SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy was always known for his bullpen strategy, and he pulled out a doozy Saturday evening that flummoxed the Giants and his counterpart, Gabe Kapler.
Starting a lineup that featured seven right-handed hitters, the Giants had no answer when the Bochy pulled his starter, lefty Andrew Heaney, in the second inning for funky right-hander Grant Anderson, who teamed up with Chris Stratton to mow down the Giants on their way to another listless loss, 9-3.
The Rangers’ (70-47) surprise switcheroo put the matchup-dependent Giants (62-55) on the wrong side of the platoon advantage for much of the game, managing only one run on four hits from the third through the eighth inning, until Heliot Ramos tacked on one run in the ninth with his first career home run against lefty Brock Burke, performing mop-up duty.
They went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base, three of whom were stranded after a bases-loaded, inning-ending double play immediately following the pitching change.
Entering Saturday, Heaney had thrown consecutive scoreless outings, totaling 11⅔ innings, and was fourth on the club in total innings pitched. Anderson had a 4.85 ERA in 21 relief appearances this season, but with his crossfire, sidearm motion, gave the Giants a polar opposite look.
The Giants plated one against Heaney in the first, on an RBI single from Patrick Bailey set up by Wilmer Flores’ double, and then loaded the bases in the second.
Upon turning to Anderson, Kapler stuck with Austin Slater, despite his poor splits against righties, and he grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The one lefty in the starting lineup, Michael Conforto, gave the Giants their lone run against the Rangers’ righties. He golfed an 0-1 slider from Anderson over the arcade in right field, his 14th of the season, in the fourth inning. He also laced a single down the right field line that would have been extra bases in most other ballparks and drew a sixth-inning walk while reaching base three times.
It had been more than month since Conforto’s last homer, July 8 against the Rockies, and was only his third since June 8, a two-month-long power drought that had lowered his OPS more than 100 points, to .710 entering Saturday, from .822 after his 12th homer of the year.
Kapler didn’t deploy his other lefties off the bench until it was too late.
Blake Sabol eventually hit for Slater, but not until the fifth inning. Joc Pederson was called on to pinch-hit with two outs and nobody on in the eighth and flew out to center. Neither Brandon Crawford nor LaMonte Wade Jr. made it into the game.
Texas took a commanding lead with back-to-back rallies in the fourth and the fifth that ended Alex Cobb’s night.
Named an All-Star for the first time this season, Cobb hasn’t been the same since returning from the break. He earned the nod with a 2.91 ERA through his first 16 starts, including only one with five or more runs allowed. In six starts since the All-Star break, Cobb has allowed five runs in half of them and failed to complete five innings twice.
He fell behind 2-0 on Corey Seager in the first inning and left a sinker at belt-level, which the former Dodger hammered to straightaway center. After breezing through the next two innings on only 21 pitches, Cobb ran into trouble in the fourth and never recovered. He was credited with six earned runs while allowing nine hits, raising his ERA to 3.62 (5.63 since the All-Star break).
Nine of the final 12 batters he faced reached base before giving way to Alex Wood, who tossed 3⅔ shutout innings before allowing the Rangers to pad their lead in the ninth. The Rangers’ 16 hits were one away from a season-high for the Giants’ pitching staff, more than any game outside Mexico City.
The home run was Cobb’s sixth he has allowed in just his past three starts, matching his total from before the break.
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It’s a concerning trend for one of the Giants’ only two regular starting pitchers, who they are counting on to pitch deep into games in order to continue to run their successful bullpen/bulk innings strategy on the other three turns through the rotation.
Cobb’s 4⅓ innings Saturday increased his season total to 121⅔, closing in on his figure from last season (149⅔), which was the most he had thrown since 2018. He has never reached 180 innings in a season, which even averaging five per start he would hit by about the time the postseason begins.
The good news for the Giants is that their wild-card competition has hit the skids as badly as they have recently. It is, however, a different story in the NL West.
The Dodgers won again Saturday, running their advantage on the division to a season-high 8½ games. At least of the five teams the Giants are competing with for three wild card spots, only the Phillies and Cubs have winning records over their past 10 games.