Longo's back, but Giants' win streak ends

August 15th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants’ infield was back at full strength for the first time since April 21 on Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough in a 4-1 loss to the Rockies at Oracle Park.

Despite the return of third baseman , who was activated off the 60-day injured list after missing 58 games with a left shoulder sprain, the Giants were held in check by Colorado left-hander Kyle Freeland, who tossed six innings of one-run ball to snap San Francisco’s season-high six-game winning streak.

The defeat cut the Giants’ lead for first place in the National League West to four games over the Dodgers, marking the first time Los Angeles has managed to gain ground in the standings since July 28.

The Giants outscored opponents by a 41-23 margin during their six-game winning streak, but they were held to seven hits by Freeland & Co. and squandered several scoring opportunities by grounding into double plays in three consecutive innings on Saturday.

“We obviously put together a pretty good lineup against Freeland, and he was able to go through that lineup successfully three times,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think we have better at-bats as a group in us, and we didn’t bring those tonight.”

The Giants and Rockies traded runs in the second inning before Colorado finally snapped a 1-1 tie with a two-run sixth. Dominic Leone became the third pitcher to take the mound in a bullpen game for the Giants, but things got dicey after Brendan Rodgers singled, Trevor Story doubled and Charlie Blackmon walked to load the bases with no outs.

C.J. Cron knocked in the go-ahead run by grounding into a forceout, and Kapler then summoned lefty José Álvarez to face the left-handed-hitting Ryan McMahon. Álvarez induced a potential inning-ending double-play ball, but second baseman Donovan Solano couldn’t backhand McMahon’s grounder, allowing the Rockies to extend their lead to 3-1 on the error.

“I don’t think we played our best defensive game by any stretch, but I definitely wouldn’t boil it down to our defense alone,” Kapler said. “We win as a team and we lose as a team, so there’s no one thing to point to here. I just don’t think we played good enough to win tonight’s game.”

With right-hander Johnny Cueto on the 10-day injured list with a flexor strain, the Giants called up rookie Sammy Long to make his fourth career Major League start on Saturday. Long worked around a leadoff walk to former Giant Connor Joe to post a scoreless first, but he surrendered a solo home run to Cron to start the second.

Still, the Giants quickly responded in the bottom of the second. Longoria, who returned to action for the first time since June 5, skied a popup that eluded Cron at first base and fell in shallow right field for what he called a “lucky single.” Wilmer Flores then worked a nine-pitch walk to bring up Solano, who shot a two-out single up the middle to tie the game, 1-1.

Long’s pitch count stood at 44 pitches after his two innings of work, but Kapler opted to go to his bench when the pitcher’s spot came up to try to extend the rally. He sent Alex Dickerson to pinch-hit against Freeland, but Dickerson flied out to left field to end the inning.

Zack Littell took over in the top of the third and proceeded to deliver three no-hit innings, retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced and striking out four, but the rest of the Giants’ bullpen coughed up runs in the sixth and the eighth, when Story doubled for the second time and came around to score against Jarlín García.

“He’s been damn near heroic,” Kapler said of Littell, who now has a 2.88 ERA in 43 games for the Giants this year. “Just excellent across the board.”

Longoria, 35, finished 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and said he’s still working to get his rhythm back after missing over two months with a dislocated SC joint, an injury he suffered during a collision with shortstop Brandon Crawford.

“Physically, I felt OK,” Longoria said. “I mean, it’s definitely going to take a little bit longer for me to feel good and get back in the swing of things. But as far as the timing goes, I feel like I had a couple of pitches to hit that I feel like if I was in midseason form, they might not go for base hits, but I feel like I should have hit them on the barrel at the very least. There’s some work to be done.”

Longoria, Crawford, Solano, Flores, Tommy La Stella and Brandon Belt have each missed time with various injuries throughout the year, but now that they’re all back on the active roster, the first-place Giants are suddenly looking deeper than ever. Their newly fortified lineup didn’t produce as expected on Saturday, but the Giants are confident that it’ll only be a matter of time until their offense is firing on all cylinders again.

“They were pretty good without me in the lineup,” Longoria said. “I think eventually we’ll get back to doing that on a consistent basis. Sometimes you have to give a little bit of the credit to the starting pitcher. He threw the ball pretty well tonight. He made some big pitches when he needed to. Sometimes you’ve just kind of got to tip your cap to that.”