AT&T PARK — Madison Bumgarner said after his seven shutout innings on Tuesday that, while there was still hope for the playoffs in the San Francisco Giants clubhouse, they realized that they would need a lot of help.
Facing the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks for the final time this season, San Francisco — who started the evening six games back after winning the first two games in the series — couldn’t even help themselves.
The fifth-worst scoring offense in baseball did what it’s done all season, and Dereck Rodriguez had his shortest outing and allowed the most runs he’s given up since June 19, as the Giants fell meekly, 3-1. San Francisco, now seven games out of the division, managed just one hit over the first seven innings against a pitcher who had allowed 11 earned runs over his last two starts.
Rodriguez struggled with command — walking back-to-back hitters for the first time this season in the first — and allowing three runs in five innings, snapping a streak of nine starts in which he went at least six innings, allowing two or fewer runs.
“That’s baseball,” Rodriguez said. “You can have — what was it, two months? — a good stretch, and you have one bad outing. I’m not going to let it affect me. I’ve had 15 good ones and one bad one.”
The 26-year old walked four for the first time this season.
“Really, without his best command tonight, he gives up three runs in five innings and kept us in the game,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Bullpen did a great job. We just got shut down.”
Steven Souza Jr. got the Diamondbacks on the board two innings later, leading off the third with a solo shot that snuck over the left field wall. It was the first run San Francisco pitchers had allowed in 26 innings, dating back to the series finale with the Texas Rangers. It was the first home run Rodriguez had allowed since July 26. Since that start, he’d had a 1.33 ERA.
“I felt, right from the get-go, that my fastball command was not there,” Rodriguez said. “As a result, my curveball, I couldn’t throw my curveball for a strike when I wanted to. I was pretty much out there with two pitches. I battled as hard as I can, and gave my team a chance.”
Arizona starter Zack Godley — who has had trouble throwing to bases as of late — plunked three hitters on the night, including Gorkys Hernandez in the third. After hitting Hernandez — starting in center field for the injured Steven Duggar — Godley was squeezed out of fielding a bunt by Rodriguez. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Daniel Descalso nearly collided trying to field the sacrifice so Godley wouldn’t have to. Godley would later get McCutchen out on a grounder to end the inning, stranding two.
In the fourth, a flare double up the third base line by Ketel Marte over inexperienced Alen Hanson was cashed in on a single by Nick Ahmed, and Ahmed in turn scored on a double by Souza. Souza’s drive went over the head of a leaping second-year left fielder Austin Slater, who took an odd route to the ball and seemed to jump late as it caromed off the base of the wall.
It was the second outfield snafu in two nights for Slater. The former No. 5 prospect for the Giants dropped an easy fly ball in the seventh on Tuesday.
The Giants came into Wednesday hitting .224 (278-for-1,239) as a team since the All-Star break, and averaging 3.5 runs per game. San Francisco has averaged 2.82 runs per game since scoring 13 on Aug. 10. In that time, the Giants’ pitching staff has had a 2.75 ERA. That’s not just a small margin for error; that’s practically no margin for error, and as good as Rodriguez, fellow rookie Andrew Suarez and Madison Bumgarner have been, they can’t be perfect every time.
“He wasn’t quite on top of his game like we’ve seen,” Bochy said of Rodriguez, who had a 1.44 ERA since June 19. “We might be a little spoiled. This guy, what a job he’s done. The bloop double, that hurt him. The ground ball up the middle. Really didn’t pitch poorly or anything. He just wasn’t quite as sharp.”
Godley — who has failed to get out of the fifth in each of his last two starts — held San Francisco to a single hit over the first seven innings — a leadoff double by Joe Panik in the fourth.
“We’ve got to occasionally put a crooked number up there, and we just couldn’t figure their guy out,” Bochy said. “He was cutting and sinking it. Good curveball. Finally rallied there in the eighth and had a chance.”
After he allowed his second — a two-out single to Hernandez in the eighth — he walked pinch hitter Hunter Pence on four pitches, ending his night. Archie Bradley then came in and allowed an RBI single to Andrew McCutchen, and ended an eight-pitch battle with Panik by catching him looking to strand two.
Perhaps the most emblematic of San Francisco’s struggles has been Brandon Crawford, who was hitting .186 (24-for-129) since starting his first All-Star game in July.
Leading off the bottom of the seventh, Crawford sent a grounder to the left side, and it looked to sneak by the glove of third baseman Daniel Descalso. Instead, it bounded right to shortstop Nick Ahmed, who threw to first to beat Crawford by a step.
“You’re leaning on your pitching, and what a great job they’ve done, all of them — bullpen, starters — that’s what it takes,” Bochy said after winning Tuesday’s game 1-0. “We need to get clicking here, need some guys to get going.”
In the ninth, the heart of the Giants order — Crawford, Hundley and Belt — went down in order, each going down on strikes.
Lather, rinse, repeat. The Giants need help, sure, but they look incapable of helping themselves.