Despite loss in finale, SF Giants back on postseason track after series with Reds

SF Giants have a stronger wind in their sails after an eventful series

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — To break out of a concerning downward spiral that included seven consecutive series losses, a Giants team built to win as a whole required a few individuals to step up and lead.

A home debut for a rookie. A one-hit wonder. A powerful speech. All of these factors combined to lift the Giants out of a funk and propel them to a series victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Giants were defeated 4-1 in their potential series sweeper on Wednesday afternoon at Oracle Park. Logan Webb struck out six batters while allowing two runs on seven hits. It was no big deal: the Giants started this series a half-game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the third wild card spot, the Reds 1.5 games back, and ended it tied for third with the Diamondbacks, with Cincinnati one game back. Small steps.

“They shut us down (today),” said manager Gabe Kapler. “However, the momentum from the previous games hasn’t changed.”

When this home stand began, the Giants were struggling. They’d lost 14 of their previous 17 games, mostly against teams with winning records, and were beginning to fall out of the wild card picture. Against the Tampa Bay Rays, Atlanta Braves (twice), and Philadelphia Phillies, the Giants looked out of sorts, out of sync, and not like a playoff team capable of competing with the game’s best.

Thairo Estrada felt compelled to speak up. So, in an impassioned speech from his locker before the Giants’ series finale against Atlanta on nationally televised Sunday Night Baseball, Estrada implored his teammates to focus on the little things again — making smart defensive plays, having more competitive at-bats.

The speech inspired one of the Giants’ most comprehensive victories of the month and may have sparked a fire.

Kyle Harrison’s debut at home fueled the fire. Not only was the organization able to show its fans the top prospect up front, but Harrison outperformed expectations. To begin his first game at Oracle Park, the hometown kid struck out five consecutive Reds in front of hundreds of family, friends, and De La Salle students. He’d be the first Giants pitcher in 111 years to strike out 10 or more batters (11) and the first since Shohei Ohtani struck out 12 batters in his first major league game in 2018.

Alex Cobb’s ability to keep the show going was equally impressive. In Tuesday’s win, the 35-year-old was one out away from a no-hitter as he secured a series victory over a wild card contender who was neck-and-neck in the race.

With the Giants’ victories came a more solid foundation for the rotation to stand on. Harrison will be joining a revitalized Cobb, Webb, and possibly the addition of Tristan Beck to make some starts down the stretch.

With the exception of Wednesday’s shaky offensive performance, the Giants have delivered some clutch hitting this series. In their three wins this homestand, they batted.310 (9-for-29) with runners in scoring position. At the plate, the young men stood out in particular. In four games, Casey Schmitt went 4-for-15 with a home run, Wade Meckler went 4-for-10 with three walks, and Patrick Bailey went 5-for-18 with six RBI, two walks, and a home run — all while catching Cobb’s near no-hitter.

The Giants’ schedule is unlikely to change anytime soon. The team will then travel to San Diego before playing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The stacked Padres are struggling, but a series win in either direction could have a significant impact on both teams’ wild card standings. The same can be said for the Cubs series; the Giants could challenge Chicago’s wild card position.

The Giants have a three-game series in mid-September against the bottom-feeding Colorado Rockies twice — at home first, then on the road — and the Cleveland Guardians. This will set up a final stretch in which the Giants will face the wild-card-contending Arizona Diamondbacks twice, as well as the Dodgers and Padres. Six of their final 12 games will be against the Dodgers.

“We’re going to carry that (momentum) into San Diego,” said Kapler. “And then quickly wash this one off, get on the plane, and be ready for the Padres.”

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