SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants had a lot going for them Monday night, including Dereck Rodriguez's smooth seven-inning stint and Brandon Crawford's typically exceptional effort..The Houston Astros countered with their World Series-winning vibe, which proved to be enough. Marwin Gonzalez launched a three-run homer off Giants closer Will Smith with
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants had a lot going for them Monday night, including Dereck Rodriguez's smooth seven-inning stint and Brandon Crawford's typically exceptional effort..
The Houston Astros countered with their World Series-winning vibe, which proved to be enough. Marwin Gonzalez launched a three-run homer off Giants closer Will Smith with two outs in the ninth inning to give Houston a 3-1 decision.
The outcome did nothing to spoil Rodriguez's outing. Displaying his characteristic precision, he allowed three hits, walked none and struck out seven as he strengthened his National League Rookie of the Year candidacy.
"I felt I didn't have my high-velocity fastball, 94-95 [mph]," he said. "So I was trying to move the ball more, throw my two-seam [fastball] more and my cutter."
Rodriguez has allowed two runs or fewer while pitching at least six innings in his last seven starts. His ERA in that span is 1.36.
"He just keeps getting better," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That was a beautiful game he pitched."
This would have been a singular victory for the Giants. They were one out away from defeating Houston, which owned a Major League-best 39-18 road record. The Giants nursed a 1-0 lead into the ninth, resulting from Crawford's sixth-inning home run off Astros starter Charlie Morton. Though second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa and outfielder George Springer were injured and unavailable to Houston, the Giants were on the brink of a triumph that would have buoyed their confidence as they strive to remain in postseason contention.
But Smith walked Alex Bregman with one out and Yuli Gurriel on four pitches with two outs. The Giants remained calm, given Smith's statistical totals in his last 14 games, which included a 1.23 ERA, 22 strikeouts and no walks in 14 2/3 innings and seven saves in as many chances.
Up came Gonzalez, who hoisted a 1-0 pitch into the left-field seats.
"I just didn't have the control I usually have tonight," Smith said. "I just didn't have command of the fastball."
Asked to describe the Giants' collective mood swing after Gonzalez's long ball, Crawford said, "It was about what you'd expect."
The Giants quickly tried to recover emotionally, as Rodriguez and Smith demonstrated by exchanging a fist-bump in a gesture of mutual encouragement. After all, the teams were to meet again Tuesday afternoon.
"Obviously losses like this are tough," Crawford said. "But we have another [game] in 14 hours. We have to play another one and forget this one."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Crawford provided Rodriguez with exceptional defensive support. The All-Star shortstop started a slick double play in the second inning and made a deft short-hop pickup of Martin Maldonado's fifth-inning grounder that led to an out.
Crawford reacted almost nonchalantly when asked about his play on Maldonado.
"You just kind of have an idea of where the ball's going to go and you put your glove there," Crawford said.
Entering Monday, Crawford had accumulated 10 defensive runs saved, including six in July.
The Giants endured their third loss of the season when leading after eight innings. They're 46-3 in such games. On a somewhat related subject, San Francisco leads the Major Leagues with 24 blown saves this season.
Madison Bumgarner needs one more victory to move into sole possession of third place on the Giants' all-time San Francisco-era wins list, and he'll try to secure that triumph in Tuesday's 12:45 p.m. PT series finale against Houston at AT&T Park. Bumgarner, currently tied for third with Timothy Lincecum (108 wins), is eclipsed only by Juan Marichal (238) and Gaylord Perry (134). Houston will counter with its own formidable left-hander, Dallas Keuchel.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.