Surging SF Giants sweep Mets behind Bryant’s homer, Ruf’s late RBI and another Álvarez escape

QUEENS, N.Y. — With the bases loaded, no one out and the Giants leading by a run in the eighth inning at Citi Field on Thursday, San Francisco’s lineup had the chance to put the Mets away and cruise to a series sweep.

They squandered the chance anyway.

Missed opportunities haunt every team and the Giants made enough mistakes in New York this week that they easily could have lost a series to the sub-.500 Mets. Instead, the Giants captured their second consecutive 3-2 win and secured a series sweep ahead of a nine-day stretch in which they’ll face three clubs that should make the postseason.

Great teams find ways to win games and at 83-44, the Giants are great.

An early home run from Kris Bryant, a late RBI single from Darin Ruf and another Houdini-like escape from reliever José Álvarez were enough for the Giants to overcome their inability to add onto their lead in the eighth inning.

With an opportunity to break the game open, pinch-hitter Thairo Estrada took four straight pitches off the plate to open his at-bat against Mets lefty Aaron Loup. Estrada should have been trotting down toward first base with a RBI walk, but he soon bounced into a 5-2 force out after home plate umpire Adrian Johnson called Loup’s fourth offering a strike.

The call robbed Estrada and the Giants of a potentially valuable insurance run, and an offense that’s struggled with situational hitting and relied heavily on home runs was unable to recover as Bryant struck out swinging before Brandon Crawford popped out to shallow left field.

The sequence also followed one of the best situational at-bats of the season for the Giants, as Ruf pushed a groundball single through a vacant right side of the infield to give the club a 3-2 lead. After Mike Yastrzemski opened the frame by hitting a groundball single into left center field against a shifted Mets defense, catcher Curt Casali was clipped by a pitch on his right forearm.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler sent Ruf to the plate in the pitcher’s spot in the order and he was able to send a sinker on the inner half of the plate into right field, where Mets outfielder Kevin Pillar gathered the ball and threw it all the way to the backstop.

While running from first to third on the play, Casali injured himself and needed to exit the game, forcing the Giants to use backup Chadwick Tromp on a night Buster Posey was unavailable due to left knee soreness.

A night after pushing the Giants ahead 1-0 with a solo home run off Mets right-hander Taijuan Walker, Bryant was the only Giants player to do significant damage against New York starter Carlos Carrasco as he drilled a two-run home run into the left field bleachers in the top of the first.

Bryant’s sixth home run since joining the Giants turned out to be the second of only three hits the club recorded in seven innings against Carrasco, who was removed in the bottom of the seventh for pinch-hitter Brandon Drury despite throwing just 78 pitches on Thursday.

Starter Alex Wood has been one of the majors’ best pitchers in his first trip through the order this season as opponent have hit .162 with a .439 OPS in their first plate appearances of games against the Giants southpaw. The issue plaguing Wood this season has been when opponents get a second and third look at him and that was once again the case on Thursday in New York.

After beginning his night with five scoreless frames against a Mets squad that hit into a pair of double plays in the early innings, Wood gave up a double to second baseman Javier Báez before Alonso came to the plate to face the Giants starter for a third time.

Alonso fell behind in the count 0-2, but was looking for a slider and got one he could crush. The Mets slugger lofted a towering drive down the left field line that sailed over the foul pole for a game-tying, 447-foot home run that brought Wood’s night to an end.

Opposing hitters entered Thursday’s game with an .842 OPS in their second plate appearance of a game against Wood and an even better .891 OPS mark in their third plate appearance. Those numbers are a concern for the Giants and were a topic Kapler even addressed pregame, but given Wood’s track record, it’s unlikely the club would allow him to pitch deep into games in the postseason.

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Author: Kerry Crowley

EastBayTimes