April 12, 2024
Giants avoid being swept in three game series, now head to Philadelphia for series vs. team 3 games ahead in wild card standings.

ATLANTA — A hit, who needs a hit?

After blowing a late lead for the second straight game here when Taylor Rogers issued back-to-back walks and Ronald Acuña Jr. scored the tying run on a stolen base and and a throwing error with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, the Giants stole a win to avoid being swept in this three-game series when Atlanta’s ninth-inning reliever, Kirby Yates, was even more erratic.

The Giants loaded the bases and scored the winning run without getting a hit in the top of the ninth. Yates walked the leadoff man, Michael Conforto, and hit back-to-back batters to load the bases for Joc Pederson. Entering as a pinch-hitter, Pederson didn’t have to hit much — he watched four pitches outside the strike zone, and then awaited Conforto’s slow jog home to celebrate one of the most important walks of his career before taking first base.

Not quite a walk-off in the traditional sense, but a walk-off nonetheless. Final score: 4-3.

“It wasn’t the prettiest, but we’ll all take it and get on the plane happy,” manager Gabe Kapler said afterward.

Rogers was tasked with protecting a 3-2 lead when he entered in the eighth, but the Giants should have known they were in trouble when he gave Acuña a free pass to first base, putting the majors’ most aggressive runner on the base paths as the would-be tying run, and put him on second with a second consecutive walk to Eddie Rosario, the hero of Saturday’s game.

That prompted manager Gabe Kapler to turn to Camilo Doval for a five-out save. Doval won a nine-pitch battle with Austin Riley for the second out of the inning, but with Matt Olson up allowed Acuña to get a massive jump, likely negating even the best throw from Bailey.

Wilmer Flores, the recipient of one of Yates’ errant pitches in the ninth, and Luis Matos both homered in multi-hit efforts to build the 3-2 lead, while another countryman, Thairo Estrada (who was also hit by Yates), contributed a pair of hits. Avoiding a three-game sweep, the Giants recorded double-digit base knocks for a second consecutive day, only the second time they have strung together two games with 10-plus hits since the last week of June.

As the Giants head to Philadelphia for a three-game series against the team leading them by three games in the wild card standings, they snapped a three-game losing streak, winning for only the fourth time in their past 14 games to maintain their slim lead on the second of three wild card spots.

Facing 2022 NL Cy Young runner-up, the Giants ran up Max Fried’s pitch count and forced him from the game after 5⅔ innings and 103 pitches (68 in the first three innings). Meanwhile their amalgamation of arms — Jakob Junis, Alex Wood, Tristan Beck doing the bulk of the work — quieted Atlanta’s dangerous lineup more effectively than Logan Webb or Alex Cobb managed to in losses in the first two games of the series.

After being held out of the lineup at Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday night, prompting the River Cats to start a pitcher in the outfield, Matos flew cross-country and was activated shortly before first pitch, when Brandon Crawford (left forearm strain) went on the injured list for the third time this season.

In his first game back in the majors (after only a three-game stay at Triple-A), Matos announced his arrival with the furthest-hit ball of his career in his first at-bat and the hardest-hit ball of his career in his second trip to the plate.

Matos was left in the on-deck circle as the Giants left the bases loaded in the first inning, and it looked like they might be in for another disappointing day of hitting.

But leading off the second, he worked a 2-0 count against Fried, fouled off a changeup away and spoiled a fastball on the inner half. Fried came back with another inside heater that caught just a bit more of the the plate, and Matos mashed it 425 feet over the wall in left-center field.

Matos added another 108.4 mph single the next inning, following Flores’ two-run shot that looked to be decisive until the eighth inning.

Estrada doubled to lead off the third for his second hit of the day, and he was able to trot home almost immediately. Flores jumped on the second pitch he got from Fried, a belt-high slider, and sent it into the visitor’s bullpen in left field, providing the Giants a 3-2 lead.

All three of Atlanta’s runs were unearned, two of which came via an error by third baseman Casey Schmitt, who also rushed cross-country and arrived in the sixth inning Saturday night. He wasn’t able to handle a routine grounder that would have been the second out of the third inning, allowing Sean Murphy to reach, and two batters later, Orlando Arcia launched a hanging slider from Jakob Junis over the left-field wall.

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But Schmitt made up for the error by starting a slick 5-4-3 double play to record the first two outs of the third after Wood allowed a leadoff single. At shortstop, Johan Camargo helped Luke Jackson complete a five-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh inning with an impressive backhanded snag for the third out.

Beck, acquired long ago from Atlanta in the Mark Melancon trade, took over to begin the fourth and tossed three shutout innings, striking out three and allowing only two base runners, in perhaps the most impressive showing of his big-league career.

In one of the more bizarre moments of the season, the game was delayed for almost 10 minutes in the bottom of the fourth as about half a dozen members of the grounds crew hurried to repair a hole that formed on the pitching mound. It was Beck who raised their attention after landing funny on his second pitch of the game, at first prompting trainer Dave Groescher to come check on him.

Beck assured him that he was fine, and promptly proved as much over the next three innings.