DENVER — Two four-game series. Two inferior National League West foes. Two chances to make up valuable ground in the crowded NL wild card race.
The Giants bungled them both, and their playoff chances are on life support with 13 games to go.
An impressive Saturday night crowd of 43,885 watched their last-place hometown squad deal the Giants (75-74) a third defeat in the span of 24 hours, 5-2, seriously deflating San Francisco’s playoff hopes during its easiest remaining stretch of schedule. It’s hard not to draw parallels to the Giants’ four-game set earlier this month against the fourth-place Padres, who took three out of four in a series San Francisco had to win.
Those games also took place in front of larger and livelier crowds than the Giants have drawn at their waterfront ballpark for most of the summer. Their struggles away from Oracle Park know no bounds, falling to 4-23 in their past 27 road games — including the past three at a ballpark they had been 19-10 at under Gabe Kapler’s tenure as manager.
While there’s still a fourth game left here Sunday afternoon (LHP Sean Manaea vs. RHP Chris Flexen, 12:10 p.m. PT), the series script has already been written. The Giants missed a huge opportunity, and the Rockies clinched their first series win against a divisional opponent all season. They had lost 16 of their past 17 meetings with the Giants entering this series.
Making matters worse: the Marlins beat the Braves and the Reds beat the Mets, dropping the Giants 2½ games back of the third and final NL wild card. Their upcoming two-game set in Arizona, which was still in action against the Cubs when this game went final, still looms large with tiebreaker implications.
The NL West is officially out of reach. Their loss in the second game Saturday eliminated them from contention, however unlikely it had been since mid-summer.
Sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader, the Rockies earned more wins against the Giants than they had collected in more than a year’s span, dating back to last August.
The Giants used three bulk pitchers in Game 1. They allowed nine runs, but the “silver lining,” manager Gabe Kapler said, was that they would have a fully rested bullpen for the second game. San Francisco fell into a 2-0 after the first inning, though, and never had a lead to protect.
Alex Cobb was the Giants’ originally scheduled starter Saturday, but still dealing with a hip impingement, he was pushed back until Tuesday in Arizona.
That left the Giants to attack the nightcap of Saturday’s double header with an opener, Scott Alexander, and Jakob Junis in a bulk role behind him.
The combo allowed four runs over 4⅔ innings, though only one run was earned.
In the first, Paul DeJong muffed a routine grounder from Ezequiel Tovar, who immediately made the Giants pay for the mistake. He swiped second and scored on a double from Kris Bryant, who was driven home a couple batters later when Elehuris Montero won an eight-pitch battle with Junis with a line drive into left field.
Tovar’s aggressive base running led to more miscues in a two-run third inning. He singled home Charlie Blackmon after the bearded veteran outfielder tripled to leadoff the inning, then took off for second on the first of two wild pitches from Junis. Bailey scrambled to corral the ball and rushed a throw, sidearm, that sailed wide of Thairo Estrada and into center field, allowing Tovar to take third. Junis buried another pitch in the dirt that got away from Bailey and allowed Tovar to score.
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The Giants got one back in the second on their third straight single, off the bat of Mike Yastrzemski, getting a rare start against a left-hander, and manufactured another run in the sixth after Estrada and Wilmer Flores led off with back-to-back singles.
But two runs at Coors Field, like their two-hit effort Friday night, is rarely enough to get the job done. The Giants grounded into five double plays between both games of the twin bill Saturday, including one off the bat of Mitch Haniger that ended the third inning, stranding their only extra-base hit of the night, a leadoff double from Austin Slater.
In three games in this hitter’s paradise, they have scored nine runs on 18 hits while going 5-for-26 (.192) with runners in scoring position. With runners on second and third in the bottom of the ninth, Yastrzemski struck out, and after Brandon Crawford worked a nine-pitch walk to load the bases, Blake Sabol popped out.