PHOENIX — With each passing game, the San Francisco Giants’ path to the postseason gets narrower.
They have 10 to play, and with a 7-1 loss to the D-backs Wednesday afternoon, fell further out of the playoff picture than they have been since it was worth paying attention. They were swept in the two-game series, outscored 15-5 and outhit 27-9, sending them 4½ games back of Arizona, 3½ back of the Cubs for the third and final spot, and on the wrong side of tiebreakers against both teams in the unlikely scenario they come into play.
“Obviously these were must-win games, and going back several games, those were also must-win games,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Now, the math is not on our side.”
If their four-game set at Colorado to open this road trip represented a golden opportunity, these two games in Arizona might as well have been a last stand. They went 1-5 over the six-game stretch and will take a .500 record with them to Dodger Stadium for the last leg of their final road trip. Their postseason odds, according to FanGraphs, are down to 1.4%.
“We’re probably going to have to win every single game from here on out and hopefully get some luck from around the league,” said Logan Webb, who notched his league-leading 23rd quality start with six innings of three-run ball but, once again, was let down by his lineup. “It’s very frustrating. One of my main goals is to win games that I start, and I just haven’t done that. It’s been very frustrating, to say the least.”
Wednesday was the 12th time this season the Giants have scored one or fewer runs in one of Webb’s starts. They have been held to two or fewer in 20 of his 32 starts. No other pitcher in the majors has received fewer run support. He will likely appear on Cy Young ballots, yet San Francisco fell to 14-18 when he takes the mound. There are a lot of things to point to when it comes to the Giants’ downfall, and their inability to score for their top starter is near the top of the list.
“I think we’re all disappointed that we haven’t been able to support Webby,” Kapler said. “It doesn’t take away from the excellent season that he’s had, the innings he’s been able to pile up, the games that he’s been able to keep us in. He’s just been one of the best pitchers in baseball, and I don’t think that’s disputable.”
The Giants lost more than the game: Shortstop Brandon Crawford left in the third inning and, Kapler said, may land on the injured list.
Crawford said he felt his right hamstring “grab” as he was trying to beat out a ground ball to first base in the second inning. A trip to the IL would jeopardize the rest of his season, and possibly would mean he’s played his final game with the Giants after 13 years. His contract is up after this season.
The unfortunate timing, Crawford said, was “the first thing I thought of. Most frustrating timing I’ve probably ever had with an injury.”
With a chance to gain ground on Arizona in the wild card race and clinch the season series with just one win, securing a potentially important tiebreaker, the Giants lined up their top two starters to oppose the Diamondbacks’ top two arms. But just like Alex Cobb the night before, Webb left with his team trailing.
This was a series between teams going in opposite directions. The streaking Diamondbacks jumped the Cubs for second place in the wild card standings with three straight wins before the Giants arrived in town and improved to 14-7 against postseason contenders since Aug. 21. The Giants fell to 6-12 in September and haven’t played winning baseball for a whole month since June.
The momentum, then, was not on Webb’s side he allowed Corbin Carroll to reach base to start the game. Carroll, the NL Rookie of the Year frontrunner and down-ballot MVP candidate, singled and stole second in each of his first two at-bats, singlehandedly manufacturing two runs.
Carroll turned his second single into a triple when Patrick Bailey’s throw sailed into center field, allowing the speedy rookie to take third. It was his 50th steal of the season and Bailey’s third error of September, triple the number of runners he has thrown out (one) in 11 attempts this month.
“I think he’s just rushing,” Kapler said of his rookie catcher, who had thrown out nearly 40% of attempted base stealers through his first two months in the majors but less than a quarter since. “I think he’s just trying to be perfect. I think he’s trying really hard, wants to make something happen. You have to be in a relaxed state, and I think he’s just pushing a little too hard behind the plate.”
Carroll put a cherry on top of a 4-for-4 day with a seventh-inning homer off Ryan Walker, which was followed by another blast by Ketel Marte, extending the D-backs’ lead to 5-1, well out of reach of the Giants’ anemic offense.
For the second straight game, the Giants got on the board with a first-inning home run, this time from LaMonte Wade Jr. in the first at-bat of the game. But Carroll immediately evened the score in the bottom half, and the Giants mustered just two more hits the rest of the game. Arizona finished with 14.
Longtime nemesis Merrill Kelly mixed his six pitches as effectively as ever, outlasting Webb and handing a lead over to Arizona’s bullpen, which entered the series with a bottom-10 ERA in the majors but didn’t allow a run in 6⅓ innings this series. Kelly has yet to lose in 10 career starts against the Giants at Chase Field, lowering his ERA in those games to 1.75.
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“He’s really good at mixing that cutter and that changeup,” Kapler said. “He moves the ball around the zone and moves the ball off the plate, has a really good feel for when a batter’s about to chase, exploits that and does it consistently.”
Seven of their final 10 games come against the Dodgers, starting Thursday with four games in Los Angeles, their final road series of the season. Los Angeles clinched the NL West last week but still has something to play for, still within reach of its third straight 100-win season and of Atlanta for the National League’s top seed.
Kyle Harrison, called up to take Cobb’s roster spot, will start Thursday in Los Angeles, followed by Sean Manaea on Friday. The last two games of the series are listed as TBD. Cobb would have been scheduled to start Sunday.
— Alex Cobb (left hip impingement) was placed on the 15-day injured list before first pitch, effectively ending his regular season. He went 7-7 with a 3.87 ERA and 2.7 bWAR while being named an All-Star for the first time in his 12-year career. The Giants own a $10 million club option for 2024 that they are expected to exercise.