Giants' playoff push takes a hit as Rockies sweep DH

September 17th, 2023

DENVER -- This was supposed to be the final remaining soft spot of the regular-season schedule for the Giants, who are battling for a National League Wild Card spot with two weeks to go. 

When they arrived at Coors Field to open a four-game series against the team with the worst record in the NL on Thursday, the idea was to take three of four -- or better -- against a club they had beaten in 16 of the previous 17 meetings, before facing the D-backs, Dodgers and Padres to close out the regular season.

Instead, San Francisco is staring at the specter of being swept by the Rockies after being defeated in both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader, which was necessitated by a Thursday rainout. Following a 9-5 loss in Game 1, the offense remained largely punchless in a 5-2 loss in the nightcap.

Meanwhile, the Marlins and Reds, with whom the Giants are competing in the Wild Card chase, each won again, dropping San Francisco further back in the standings with just 13 games to play.

  • Giants games remaining (13): at COL (1), at AZ (2), at LAD (4), vs. SD (3), vs. LAD (3)
  • Standings update: The Giants (75-74) are 2 1/2 games behind the Reds (78-72) and D-backs (78-72) and two games behind the Marlins (77-72) for the third NL Wild Card spot.

The Giants knew Saturday would be challenging, particularly for the pitching staff -- having to cover 18 or more innings in the thin air of Denver is no easy task. But it was the futility of the lineup that continued to stifle San Francisco’s effort.

Game 3 of the series was more of the same for the Giants after they were no-hit for eight innings in the series opener and then went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.

Desperately in need of a victory to keep pace in a crowded Wild Card field as the sand in the hourglass nears exhaustion, the Giants’ lineup managed 10 hits in the nightcap, but nine of those were singles. 

The lull at the plate comes on the heels of a homestand over which San Francisco’s offense finally awakened after a long dormant stretch. It also couldn’t come at a worse time.

“The timing is not good to not be playing good baseball three games in a row like that,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “But we’re a tough bunch. I think the thing that we need to consider right now is how many times we’re able to get back up off the mat after getting knocked down, and keep fighting.”

The Giants did put up a fight in the ninth, albeit one that fell short and underscored their woes with runners in scoring position. With one out, Patrick Bailey and Joc Pederson each singled and moved up a base on a wild pitch by Rockies reliever Tyler Kinley.

Mike Yastrzemski, who delivered an RBI single in the second inning, was presented with another opportunity, but he struck out. Brandon Crawford then drew a hard-fought walk to load the bases for Blake Sabol. 

But as has been the case the entire series, while the fight was there, the big hit wasn’t. Sabol popped out to third base, and the Giants’ playoff hopes took another hit in Colorado.

“If I had to point to one thing that’s going on for us right now, it’s that everybody’s trying so hard to help us get on the roll that we know we’re capable of,” Kapler said. “We’re not able to do it, and that just makes each individual press a little harder.”

If there’s one man on San Francisco’s roster who knows what it’s like to be in a tight postseason race and individual pressure-packed situations, it’s the club’s elder statesman, Crawford.

The 36-year-old shortstop is a veteran of four trips to the postseason with the Giants, two of which ended in World Series championships. For him, three games like these, as vital as they are to the club’s playoff hopes, don’t equal an irreversible trend. Even with 13 games remaining.

“I mean, we went 5-1 at home, and it didn’t seem like we were pressing there,” Crawford said. “And then we lose, and all of a sudden we’re pressing? I don’t know. 

“I think there are times that we are, for sure -- after our offense doesn’t get going after a little while, like yesterday, getting no-hit for eight innings. … But I think we have a pretty confident group that’s ready to make a run at the postseason.”

If the Giants are to make that run successful, the path they’ll need to successfully navigate runs through Arizona and Los Angeles before a final homestand against the Padres and Dodgers. With four wins in their last 27 road games, the trend is not their friend.

And time waits for no playoff-hopeful team.