NEW YORK -- Neither the Giants nor the Mets played their cleanest baseball on Wednesday night, but in the end, the team with the best record in the Majors found a way to win.
The Giants overcame errors by Kris Bryant and Alex Dickerson and capitalized on a couple of gifts from the Mets en route to a 3-2 comeback win at Citi Field that clinched their ninth consecutive series win.
Brandon Crawford delivered a go-ahead two-run double off lefty reliever Aaron Loup in the seventh inning, and closer Jake McGee worked around a stunning misplay by Dickerson and Austin Slater to survive a bases-loaded jam in the ninth and shut the door for San Francisco, which has won four in a row.
The Giants (82-44) are officially assured of their first winning season since 2016, but loftier ambitions have begun to emerge now that they’ve managed to defy their modest preseason expectations and rise to -- and stay at -- the top of the National League West. The Giants have been in first place since Memorial Day, but they recognize that they’ll have to play better than they did on Wednesday to continue their quest to unseat the lurking Dodgers, who have won eight consecutive division titles.
“It was not our cleanest game,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We know that it wasn’t our cleanest game. In order to win the biggest games going forward for the rest of the season, we’re going to have to play clean, fundamentally sound, crisp, efficient baseball. We’ve done that for most of the season, which is why we are where we are. Tonight, it wasn’t good enough. I think everybody knows that. That said, it was a win on the road against a really hungry team. It wasn’t the prettiest win ever, but we got enough hits, made enough plays and made enough pitches to get through it.”
The Giants entered the seventh trailing, 2-1, before Bryant reached on a fielding error by Jonathan Villar, who couldn’t handle a grounder to third, and advanced to second on Dickerson’s bloop single off Mets right-hander Taijuan Walker. Two Mets fielders converged on Dickerson’s pop fly, which had an expected batting average of .060, but the ball dropped in front of a diving Michael Conforto in right field.
Walker’s pitch count stood at 74, but Mets manager Luis Rojas made the decision to lift him and bring in Loup to face the left-handed-hitting Crawford. The move ended up backfiring, as Crawford promptly lined Loup’s first pitch -- a misplaced 82.7 mph cutter -- to right field to knock in Bryant and Dickerson and put the Giants back ahead, 3-2. It was the first extra-base hit Loup has allowed to a left-handed hitter this year.
“We have a lot of good hitters,” Crawford said. “If a team is going to give us baserunners, or if we’re able to work some good at-bats to be able to get on base, I think we all have confidence that we’re going to be able to get them in.”
Bryant’s role in jumpstarting the Giants’ final rally helped make up for his own defensive miscue earlier in the game. He put the Giants on the board with a Statcast-projected 434-foot shot that hit off the face of the second deck in left field in the fourth, but he was also responsible for giving the lead away the following inning.
Johnny Cueto, who was making his first start since Aug. 8 after being activated from the injured list on Wednesday, was one out away from escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth, but Bryant made a wide throw to first base on Pete Alonso’s routine grounder, allowing the Mets to bring home the tying run.
“Alonso is a great hitter,” Cueto said in Spanish. “He has power. I wanted to get either a fly ball or a grounder, which is what I got. But that’s part of the game.”
Cueto departed after allowing one unearned run on five hits over 4 2/3 innings, but lefty José Álvarez came in and retired Jeff McNeil on one pitch to prevent further damage. New York briefly went ahead in the sixth on Dominic Smith’s RBI double off fellow southpaw Tony Watson, but Crawford restored the Giants’ lead with his clutch hit in the seventh. The Mets outhit the Giants, 10-4, but New York hit into five double plays and left nine men on base.
Still, the Giants had to endure some late drama in the ninth. Villar singled, and poor communication between Slater and Dickerson resulted in a dropped fly ball in left-center field, allowing Brandon Drury to reach on an error. McGee then issued a two-out walk to Brandon Nimmo to load the bases for Alonso, who popped out to end the game.
“Our bullpen came in and pitched great,” Crawford said. “We were kind of able to pitch through a couple of mistakes and get out of it somewhat unscathed. I think that’s kind of a key to a well-rounded team. Being able to hit through some mistakes, pitch through some mistakes when we make them. But for the most part, we’ve done a pretty good job of not making them.”