The 2023 Giants, Major League Baseball’s most error-prone team, committed two crucial errors in extra innings.
The 2023 Giants, one of the franchise’s most offensively challenged teams in years, set their single-season strikeout record with five on the night. Tyler Fitzgerald, who had an otherwise great game, was (Un)Lucky No. 1,468.
The 2023 Giants are now the only team to lose to the 2023 San Diego Padres — a comically disappointing club in their own right — in extra innings this year.
Sean Manaea crossed the 1,000-inning milestone in his second straight impressive start, but it came in a losing effort. The Giants (78-81) expected to trade strikeouts for power this season, but the latter hasn’t kept pace as the former has reached an apex. After their 5-2 loss in 10 innings, the Giants now have to win each of their remaining three games, all against the Dodgers at Oracle Park, to finish with the same 81-81 record as they did last year.
“Yeah, little sloppy defense there,” manager Gabe Kapler said postgame. “Plenty to give a team additional outs. Just can’t win baseball games that way, obviously. Probably both Patty and Marco are doing everything they possibly can to help us win. Sometimes, when you try to do a little bit too much, it backfires on you. I think that’s what happened there.”
Just two months ago, the Giants had the third-best record in the National League and claimed a wild card spot. Now they’re in fourth place of the NL West, behind the Padres.
Thairo Estrada, like most of the season, wasn’t the problem. In the second inning, the second baseman lifted a Matt Waldron knuckleball 418 feet to left-center field to give the Giants a 1-0 lead.
Before the game, Gabe Kapler said a key to hitting knuckleballs it to try to hit it out of the catcher’s glove — in other words, to wait on the pitch as long as possible before swinging. Estrada certainly let it travel, then sent the ball on its own journey.
Estrada has been one of the Giants’ most consistently productive position players this year. He won’t put together the first 20-20 season as a Giant since Hunter Pence, but his 14th homer inched him closer to that mark.
There’s a case that Estrada is Farhan Zaidi’s best move as the Giants’ president of baseball operations.
Right before the 2021 season, the Giants traded cash considerations to the Yankees — famously not a financially strapped organization — for Estrada. The Yankees, who needed to create a roster spot for Rougned Odor, shipped Estrada from coast-to-coast.
New York released Odor after he hit .202 in the 2021 season. His WAR in the three seasons since the Estrada trade is -0.4
Many of those types of deals involve the acquiring team to send $1 to the other team. For the Giants, that’s some serious surplus value.
After the Padres tied it up in the top of the fifth, the Giants regained the lead in the bottom half. Tyler Fitzgerald, the rookie who may share the middle infield with Estrada next year — at least on a part-time basis — drove in Michael Conforto with a two-out lined single.
Fitzgerald also recorded his first two MLB stolen bases and drew a walk.
“I think the word ‘refreshing’ was thrown around quite a bit in the dugout as he was stealing those bags,” Kapler said.
Meanwhile, Manaea put together his second straight impressive start. Last turn, he tossed seven shutout innings in Dodger Stadium. Against the Padres, the fanned eight while walking none, giving up two earned runs in six innings. He generated 19 swing-and-misses, most of which came on his fastball.
Given Manaea’s strong finish to the season, the Scott Boras client will almost certainly test the free agent market. Like most of the veterans on the team, the Giants didn’t extract nearly the most production out of Manaea as they could have; for most of the season, San Francisco used Manaea out of the bullpen because of his early-season struggles.
Kapler described Manaea’s season as “mentally tough,” and the southpaw has been open — all year and on Wednesday — about the difficulties of his fluid role.
With opt-out contracts, teams are liable lose players who perform well. So Manaea could leave after providing the Giants just 0.1 WAR (before Wednesday, via Baseball-Reference) for a more established role; he considers himself a starter, and has definitely pitched like one.
“Loved it,” Manaea said when asked how he has felt about his time in a Giants uniform. “Love the city, this team’s amazing. As hard as it’s been, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’ve loved my time here.”
One player who does have established role for the Giants? Camilo Doval. The All-Star closer who has struggled in the second half toed the rubber for the top of the ninth in a 2-2 game.
Mike Yastrzesmki helped him out with a diving catch in foul territory, then he danced around a Garrett Cooper double for a scoreless outing.
Then San Francisco let its rookies hit against closer Josh Hader. When the playoffs are already out of the picture, the smart thing to do is to expose the young players to the toughest competition.
Marco Luciano drew an impressive walk, but Patrick Bailey and Fitzgerald both struck out in ugly at-bats for an empty inning. Those two strikeouts set the Giants’ franchise record for strikeouts in a season, surpassing 2018’s total of 1,467.
Then rookie mistakes put pressure on reliever John Brebbia in the 10th. Luciano — who started his MLB with a string of solid defensive games, but doesn’t always look natural at shortstop — airmailed a throw into the stands. Then Bailey, who has been a defensive stalwart but has admitted to fatigue late in the season, threw a back-pick into center field.
Errors 116 and 117 on the season gave the Padres a 5-2 lead. Going down quietly with the automatic runner on second gave them their first extra-innings win of the season.