Before September, the San Francisco Giants were 22-24 in one-run games — about average across baseball. In September, though, as the season-ending injuries have continued to pile up, the accumulated man games lost for major pieces became more and more evident.
The 11-game losing streak — the most by the franchise since it moved west — was the most obvious result. On Saturday, with 23-year old St. Louis Cardinals rookie Tyler O’Neil’s 10th-inning walk-off home run, the Giants lost their sixth one-run game in their last 19, and are now 1-6 on the month in games decided by a single, solitary run.
The San Francisco offense — still without a grand slam or a 20-home run hitter — had finally came alive for starter Dereck Rodriguez on Saturday, but the rookie saw his 15-start streak of allowing three earned runs or less come to an end, thanks to a seventh-inning home run by Yadier Molina.
For the eighth time this season, Rodriguez went six or more innings and had nothing to do with the decision.
Before O’Neil was doused with a cooler full of water and showered with hand fulls of ice, before he had his jersey forcibly ripped off and his undershirt literally torn from his back, San Francisco — which has now lost 83 games — still had some semblance of hope, despite the Rodriguez let-down.
In the top of the 10th, Hunter Pence sent a one-hop hot shot off closer Carlos Martinez’s left elbow behind his back, which deflected foul between home and third.
Gorkys Hernandez — who pinch ran for Chris Shaw in the eighth — then sent a grounder to first. Carpenter bobbled the ball as he turned to initiate a double play, and when he recovered it, he threw wild to first, allowing Pence to move to third.
St. Louis’s fourth error, though, wouldn’t hurt the Cardinals. Martinez, a former starter working his second inning, fanned Hanson, intentionally walked Nick Hundley to load the bases, and caught Austin Slater looking to strand three.
St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright — who had spent much of what may be his final year with the Cardinals (86-69) on the disabled list — had baffled the Giants early with his repertoire of offspeed and variously-shaped curveballs. On his curveball alone — which he threw 44 times — he got nine swings and misses and seven called strikes.
San Francisco managed just four hits in the first six innings — two of them from Joe Panik.
The Cardinals took the lead in the second, when Jed Gyorko led off the frame with a single, just under the glove of a sliding Brandon Crawford deep in the hole at short.
Another single past a diving Crawford — by Harrison Bader on a fastball up — put men on first and second. Down 0-2 with two outs, Wainwright lined an RBI single through the left side.
The Giants evened the score in the top of the third, when Panik, with two outs, looked at a fastball on the outside corner for ball three instead of strike three and then blooped a Wainwright curve into center.
St. Louis took the lead right back in the third, when Matt Carpenter lined a single into right to lead off, advanced to second on a groundout and scored on an inside-out single to right by Paul Dejung — his second hit of the day — brought Carpenter home, before Rodriguez induced 5-4-3 double play to end the frame.
That twin killing — started by a Gold Glove backhanded pick by Longoria — started a string of 10 straight retired by Rodriguez, who needed just seven pitches to get through the sixth. Then came a two-error seventh for the Cardinals.
Pence led off the seventh with a single to right. After a long fly ball to center by Chris Shaw, Alen Hanson sent a high jam-shot bloop down the left field line. Thanks to a bad read by left fielder Marcell Ozuna and a bad throw back into the infield, San Francisco put two men in scoring position with one out.
With the infield back to guard against the speedy Hanson scoring the go-ahead run from second, Aramis Garcia blooped a single to shallow left center. Hanson scored that go-ahed run thanks to a good read on the flare, and the fact that center fielder Harrison Bader over-ran the ball for St. Louis’s second error of the inning.
Rodriguez singled to chase Wainwright, and on a would-be double play grounder by Gregor Blanco, the ball stuck in second baseman Yairo Munoz’s glove on the turn, allowing Garcia to score. Panik snuck a bouncer off the lip of the infield grass and through the left side, off the glove of the shifted Gyorko for his third hit of the day, making the third of Wainwright’s four runs allowed earned.
Catcher Yadier Molina then slugged a hanging curveball for a two-run jack — his 19th home run of the season and Rodriguez’s first multi-run homer surrendered this season — to tie things up at four in the seventh. That home run broke up a string of 15 straight starts where Rodriguez had allowed three earned runs or fewer, stretching back to June 9.
The Giants (72-83) have now lost three in a row, after winning four of five following an 11-game losing streak. Rodriguez, whose ERA ticked up to 2.50 — still the lowest for a rookie since Hoyt Wilhelm in 1952 — is in line to start later this week in the final series of the season against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Los Angeles is up by just 1 1/2 games in the NL West, so San Francisco could very well play spoiler.