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Giants escape sweep in Coors Field, but is it too little, too late?



© Ron Chenoy | 2023 Sep 17

The Giants controlled their own destiny. With that privilege, they took a doubleheader sweep to the Rockies for the first time in franchise history. They let their road losing streak extend to nine, their longest since 1996. 

Last Thursday, when the Giants had an off day, they owned a coin flip’s chance at reaching the postseason — 47.5%, to be exact. Sunday morning, after dropping three straight in Coors Field in the span of 24 hours, their chances dipped to 10.9%. 

In that time, the Giants optioned top prospect Kyle Harrison, a move contradicting their “develop at the Major League level” vows. They brought Michael Conforto back from the IL, making their lineup completely whole but not reaping many benefits of that. They fell behind the Reds, Marlins, Diamondbacks and Cubs in the wild card hunt.

Even if they couldn’t complete the sweep, the last-place Rockies, with nothing significant to play for, played spoiler.

The Giants, with no more time to play around, dominated to avoid a four-game sweep in Coors Field. Sean Manaea, a full-fledged member of the starting rotation at this point, gave up two earned runs in 5.1 innings. Behind him, San Francisco put up a game-breaking eight-run sixth inning, allowing SF to squeak out an 11-10 victory. 

San Francisco’s order out-hit its defense’s three errors, with Brandon Crawford, Patrick Bailey and Mitch Haniger each driving home multiple runs. Even when closer Camilo Doval gave up four runs in the ninth, the Giants had just enough of a cushion to escape. 

Chris Flexen, who entered with a 7.22 ERA and one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball, retired the first nine Giants he faced. He fanned four in those perfect three innings and didn’t allow a base runner until hitting Mike Yastrzemski with a pitch to lead off the fourth. 

Yastrzemski nearly scored from second with two outs, but Nolan Jones crashed into the left-field wall while robbing Michael Conforto of extra bases. His inning-ending out would’ve been a home run in 14 of 30 ballparks. 

Sean Manaea, officially in the Giants’ rotation, was even more effective than Flexen, who no-hit SF through four. He needed only one more pitch than Flexen to get through four scoreless frames. 

When Manaea retook the mound for the fifth, he did so with a 1-0 lead. J.D. Davis poked the Giants’ first hit of the game to lead off the top of the fifth, and scored from first on a double from Mitch Haniger. 

Then the Giants finally got the big inning they’ve lacked this weekend in Denver. And they did it against Flexen, making him look much more like his statistics suggest than they did for the first four innings. 

Joc Pederson doubled home Thairo Estrada for another run in the sixth, putting San Francisco up 2-0 on Flexen. Davis added an RBI single and Haniger scored two more with a double to the base of the wall in right-center. 

To cap their biggest inning in weeks, Brandon Crawford smacked a three-run homer, giving the Giants an insurmountable eight-run lead. They scored eight in the inning, pushing their lead to 9-0. 

Manaea exited after a two-run homer and John Brebbia served up a three-run bomb behind him. Doval made a pivotal error with two outs in the ninth inning as part of another major rally for the Rockies, who put the tying runner on second. 

But the Giants’ offensive machine had been rebooted enough for Colorado’s rallies to not matter.

Crawford’s homer — his first since Aug. 1 — came as his batting average sat at .192. If he and the rest of the veterans can turn their disappointing seasons around for the next two weeks, the Giants could still sneak their way into the playoffs. A 10.9% chance isn’t 0%. 

But by losing three of four to the Rockies, the resurgences need to come instantly and profoundly. The margin for error is razor-thin, and with 12 games remaining, they’ll need as many offensive performances like Sunday as they can get.