SAN DIEGO — Wilmer Flores’ understated superstar season continued Friday night. But, like most the rest of it, the Flo Show lacked a supporting act.
Flores slugged his 20th home run of the season with flourish, tanking the fifth pitch of the game to the upper deck of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field, but the rest of the Giants’ lineup wilted against Michael Wacha in a 7-3 loss to the Padres (63-73), squaring the weekend series at a game apiece.
Flores gave the Giants (70-65) an early lead with his first-inning home run, but within five pitches out of Tristan Beck’s right hand, he had given it right back.
Looking to follow up strong showing Sunday against the Braves, Beck’s tryout for a full-time rotation spot did not go well. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto went back-to-back, and the Giants were in a 6-1 hole by the time manager Gabe Kapler came to get him with two outs in the third inning.
The Giants’ previous five starters combined to allow six runs over 29⅔ innings (a 1.82 ERA) before Beck was tagged for six Friday night.
That, as it often has, proved too big of a deficit to erase. The Giants fell to 1-27 when allowing at least seven runs, the worst mark in the majors.
The loss, coupled with the D-backs’ win over the Orioles, dropped the Giants back into a tie for the third and final wild card spot.
In addition to his mammoth homer, measured at 419 feet, Flores worked an 11-pitch walk in his next trip to the plate. Until a minor rally in the ninth, the only other Giants batter to reach base multiple times was Patrick Bailey, who singled and scored their only other run in the fourth inning and, after drawing a walk in sixth, was among the three men left stranded when Wade Meckler popped up to end the bases-loaded opportunity.
The homer was Flores’ 20th of the season, a milestone he had never reached in 10 previous big-league seasons. He set a previous career-high last season, but it took him 525 at-bats to hit 19 home runs; his 20th this season came in his 327th at-bat.
Flores has been the Giants’ best hitter this season by just about any measure. They would much rather have Joc Pederson as their full-time designated hitter, but Flores has become such an important everyday presence that they will take the defensive downgrade just to get his bat in the lineup.
It was around this time last year that Flores signed an extension that keeps him in San Francisco at least through next season and, if he picks up his player option, through 2025. In retrospect, it looks like one of the friendliest deals in all of baseball.
At a salary of $6.5 million, Flores is making less than 220 other players, according to Spotrac. His 2.2 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference, ranks 97th among position players — but second among players no longer under club control making a salary equal or lesser than Flores (behind only Gary Sánchez).
As the offense’s August doldrums carried into September, Flores continued to shine as one of the few bright spots.
His moonshot in the first inning was only the Giants’ 39th home run since the All-Star break, the fewest in the majors. Flores has accounted for 12 of them. Take the Braves’ loaded lineup for comparison: Flores’ .989 second-half OPS ranks right between Ronald Acuña Jr. and Austin Riley.
Is a real starting rotation beginning to emerge for SF Giants?
SF Giants announce two players added to September roster
Contender or pretender? One team looks the part in SF Giants’ romp over big-pocketed Padres
SF Giants: When Kyle Harrison will make his next start; Brandon Crawford update
SF Giants miss out on waivers extravaganza, but it’s not all bad news
That’s superstar production.
But, as these Padres have proven for most of this season, it takes more than a single star (or even a few) to push a team into the playoffs.
— J.D. Davis was a late scratch from the lineup. His left hand was sore, the club said.
— The game featured two pitch clock violations, something we haven’t seen much of since the early months of this season. Joc Pederson was tagged with an automatic strike in his first at-bat, and Luke Jackson had an automatic ball called against him in the seventh. The Giants hadn’t had a violation called against a pitcher other than Camilo Doval pitcher since July 1 and hadn’t had a batter violation of any kind since May 31. Their 36 total violations are tied for the eighth-most in MLB.