DENVER — The San Francisco Giants must have been wondering as the sixth inning went on, hit after hit, run after run, where was all this offense when they needed it?
A dozen men came to bat and eight of them crossed the plate, practically matching their offensive output from the first three games of this series and providing just enough fuel to at least salvage one win, 11-10, in the four-game set against the National League’s bottom feeders.
The final out sailed into Thairo Estrada’s glove at second base, and J.D. Davis hung his head with his hands on his knees, a clear sense of relief, after Camilo Doval nearly let the club’s rare offensive outburst go to waste while surrendering four runs in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the Charlie Blackmon to step in against Taylor Rogers as the would-be winning run.
Blackmon hit a soft liner into Estrada’s glove for the final out, ending a game that exuded Coors Field all over it, after the teams seemed to forget they were playing in the friendliest hitting environment in the majors in their first three games.
How much those three losses to the Rockies will harm them, and what effect Sunday’s turnaround might have, will be determined over the next two weeks. With 12 games to play, the Giants (76-74) still trail three teams for the final National League wild card, two games back of Arizona (78-72) and Miami (78-72) and 1½ behind Cincinnati (78-73).
The big blows, the lack of which manager Gabe Kapler has lamented for much of the summer, were delivered by Brandon Crawford and Mitch Haniger.
Haniger drove home two with his second double of the game, over the head of center fielder Brenton Doyle, and two batters later, Crawford cleared the bases with a three-run shot into the Rockies bullpen. With doubles from Joc Pederson and Mike Yastrzemski, the Giants equaled their number of extra-base hits (four) and home runs (one) from their three losses the past two days in one inning.
The home run was Crawford’s seventh of the season and first since Aug. 1 and only the Giants’ second of the three-run variety since July 18.
Their 11 runs were two more than they scored over all of their first three games, while their 14 hits were only four short of the three-game total.
It was a well-rounded effort, with hits from all 10 players who received an at-bat and multiple base knocks from four of them, and an impressive show of force, to be sure, but with only a dozen games remaining, after dropping the three easiest games left on their schedule the previous two nights, was it too late?
The disappointing start to the series sank them 2½ games back in the NL wild card race and sent their postseason chances tumbling to a season-low of 10.8% entering Sunday, according to FanGraphs, or only slightly worse than their success rate with runners in scoring position in their past three losses (.192).
But the Giants went 8-for-14 in those prime scoring chances Sunday, and take at least a little momentum with them into a pivotal two-game set in Arizona that begins Tuesday. They’ll have their aces, Alex Cobb and Logan Webb, on the mound in their two most important games of the season, which not only present opportunities to make up ground in the crowded wild card race but, with one win, will give the Giants the upper hand in practically every tiebreaker scenario.
At Coors Field, there’s no such thing as too many runs, as the Giants quickly learned after the top half of the sixth came to an end.
DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 17: J.D. Davis #7 of the San Francisco Giants slides across home plate and scores a fifth inning run against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 17, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
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Making his second start since returning to the rotation, Sean Manaea pitched five shutout innings but didn’t make it out of the sixth as Colorado answered with five runs. Three of them (two earned) were credited to Manaea, who successfully navigated traffic on the base paths in all of his first five innings but finally paid for it in the sixth, serving up a two-run homer to Hunter Goodman, the first of the rookie’s career.
John Brebbia gave Doyle, the light-hitting center fielder, a meatball slider over the middle of the plate, which he deposited halfway up the left-field bleachers, 445 feet away, to complete the five-run inning. The Giants tacked on two more in their half of the seventh, and the Rockies scratched across another in the seventh, against Tyler Rogers.
San Francisco was held hitless by Rockies starter Chris Flexen of Newark for the first four innings, and appeared to be in for another day of offensive futility. But J.D. Davis singled to lead off the fifth inning, and Haniger drove him home with his first double to open a 1-0 lead.