SAN DIEGO -- The Giants and Dodgers have been seemingly in lockstep with each other all year, setting up what promises to be a division race for the ages. Even from afar, the competition between the archrivals continues to intensify, as evidenced by a drama-filled afternoon across the National League West on Thursday.
A little over an hour after the Dodgers came back to beat the Rockies at Coors Field, the Giants fell short in their own comeback attempt against the Padres, falling, 7-6, on Victor Caratini’s walk-off infield single off Dominic Leone in 10 innings at Petco Park.
The Giants will now head to Coors Field for their final road series of the regular season clinging to a slim one-game lead over the Dodgers.
• Games remaining: 9
• Standings update: One game ahead of the Dodgers for first place in the NL West
• Magic number for division title: 9
“They’ve been right there pretty much the whole season, so this isn’t really anything new for us,” Austin Slater said. “I think we’re treating it the same as we have all season, keeping our mind and thoughts on that team that day and staying right there mentally. It’s going to come down to the wire, but at the end of the day, you can only control what you can control.”
The Giants trailed early following a short start from right-hander Logan Webb, but they showed their resiliency by erasing two deficits to send the game to extra innings. They missed a prime opportunity to go ahead in the top of the 10th, though, as Brandon Belt and Kris Bryant both popped out on 3-1 fastballs from Ross Detwiler to leave a pair of runners stranded.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to cash that in, but I felt pretty good about our opportunities there and we had the right guys in the right situations,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Sometimes you’re off the barrel and you pop a ball up that other times you put in the gap or in the seats. Obviously, it was disappointing to not have that 10th inning turn out differently.”
Thursday began on an inauspicious note for the Giants, who watched Webb -- their second-half ace -- give up four runs in a disastrous 45-pitch first inning.
The Padres loaded the bases with one out on Adam Frazier’s leadoff double and back-to-back walks to Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eric Hosmer, then they got on the board when Webb grazed Jurickson Profar on the left ankle. A sacrifice fly from Trent Grisham made it 2-0, and the Padres added two more runs on RBI singles from Ha-Seong Kim and Caratini.
“I couldn’t tell you what was going on in the first inning,” Webb said. “I’d have to go back and watch it again. I was a little frustrated. I won’t elaborate on that, but I kind of let it spiral.”
Webb reverted back to his usual self following the turbulent first inning, but he departed after allowing four runs over four innings in his shortest start since July 16. His stumble was poorly timed, as the Giants were already shorthanded in the bullpen after leaning on their relievers to cover 10 innings the previous two nights.
Still, the Giants quickly struck back on Mike Yastrzemski’s 24th home run of the year, a two-run shot off Yu Darvish that cut the Padres’ lead to 4-2 in the second. San Francisco then seized its first lead of the afternoon on another big swing of the bat from Slater, who came off the bench to slam a go-ahead, three-run shot off lefty Tim Hill in the sixth.
With a pair of runners on and one out, Kapler opted to have the right-handed-hitting Slater pinch-hit for LaMonte Wade Jr. -- the club’s cleanup hitter -- to gain the platoon advantage. The move paid off, as Slater ended a nine-pitch at-bat by driving a 3-2 fastball on the inside corner over the left-field wall to put the Giants ahead, 5-4.
It was the 17th pinch-hit homer of the year for the Giants, tying the 2016 Cardinals for the single-season Major League record.
“Pinch-hitting is one of the harder things in sports, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you get with your routine and what you need to do to get ready,” Slater said.
With many of their high-leverage relief arms unavailable on Thursday, the Giants couldn’t hold off the Padres, as Grisham and Kim launched back-to-back shots off lefty José Quintana to put San Diego back in front, 6-5, in the sixth. The Giants tied the game on a pair of doubles by Wilmer Flores and Tommy La Stella in the seventh, but their missed opportunities in the 10th ended up looming large.
“I think it just showed a lot of grit from the guys,” Slater said. “Dom was supposed to be down today, and he stepped up for us. Even though the outcome wasn’t what we wanted, that was big of him to do that and show that toughness for us.”