SAN DIEGO — There would have been something appropriate about the Dodgers officially clinching the division on a Giants loss. The Giants led the West for 123 days this season. They led by eight games on June 26, but it all collapsed. With Sunday’s 4-3 clunker at Petco Park, the Giants are 33-46 since that high point. They gave the eight games back and kept sinking, so much so that they fell to eight games back on the day the division was finally lost.
There was a poetic ending Sunday, but it came on the Dodgers’ terms. A short trip up the freeway, they stormed back on Corey Seager’s homer in the ninth and then walked off the Rockies on a solo blast by Charlie Culberson. On Vin Scully’s final day in the Dodger Stadium booth, his team clinched the division on a walk-off homer by a former Giant.
Yes, the baseball gods have a sense of humor. The Giants right now have little to smile about. Every season starts with the goal of winning the division, and for a fourth straight year the Giants finished short.
“You know it’s coming, so we’re battling for the wild card,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That was inevitable with the way the second half has gone. That was going to happen and you understand that. Sure, you always hope to win the division, but right now the focus is to keep winning games and get there and have a shot at it.”
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The second-half slide has not cost the Giants a shot at the postseason. They remain a game back of the Mets and tied with the Cardinals, who got going with the Cubs as the Giants headed home Sunday night.
They have limped to this point, and it won’t get any easier as the finish line approaches. The Giants got Brandon Crawford back for the final game against the Padres, but he will go forward with discomfort in his dislocated left pinky finger. Johnny Cueto missed Sunday’s start with a groin strain. In the seventh inning, the Giants lost a player who has been the rare spark plug this month.
Eduardo Nuñez felt his right hamstring bite as he stole second. He was pulled from the game, and he will have an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury. Nuñez said he hopes to play Tuesday, but that’ll be up to the test results. Hamstring strains generally do not get that much better in 48 hours, especially when your biggest trait is speed.
“It’s something we don’t need now, to be honest,” Bochy said.
Nuñez, who at times on this road trip was a one-man offense, hurt himself on his 40th stolen base.
“I wish I had stayed on 39,” he joked.
If the Giants do go forward without their third baseman, they will not find any sympathy among their competitors. The Cardinals had 12 players on the disabled list at one point of the second half. The Mets are playing without Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, David Wright, Neil Walker and others, and ace Noah Syndergaard missed a start with strep throat.
The path to October is still there for the Giants, but they’ll have to play considerably better over their final six games. The Rockies, who always play them tough, come to town for three, followed by the Dodgers. You know the freshly-crowned division champs would love nothing more than to officially knock the three-time World Series champs out of the race.
The Padres, picked on for so long, seemed to feel the same thing in the second half. After losing all nine meetings in the first half, they went 8-2 against the Giants after the break. Ty Blach struggled in his first career start, throwing 76 pitches in three innings and allowing two runs.
“The pitch count caught up to him, and that’s not him,” Bochy said. “He’s got to pitch efficiently and he (usually) has a great tempo out there. (But) he was missing his spots.”
Wil Myers provided the finishing blow on Sunday, bouncing an RBI single into right in the seventh. The ball surprised Myers and pitcher Cory Gearrin by staying fair.
“That’s what you want there,” Gearrin said of the grounder. “Sometimes you make your pitch and it finds a hole.”
That’s happened more often than not in the second half. The automatic spot in the NLDS is gone. Starting Tuesday, the Giants will try to clinch an opportunity to simply keep the season going.