Things finally fall Giants' way in homestand-opening win

SF snaps 7-game skid with Wood's gem, stellar defense and timely hits

July 29th, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the wake of a seven-game losing streak, Giants manager Gabe Kapler said his team needed to have more fun on the field, as they did when they swatted Wiffle balls as kids, because tense muscles can have a debilitating effect on one’s play.

Did Kapler’s message help loosen the Giants on Thursday night, allowing them to end their streak with a 4-2 victory against the Cubs? Maybe. But nobody could dispute how confident and loose they looked after winning for the first time in 11 days.

 The postgame clubhouse featured plenty of loud music and long-missing smiles.

“You could see it in guys’ eyes and their faces after the game,” said starter Alex Wood, who laid the foundation for the homestand-opening win by carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning on a frigid evening at Oracle Park.

“Just get one and start building from there.”

Wood’s domination was the obvious headline, but even he acknowledged that a huge key was the maligned Giants’ defense, which made a week’s worth of solid-to-spectacular plays in helping Wood keep his no-hitter going before Ian Happ opened the seventh with a clean single.

None was bigger than right fielder Mike Yastrzemski’s leaping, over-the-shoulder catch at the warning track to rob Christopher Morel of extra bases with one out in the sixth.

Beyond that, the Giants pounced on Cubs mistakes to score four unearned runs over the third and fourth innings against starter Justin Steele to build a 4-0 lead -- a gold mine, considering they had failed to hold a lead for a full inning during their 0-7 trip to Los Angeles and Arizona.

Pitching, defense and opportunistic hitting usually lead to postgame smiles.

“I can’t remember a game, even when we were going good, where we did all three,” Wood said. “Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.”

The first signs for Wood were not good. He opened the game with a walk and a hit batter, while working on a mound that he said was not up to snuff after Oracle hosted a soccer game Tuesday night. He then retired 15 Cubs in a row, 13 of them after the Giants had the grounds crew work on the mound.

Wood’s night ended with Patrick Wisdom’s two-run homer in the seventh, sparing Kapler an interesting decision.

Kapler rarely lets Wood face a lineup three times, and the lefty had reached 100 pitches just four times in 45 starts with the Giants over the 2021 and 2022 seasons. If Wood still had the no-hitter into the eighth or ninth and had blown past 100 pitches, Kapler could be risking a game the club absolutely needed to win.

“I probably would have let him keep rolling,” Kapler said, “but I don’t know.”

The Giants might have felt they were looking at a mirror when Wisdom let a wind-blown Yastrzemski popup fall for a third-inning error, the kind of mistake that doomed them during the losing streak. Austin Slater then reached on an infield single that hugged the third-base chalk line -- again, the kind of break only the Giants’ opponents seemed to enjoy of late.

Still, the Giants were on the verge of another demoralizing inning, which included a run being taken off the board after a video review turned a scoring wild pitch into a hit batsman that instead loaded the bases.

They had forced Steele to throw 33 pitches in the inning and still had no runs before DH Yermín Mercedes blooped the 34th into center for a two-run single after fouling off four straight 3-2 pitches.

The Giants added a run in the inning on a Thairo Estrada infield hit then scored again on Slater’s fourth-inning double after a Nico Hoerner throwing error let David Villar reach.

Given the circumstances, particularly the offensive futility during the losing streak, Mercedes’ two-run hit was among the club’s biggest of the year.

“It’s in the conversation,” Slater said. “Over the last seven games it felt like we’ve been playing from behind. So for him to step up and give us the lead early, it’s not like it let us relax and let off the gas, but it kind of signaled that, hey, things can change.”

The Giants got seven outs from relievers Dominic Leone, John Brebbia and closer Camilo Doval; the latter struck out Willson Contreras, Seiya Suzuki and Hoerner in the ninth to secure his 13th save.