Big bats send Giants home with victory

September 21st, 2020

It’s down to the home stretch for the Giants. Literally. 

After concluding their final road series with a 14-2 rout of the A’s in Sunday afternoon’s series finale at the Coliseum, the Giants will return home to Oracle Park on Monday with a chance to earn their first postseason berth in four years, a position few expected them to be in at the beginning of the year.

“It’s a really exciting time to know that, pretty comfortably, our destiny is in our hands,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’re going to be responsible for the outcome of this season. It’s a really good feeling.”

The Giants (26-26) will enter the final week of the regular season back at .500, tied with the Reds (27-27) and Brewers (26-26) for the eighth and final National League playoff spot. Cincinnati currently holds the tiebreaker due to its superior intradivision record, but the Giants will conclude their 2020 campaign with eight games against the NL West, as they’ll play a pair of four-game series against the Rockies and Padres in their final homestand of the year.

Sunday’s victory restored confidence in the Giants’ ability to bounce back and continue to defy the constant hurdles that have popped up over the course of this pandemic-shortened 60-game regular season. After being shut out in two consecutive games, the Giants’ bats finally broke out for three home runs -- including a grand slam by -- to avoid being swept in the six-game season series against the A’s.

and also homered for the Giants, who outhit their cross-bay rivals 15-5.

“We’re going home right now with our spirits high,” Tromp said. “We’re 100 percent confident that we’re going to make this happen, so this win was huge. It’s high energy right now.”

Tromp, who started over struggling rookie Joey Bart on Sunday, finished with a career-high three hits, while outfield prospect Luis Alexander Basabe collected his first career RBI with a single in the ninth. Ruf’s four RBIs were his most since he drove in a career-high six runs on Sept. 1, 2015, against the Mets.

The Giants struggled to overcome the absence of Mike Yastrzemski (calf injury) and Alex Dickerson (paternity list) in the first two games of this series, mustering a combined nine hits while being outscored 12-0. Their scoreless streak grew to 22 innings before Tromp ended it by launching a two-run shot off Oakland lefty Mike Minor to put San Francisco on the board in the third.

Ruf extended the Giants’ lead to 4-0 with another two-run homer before Crawford broke the game open with his fourth career grand slam in the sixth. After Brandon Belt and Ruf walked and Mauricio Dubón singled to load the bases, Crawford drove a first-pitch sinker from reliever J.B. Wendelken out to right-center field to make it 8-0.

After recording a career second-worst .654 OPS in 2019, Crawford entered the season as a platoon player for the Giants, but he managed to earn back an everyday role by proving that he could produce against both lefties and righties. The 33-year-old is now hitting .283 with an .835 OPS and six home runs over 46 games this year while also ranking third among Major League shortstops with four Outs Above Average, according to Statcast.

“He has proven that he is still a productive offensive player in this league through his work this year,” Kapler said. “I know last year was not a good year for him offensively, but Craw has been extremely competitive in the batter’s box against lefties and against righties. He’s gotten some big hits for us, and his statline speaks for itself at this point. It’s been a shortened season, but it’s been a productive one.”

The Giants had originally planned to start Johnny Cueto on Sunday, but they decided to push back the veteran right-hander to give him more time to recover from hip tightness. Left-hander , who threw only 49 pitches against the Mariners on Thursday before being ejected in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes, started in Cueto’s place and atoned for his lapse in judgement by holding the A’s to two runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings.

“I felt like I owed it to our bullpen and the guys to throw some innings today,” Anderson said.

Anderson opened his outing with five scoreless innings before yielding a two-run, two-out single to Jake Lamb in the sixth on his 105th and final pitch of the afternoon. The runs were unearned, as the A’s ignited the rally with the help of an error by Belt at first base.

Kapler said he spoke with Anderson about the importance of maintaining his composure after his last start, as his inability to rein in his emotions subsequently put a major toll on the Giants’ bullpen. Anderson was able to learn from the mistake and stay calm under pressure on Sunday, a demeanor Kapler believes the Giants will have to maintain as they enter their most important week of the season.

“He kind of stayed even, and that’s one of the messages we’ve been sharing with each other these last couple of days,” Kapler said. “We’re going to stay even. We sense the urgency. We know how important it is, but we’re going to stay relaxed through this.”