DENVER — Gabe Kapler broke one of his golden rules to dish out a dose of optimism before Friday’s game against the Rockies. The Giants’ analytically inclined manager doesn’t like small sample sizes. But his club’s past home stand provided an opportunity to highlight one.
“We were a very productive offense,” he said. “It’s no secret: We were very productive because LaMonte Wade Jr. came up huge for us, Yaz got some big hits for us, Joc had some big at-bats, Wilmer Flores – the core group of veteran players that are here because they’ve always had great at-bats and done damage have helped us win five of six. That same group is going to be depended on going forward.”
Just a few hours later, Kapler was reminded why snapshots in time are just that.
Held without a hit for eight innings, the Giants lost in dramatic and devastating fashion. They were walked off by the Rockies, 3-2, after two runs scored on Elehuris Montero’s single to left field off Camilo Doval in the bottom of the ninth.
Charlie Blackmon, who doubled to lead off the inning, scored the tying run and, with his slide into home plate, dislodged Mike Yastrzemski’s throw from Patrick Bailey, allowing the ball to skip away and for Nolan Jones, whom Doval put on with a walk, to score the winning run.
“It stings, absolutely,” said third baseman J.D. Davis, who gave the Giants their first hit and scored the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning. “We did it to ourselves at the same time. We were getting no-hit all the way up until the ninth inning.”
Behind a dominant effort from Logan Webb, the Giants held a 1-0 lead for seven innings despite not getting a hit. Webb finally faltered, allowing the tying run in the eighth, but the Giants answered with their first hit and took the lead in the top of the ninth.
“Every game’s a must-win,” Webb said. “I thought for the most part all the stuff was moving the way I wanted it to and (I was) getting the swings I wanted to. Unfortunately I couldn’t keep that lead in the eighth, which sucks.”
With a double to lead off the ninth inning, Davis saved the Giants from making ignominious history as only the second team to ever be no-hit at the mile-high hitter’s haven the Rockies call home. There still hasn’t been a no-hitter thrown here since Hideo Nomo did it in 1996, the second year of the ballpark’s existence.
Davis’ leadoff double also set him up to score the go-ahead run, sauntering home on a bases-loaded walk to Wilmer Flores. It mirrored the way the Giants got on the board without a hit in the first place, capitalizing on three second-inning walks from Rockies starter Chase Anderson.
Patrick Bailey, who drove in the Giants’ first run with a softly hit comebacker, loaded the bases with the Giants’ second hit of the night, a hard-hit ground ball that second baseman Brendan Rodgers smothered but couldn’t convert into an out, after LaMonte Wade Jr. drew his second walk.
Anderson was far from dominant. He issued five walks and was forced out of the game by his pitch count, no-no still intact, after seven innings. It wasn’t a bid for perfection, and the blips along the way put the Giants six outs away from making a different kind of history.
Logan Webb was arguably more effective. With no walks and only four hits, Webb allowed fewer base runners than his counterpart. He didn’t allow a run through seven innings, extending his scoreless streak against Colorado to 22 straight innings.
Leading 1-0 entering the bottom of the eighth, the Giants nearly became the fifth team in the past 50 years to win without recording a hit.
The third hit surrendered by Webb, however, turned into the Rockies’ first run. Ryan McMahon doubled to lead off the eighth and scored the tying run two batters later, when Ezequiel Tovar singled into center field. Austin Slater came up firing but his throw home was late.
With eight innings of one-run ball, Webb crossed the 200-inning threshold and lowered his ERA to 3.31, putting him squarely in the Cy Young conversation.
Anderson breezed through an eight-pitch first inning and retired 16 of 18 hitters from the third through the seventh innings. But he issued five walks, allowing the Giants to provide just enough padding to survive the one run allowed by Webb, the recipient of the least run support in the majors.
The Giants revived their playoff chances by going 5-1 during their recent home stand, and it was fueled by a reawakened offense. After ranking dead last or near the bottom in most offensive categories since the end of June, San Francisco’s hitters were the most productive in the majors over the small six-game sample. Their .316 batting average, .392 on-base percentage, .533 slugging percentage and 155 wRC+ (100 is league average) all led the majors.
There was a real sense of optimism, coming on the heels of Mitch Haniger’s return from the injured list and Conforto’s activation, which came Friday.
Before Friday’s game, Kapler said, “I think we’re back to as full-strength as we’re going to be for the rest of the season.”
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Anderson, a 35-year-old journeyman, entered Friday night with a 7.00 ERA and is on his fifth team since he posted a figure that started with a number below 6. His last start also came against the Giants, who ripped into him for six runs in a 9-1 win just six day ago.
It was a different story Friday night, as Anderson didn’t allow a hit for seven innings and was only forced from the game by his pitch count, which ran up to 101. In 14 previous starts, he had completed six innings only twice and hadn’t thrown a pitch in the seventh inning or later.
Anderson gave way to Justin Lawrence for the eighth inning, the no-hitter still intact.
Kapler was particularly excited about the depth on his bench, and he decided to deploy it for the first time, pinch-hitting Joc Pederson for Luis Matos.
The reliever collapsed on the sixth pitch he threw and was escorted off the mound by Rockies trainers. Pederson swung through it for strike three, anyway, and added his footsteps to a well-treaded path back to the visitor’s dugout.