Just enough: Late support lifts Webb in complete-game gem

September 26th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- With their ace on the mound and the Oracle Park faithful behind them, the Giants had just about everything a team on the brink of elimination could ask for.

Starring in a clash of two leading National League Cy Young Award candidates that lived up to the billing, ensured that his team's dwindling playoff dreams would stay alive for another day by authoring his second complete game this season -- and in his career -- in Monday night's 2-1 win over San Diego.

  • Games remaining (5): vs. SD (2), vs. LAD (3)
  • Standings update: The Giants (78-79) are 4 1/2 games behind the Cubs and D-backs (82-74) for the final two National League Wild Card spots. They also trail the Marlins (81-75) and Reds (80-77).
  • Elimination number: 2

"I thought it was his most dominant outing of the year," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Everything was off the barrel; everything was on the ground. … On top of it being just a fantastic outing, he did it without much rest the last couple of days. I know he hasn't been feeling well.

"Just exactly what we needed at exactly the right time, and it kind of felt like a Cy Young outing."

Webb outdueled Padres left-hander Blake Snell, who lowered his MLB-best ERA to 2.25 and has not allowed a run in 18 innings against the Giants this season. Snell tossed six scoreless frames before San Diego's bullpen took over, coughing up the lead when Michael Conforto delivered a pinch-hit, two-run single with two outs in the eighth inning.

After allowing an RBI single to Manny Machado in the first inning, Webb put up zeros the rest of the way. He struck out seven batters and scattered nine hits without issuing a walk, throwing a season-high 110 pitches.

Including Monday's nine frames of one-run ball, Webb leads the Majors in innings pitched (216), a mark that Kapler firmly believes makes him one of the most valuable pitchers in baseball and should earn him plenty of Cy Young consideration.

If you ask Webb, though, Snell has it in the bag.

"It's kind of hard to try to go pitch to pitch with him, right?" Webb said. "He's going to win the Cy Young. He's the best pitcher in baseball."

Despite Webb's consistency, the Giants have not been able to capitalize when he takes the ball every fifth day. San Francisco had lost six of his past seven starts entering Monday and has routinely struggled to provide him with run support.

Before Conforto's game-winning knock, Webb seemed poised to assume the dubious honor of tying Carl Hubbell (1933) with his 13th start in which the Giants scored one run or fewer, the second-most in a single season in franchise history.

Coupled with the Giants' steady decline that has them on the outside looking in at the playoff picture with only five games remaining in the regular season, Webb admitted to pitching with some frustration of late.

"I'm tired of losing. It's not enjoyable; it's not fun," Webb said. "We've got to make some big changes in here to really create that winning culture that we want to show up every single year and try to win the whole thing."

What changes would he like to see?

"For me and other guys in here, it's just knowing that we've got to come in here with that same winning mentality every single day," Webb said. "I'm not saying that we don't have that. I'm just saying, 'Hey, we need to put a little extra onto that.'"

With San Francisco a loss away from being mathematically eliminated, the club's focus is slowly but surely shifting toward the future. Five rookies started against Snell and the Padres on Monday, with Marco Luciano helping turn a key double play to end the top of the eighth and doubling and scoring in the Giants' late rally.

Prior to Monday's win, Kapler stressed that San Francisco's goal is closing out the season on a strong note while also setting the club up for success for years to come. Webb -- who will be in San Francisco through at least 2028 -- will have plenty of time to make his mark on the team culture.

"It's just kind of the way he does everything. If you're playing him in cards, he wants to beat you. Play golf with him, crazy competitive," Conforto said. "Just one of those guys who just has that drive to him. When you don't win, he's going to get frustrated. I mean, it's an attitude that can be contagious and should be."