Giants' lead shrinks again with Padres split

September 17th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants won’t face the Dodgers for the remainder of the 2021 regular season, but they will see plenty of the Padres, whom they’re slated to play in six of their final 15 games.

At the beginning of the week, the Wild Card-hopeful Padres appeared in danger of fading from contention, but they’re suddenly looking dangerous again after beating the Giants, 7-4, on Thursday afternoon to secure a split of their four-game series at Oracle Park.

The Giants outclassed the Padres in the first half of the series, but San Diego managed to turn the tables over the final two games, pounding out 30 hits and erupting for 16 runs to pull within a half-game of the Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot. San Francisco, meanwhile, saw its lead in the NL West shrink for the second consecutive day.

Giants’ playoff picture
• Games remaining: 15
Standings update: One game ahead of the idle Dodgers for first place in the NL West
• Magic number for division title: 14
• Can do no worse than hosting the NL Wild Card Game

“The Padres are swinging the bats very well,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think we can chalk it up to kind of running into the best version of them. On our side, when we’re going up against an offense that’s performing that well, we need to match it or exceed it, and we just weren’t able to do that today.”

One day after watching their own bullpen game go awry, the Giants watched the Padres deploy the strategy successfully, as seven San Diego relievers outdueled conventional starter , who gave up four runs on eight hits over five innings.

“I felt like the ball was really kind of exploding out of my hand with my fastball today and my split, really from the first pitch on, was really good,” said Gausman, who struck out seven and walked one. “But I’ve got to give credit to them. They really just battled me. I feel like they had probably like four broken-bat base hits. That’s obviously frustrating, but all you can do as a pitcher is make your pitch. Sometimes things just don’t go your way.”

Gausman opened the game with a 1-2-3 first, but he allowed at least one baserunner in each of his subsequent innings in the 100-pitch outing. The Padres loaded the bases with one out in the second and got on the board via Trent Grisham’s sacrifice fly, though Gausman managed to strike out pinch-hitter Jake Marisnick to avert further damage.

Fernando Tatis Jr., the frontrunner to capture 2021 NL MVP honors, extended the Padres’ lead to 2-0 in the third inning with his 39th home run, drawing boos from the 23,379 in attendance as he flashed his trademark stutter-step move before touching third base.

Gausman faced more trouble in the fifth, when he yielded back-to-back singles to Jurickson Profar and Tatis to start the inning. He retired Manny Machado and Adam Frazier and then got ahead, 0-2, against Tommy Pham, but Pham ended up lining a 98.7 mph fastball to the opposite field for a two-run double that made it 4-0.

The Giants entered Thursday having scored at least six runs in each of their last 10 games, their longest streak in the San Francisco era, but they were shut down by opener Pierce Johnson and Nabil Crismatt through the first five innings.

They finally showed signs of life in the sixth, when Kris Bryant doubled for San Francisco’s first extra-base hit of the afternoon and then advanced to third on Brandon Belt’s 399-foot flyout to deep right-center field, which would have been a home run in 27 ballparks, according to Statcast.

Bryant scored on a wild pitch from Austin Adams to cut the deficit to 4-1, and LaMonte Wade Jr. added an RBI double in the seventh to bring the Giants within two, but the Padres blunted the Giants’ momentum by tacking on three more runs off Tony Watson in the eighth.

The Giants got one run back on Evan Longoria’s 13th home run of the year in the bottom of the inning, but it proved to be too little, too late.

The road doesn’t get much easier for the Giants, who are set to host the NL East-leading Braves in a three-game series that begins on Friday night. After that, the Giants will fly to San Diego for yet another showdown with the Padres, which could go a long way toward determining the final playoff picture in the NL.

“The Padres are fighting to get in, too, and we’re fighting to win a division,” Bryant said. “They’re certainly not going to roll over and just hand it to us. They have some guys who are having some really good years. I know they’ve had some injuries over there, but they’re a good team, and we’ll see them a bunch over these next two weeks. Hopefully we’ll have more wins than losses.”