Clinch next for SF after sweep, 7 wins in row

September 13th, 2021

CHICAGO -- At the beginning of the Giants’ series at Wrigley Field on Friday, wasn’t anywhere near Chicago. By the end, he was leading them to a series sweep with a 6-5 win on Sunday afternoon.

Since Flores was still on the 10-day injured list a couple days ago, he had stayed back in San Francisco and participated in full baseball activities in the hope that he would be ready for the upcoming home series against the Padres. There was the chance that Flores could be ready to play on Sunday, though. The closer the game got, the more Giants manager Gabe Kapler could sense that Flores wouldn’t be waiting for the team to get back home.

The easy choice for Kapler, of course, would likely have been not to have Flores make the one-day trip to Chicago, to roll with the players on the roster and to try to head back to Oracle Park with one more win. Kapler, however, didn’t second-guess his decision to activate Flores ahead of the series finale.

“What I'd say is, that wasn't a tough decision at all,” Kapler said. “One of your best bats, period, against a left-handed pitcher. A guy who has historically been excellent against lefties, and he's well rested, so there wasn't much of a question there. He was a perfect fit in the middle of our lineup.”

The move paid off, as Flores singled in his first two at-bats and hit a two-run shot off Chicago starter Justin Steele in the top of the fifth, helping the Giants secure their seventh straight victory. Austin Slater, also activated ahead of Sunday's game, went 2-for-3 with an RBI single.

“We're on a run here,” Flores said. “Any little thing counts, every game counts. I always want to play, and if I have to fly for one game, I'll do it again.”

That buy-in from both manager and player is what winning teams are made of, and it’s the reason San Francisco holds the best record in the Majors and has a shot to officially lock down the first National League postseason spot on Monday night against San Diego at Oracle Park.

The Giants finished off the three-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday only about 30 minutes after the Reds lost to the Cardinals. Those were two of the three outcomes that needed to happen in San Francisco’s favor. Now, a Giants win in the series opener against the Padres would punch their ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Sunday’s victory was also San Francisco’s seventh in a row -- the club’s longest streak of the season, which also matches its most consecutive wins since a seven-game stretch from Aug. 18-25, 2020. It moved them to 93-50 on the year and kept them 2 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West.

“I don't know how much losing streaks we've really gone through, but the mood's always been great,” said , who earned his 10th win of the season on Sunday and still hasn’t lost a start since May 5. “I think that just goes with how great our clubhouse is. It's so much fun to come in here every day, laughing and joking. It's just a great group of guys.”

“I really liked the way we played the majority of the time on this road trip, and I think we're a good enough team where, most of the time, that's going to be enough,” Kapler said. “In the biggest moments against the best teams going forward, I think we're going to have to play, really, the best brand of baseball that we have -- and I think we're capable of doing that.”

The past six wins mark the first time the Giants have gone 6-0 on a road trip of at least six games since May 12-19, 2016, when they went 7-0 in trips to Arizona and San Diego, and the perfect week sets San Francisco up to lock down a playoff spot in front of its home crowd.

However, don’t mistake this team for one just hoping to make the postseason.

“I think it's more of a ‘We want to win the division’ feeling,” said Tyler Rogers, who struck out Willson Contreras and Alfonso Rivas with the bases loaded to post a scoreless seventh inning. “Obviously, if we do end up clinching a playoff spot here sometime soon, we're not going to take the foot off the gas. Winning the division is our mindset.”