves shutout in series-opening win over Padres

© Orlando Ramirez | 2022 Aug 8

In a season mired by defensive shortcomings, the Giants made a brilliant play to save a game. 

In the bottom of the seventh inning, clinging to a 1-0 lead, Luis González fielded a ball off the left-field wall. His relay throw came in on a line to Brandon Crawford in shallow left. The shortstop spun and fired home on a bounce, where Joey Bart was waiting for the tag of his life. 

Bart picked Crawford’s strike and swiped down on Brandon Drury’s outstretched left arm in one motion. Officials in New York decided replay showed the rookie’s spectacular tag came just in time. 

The relay of the year preserved San Francisco’s lead and, given the opponent, could define a second half push for a playoff spot. The Giants (54-55) hung on for a 1-0 win in the series opener. Their third straight victory gives them their first winning streak since before the All-Star break.

Holding court against the Padres, especially before Fernando Tatis Jr. returns, could be the Giants’ easiest way to make the wild card race more interesting. Eight matchups with San Diego remain after Monday — plus two more against Milwaukee, another club ahead of SF in the standings — for the Giants to make up ground. 

Finally armed with a fully healthy arsenal of position players, San Francisco scratched across a run in the fourth when Evan Longoria singled and scored in his first game back from the injured list.

Starter Alex Wood took it from there. 

Wood pitched seven scoreless innings in his previous start against San Diego, and carried a 1.56 lifetime ERA at Petco Park  — second-best among pitchers with at least five starts there — into Monday. 

In front of a sold-out, buzzing crowd, Wood again looked comfortable. He retired nine straight Padres early and surrendered just three hits overall. 

His third time facing the vaunted top of San Diego’s order, Wood set down Jurickson Profar, Juan Soto and Manny Machado down in order. Wood brought the latter two, who struck out and flew out, to a knee. 

There must be something about Petco Park. 

Wood didn’t allow a runner to advance into scoring position through six innings. But the third-time-through-the-order splits remain scary, so he got pulled after allowing a one-out single to Drury in the seventh. 

John Brebbia, the MLB leader in appearances, relieved Wood. That’s when Ha-Seong Kim sent Drury around the bases and González to the wall. Two bang-bang throws, a vicious tag and a replay review later, San Francisco somehow still held their lead. 

Giants broadcaster Dave Flemming mused it was the best relay he’d seen since Gregor Blanco to Marco Scutaro to Buster Posey in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series. 

Padres fans threw debris onto the field after the call got overturned in the Giants’ favor. They were likely just as frustrated when Tyler Rogers induced a double play to end the eighth and Camilo Doval retired Soto, Machado and Josh Bell to earn the save. Doval’s 103-mph fastball stamped the win.

When asked after the trade deadline how his team is positioned against its superstar-studded rivals in the National League West, Farhan Zaidi answered with a chuckle. 

Sure, the most recent results against the Dodgers and Padres haven’t been great for San Francisco. But the Giants swept Los Angeles earlier this season. They’ve played the Padres evenly all year. And 2021’s results speak for themselves. 

“I know a lot of players and staff members over there, they respect us,” Zaidi said of the Dodgers. “They take us seriously as a team they have to compete against. And the same for the Padres. I’d ask those teams whether they think we’re serious competition, and I think they’d say yes.” 

The Giants didn’t add a Juan Soto at the trade deadline, and they can’t match LA’s All-Star trio. But they still expect to remain competitive against their division rivals for the rest of the year.

Monday showed that when the Giants play their best, at least in a single game, the margin can still be inches thin.

 

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