Giants blow early lead, lose crushing extra-inning game to Rockies as wild card chaos continues

SAN FRANCISCO — For all the entertainment and excitement the San Francisco Giants have provided television viewers this season, the 2020 club has suffered no shortage of gut-wrenching and heartbreaking losses.

The Giants watched reliever Trevor Gott blow three consecutive save opportunities in August, saw their former center fielder, Kevin Pillar, crush their hopes with a go-ahead triple in Colorado at the beginning of September and squandered a chance at a comeback victory over Arizona the same week when rookie center fielder Mauricio Dubón committed a terrible baserunning mistake that same week.

The Giants’ ability to bounce back from such discouraging losses put them in control of their own playoff destiny with four days left in the regular season, which is precisely why a 5-4, 11-inning defeat against the Colorado Rockies is so crushing.

Armed with an opportunity to enter a four-game series against the San Diego Padres with a lead in the National League wild card standings, the Giants squandered an early 3-0 lead in a loss that will jeopardize the team’s playoff hopes. First baseman Brandon Belt rescued the team from a 4-3 deficit with a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth, but the Giants’ lineup failed to take advantage of a bases loaded, one out situation in the 10th.

With Mauricio Dubón standing on third and Darin Ruf at first in the 11th, designated hitter Austin Slater bounced into a game-ending 5-4-3 double play that dropped the Giants back to .500 with four games left in the regular season.

The Giants had an opportunity to put the Rockies away in the first extra inning after Colorado manager Bud Black called for back-to-back intentional walks and employed a five-man infield, but third baseman Evan Longoria hit a 104.0-mile per hour one-hopper right into the glove of a diving shortstop Trevor Story, who fired a strike to home plate while sitting on cut of the infield dirt.

Colorado didn’t need a base hit to score a runner from second in the 11th as a sacrifice fly and groundout did the job, but the Giants couldn’t match the Rockies with right-hander Jairo Díaz on the mound.

The Rockies rallied for two runs in the fourth against Giants starter Kevin Gausman and two more in the seventh against reliever Sam Coonrod to stun San Francisco en route to a series split. At 28-28, the Giants will end the day either in sole possession of the second wild card spot or tied with the Milwaukee Brewers, but manager Gabe Kapler’s club now faces a tougher road to the postseason as it must pad its win total against a Padres club that has already locked up the fourth seed in the playoffs.

Gausman struck out nine Rockies hitters over six innings on Thursday, recording his second consecutive quality start and holding an opponent to two runs or fewer in his fourth straight outing. The veteran right-hander lowered his ERA to 3.68 and isn’t scheduled to start again during the regular season, but it’s possible the Giants would make him available out of the bullpen on Saturday or Sunday if the team is still trying to lock up a playoff berth.

Regardless of whether Gausman pitches this weekend, he has clearly established himself as the Giants’ top option to start a playoff series and would be in line to pitch in Game 1 of a first round matchup next Wednesday if the club makes it that far.

What made Thursday’s game so disappointing for the Giants was the lineup’s struggles as the offense could have broken the game wide open against Rockies starter Chi Chi González. Six of the first 10 Giants batters recorded hits, but the team only scored three runs in the first two innings as second baseman Wilmer Flores was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a fielder’s choice in the first before he struck out with runners at second and third and just one out in the second.

That came back to haunt Gausman in the top of the fourth as the right-hander had pitched his way out of jams in the first few innings before a combination of timely hits and unsteady defense caught up to him. The Rockies scored their first run on a flyball hit by Ryan McMahon that left fielder Alex Dickerson couldn’t track down at the wall and then added a second when left fielder Raimel Tapia blooped a single into left field to bring home McMahon.

Thursday’s start wasn’t the sharpest of the season for Gausman, but his ability to use a 97-mile per hour fastball coupled with an impressive splitter helped him miss enough bats to keep the Giants in the lead for the duration of his outing. Dickerson’s defense may have cost him a run, but rookie center fielder Mauricio Dubón helped him out by snaring a long flyball with a leaping catch in front of the left center field wall to take away extra bases from Rockies first baseman Josh Fuentes.

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Author: Kerry Crowley