Evan Longoria hasn’t engaged in much scoreboard-watching recently, but he doesn’t have to take a look at the standings to know that the Giants need to play with urgency if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive over the final week of the season.
"I honestly don’t know where we are,” Longoria said. “I know that we need to win every day. That has to be our goal. I think when you get caught up in looking at that, it just puts added pressure. But there is an understanding that we need to win a lot of games down the stretch. We’re not going to be able to limp in.”
But the Giants certainly look hobbled following their 6-0 loss to the A’s at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. Playing without two key pieces of its lineup, San Francisco continued to lose ground in the National League Wild Card race after mustering only six hits in its second consecutive shutout loss to the A’s, who improved to 5-0 against their cross-bay rivals this season.
With Mike Yastrzemski out with a calf injury and Alex Dickerson on the paternity list, the Giants were blanked by a talented A’s pitching staff led by left-hander Jesús Luzardo. Their feeble offensive showing, coupled with a slew of defensive and baserunning errors, squandered a quality start from right-hander Kevin Gausman, who allowed only one run over six innings to snap San Francisco’s three-game skid of not having a starter pitch past the fourth inning.
“We had a couple of bad games in a row, but we’re going to break out,” Gausman said. “These guys do such a good job of putting quality at-bats together, but these last two games, I feel like it was more their pitching. Their pitchers pitched really well against us, and I don’t know if we matched up as well against this team as some of the other teams we’ve played lately.”
The defeat dropped the Giants (25-26) percentage points behind the Reds (26-27) for the eighth and final NL playoff spot with nine games left to play. The Brewers won on Saturday to move into a tie with the Giants at 25-26.
Following their series finale against the A’s on Sunday, the Giants will return to Oracle Park and host the Rockies and Padres in their final homestand of the season. The four games against San Diego loom as particularly challenging for San Francisco, which fell to 5-16 against teams over .500 this year.
“I think what we need to do going forward is have a healthy, balanced sense of urgency, because of how many games we have left and where we are in the playoff chase and balance that with a calm, reasoned, even demeanor,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Those two things can coexist and work in harmony. I think it would be very easy right now to try to change a bunch of things, and right now I think the opposite is true. You come to the ballpark tomorrow, prepared and ready to take on the A’s.”
Gausman was scratched from his scheduled start against the Padres on Sunday with elbow tightness, but an MRI exam showed no structural damage, clearing the way for the 29-year-old to return to the Giants’ rotation in Oakland. Gausman appeared to pitch without physical limitations on Saturday, as he topped out at 97 mph on his fastball and retired the first 11 batters he faced before issuing a two-out walk to Mark Canha in the fourth inning.
Canha advanced to second on a wild pitch before scoring on an RBI single by Matt Olson to give the A’s a 1-0 lead. It was the lone hit allowed by Gausman, who struck out six and walked three in his 84-pitch outing.
“I thought Kevin looked great,” Kapler said. “I thought his location was awesome, particularly in the earlier innings. We saw a really healthy velocity from him in his normal range. We saw him rip his changeup a couple of times, which was something we really wanted to see. We saw him feature his split. We really saw him carve for the first innings of the game.”
The A’s broke the game open by scoring five runs in the seventh inning against relievers Sam Selman and Sam Coonrod. Jake Lamb launched a two-run home run off Selman to make it 3-0, and the deficit quickly grew following a series of misplays from the Giants’ outfield, which has been thinned by the injuries to Austin Slater and Yastrzemski and the absence of Dickerson. Left fielder Darin Ruf dropped a fly ball off the bat of Ramón Laureano, though he managed to recover and nab Robbie Grossman on a force play at second base.
After Jonah Heim singled to put runners on the corners with two outs, Tommy La Stella sent a drive to center field that Maurico Dubón allowed to fall for a two-run triple. Kapler said Dubón seemed to think he was closer to the wall than he was and subsequently mistimed his leap. Marcus Semien followed with another fly ball to left field that Ruf couldn’t chase down, knocking in another run for the A’s.
The Giants were burned by a mistake on the basepaths, too. They generated their best scoring opportunity against Luzardo in the fourth inning after Donovan Solano and Longoria singled to put a pair of runners on with two outs. Dubón then tapped an infield single to short, but Solano was tagged out at third after overrunning the bag to scuttle the rally.
“If we want to play in the playoffs, if we want to make it to the playoffs, we can’t do those things,” Longoria said. “Obviously, those guys, they know that. I’m sure they’re not happy about it. But we have to be better. We have to be able to address those things to a man and be able to play the game clean.
“Obviously, the baserunning mistake today, you never know what happens, but we’re bases-loaded there with an opportunity to get a base hit and take the lead. And then the defensive stuff, we’re asking a lot of some guys out in the outfield. But yeah, it is a little demoralizing when you feel like there are some plays that should be made and are not. We have to find a way to clean that up in the last week or else we’ll be going in the other direction.”