When the Giants came back from two major deficits to beat the Cleveland Guardians in extra innings earlier in the week, manager Gabe Kapler said “I think we’re going to look back at this game at the end of the season and believe it was very meaningful.”
The same could very well be true of Saturday’s events, except in the opposite direction.
If the Giants miss the postseason, this weekend’s performances in Coors Field could be the difference.
By losing three games to the last-place Rockies in the span of 24 hours, the Giants have damaged their playoff chances — not fatally, but also not insignificantly.
The Giants (75-74) scored nine runs in three combined losses in the hitter-friendly Coors Field. In a must-win series, the Giants have dropped three straight and have officially lost the four-game set. After the final out, they fell to 2.5 games out of the final wild card spot.
In the second leg of the doubleheader, SF added two errors to their MLB-leading total, pushing their pitching plans off the rails early. While stranding eight runners on base, they couldn’t make up the difference with a comeback push.
The Rockies ran out a bullpen game in the doubleheader opener, limiting the Giants to five runs as they went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
In the second game, the Giants tried their hand at an all-staff approach. For the past couple turns, they’ve had a traditional five-man rotation. But a doubleheader at Coors Field — plus Alex Cobb’s need for extra rest — is an extenuating circumstance.
Scott Alexander, who has been a weak link of an otherwise impressive bullpen unit, opened the game by allowing two runs. Neither of which were earned because of a brutal error by shortstop Paul DeJong.
The typically sure-handed DeJong’s error was San Francisco’s 103rd of the season, most in MLB.
Three two-out hits in the second inning from the bottom half of the Giants’ order halved Colorado’s lead. But that was the closest they’d get.
A triple, an error by Patrick Bailey and a wild pitch pinned two runs on Jakob Junis in the third.
The Giants treated the game with the urgency it demanded. With two outs in the fifth inning, Gabe Kapler summoned Taylor Rogers — who signed a three-year, $33 million deal to be a late-inning option for SF — to face Nolan Jones. Rogers has a 3.10 ERA, but has struggled against righties all year. Given that, Kapler treated him as a lefty specialist; although he lost Jones, he struck out righty Elehuris Montero to complete the job.
Thairo Estrada and Wilmer Flores, the Giants’ most consistently productive hitters, slapped singles in the sixth inning for a run. But the Rockies maintained an arm’s length lead.
Former Giant Kris Bryant drove home Charlie Blackmon to push Colorado’s lead to 5-2 in the seventh.
Facing a three-run deficit, the Giants needed to put their mettle to the test. They’ve had success in tight games, particularly in extra innings, in part because of their resilience.
But LaMonte Wade Jr., who had two walk-offs this week, flew out on one pitch to start the ninth. Patrick Bailey and Joc Pederson cranked singles to follow him, bringing the tying run to the plate.
With two runners in scoring position, Mike Yastrzesmki struck out on a changeup. Then Brandon Crawford, the legendary shortstop hitting .195 in his 13th season, earned a walk to load the bases on a pitch that should’ve been a game-ending third strike.
Then rookie Blake Sabol, the third player to hit in the Giants’ leadoff position on the night, popped out. When the Giants have struggled this year, it’s because of that image: the inability to drive runners home.