SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants were two outs away from going to sleep Saturday night with a four-game lead over Cardinals in the Wild Card race. As they boarded a flight to Los Angeles less than 24 hours later, the cushion was back down to just one game.
This was a missed opportunity, plain and simple. The Giants mostly played solid baseball over four games at AT&T Park, but they ended up with a split nonetheless. Saturday’s loss was the killer, and set the stage for Sunday’s 3-0 shutout. Alex Reyes was a bad matchup for an often-lackluster lineup, and he dominated through seven innings of his third career start.
The Giants lost much more than just one game Sunday. They left the park 5 1/2 games behind the Dodgers, who were still playing in Phoenix. They are now a game behind the Mets, who took over the Wild Card lead with a win over the Twins. The Cardinals also now hold a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Giants after taking both weekend games and an earlier series in St. Louis. If the Giants need to play their way into the Wild Card Game, they will do so on the road.
“That’s a big swing, there’s no getting around it,” manager Bruce Bochy said of the weekend. “That hurt. That’s a big swing for them and for us. That’s what you’ve got to deal with. They did what they needed to do. They came back on us.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants blanked by Cardinals, fall full game behind Mets]
The Cardinals had Reyes, a top-10 prospect, in the back pocket all series long. He replaced Jaime Garcia in the rotation and he lived up to the hype, showing a good changeup and curveball. When he got in trouble, the young right-hander humped his fastball up to 97 mph.
“He’s got big stuff, a big fastball,” Bochy said. “It’s 97 and he commands it pretty well. He has a plus changeup and good breaking ball. It’s good stuff, and that’s why he’s one of the top prospects.”
Still, the Giants had a couple of shots. They got a runner to third with one out in the fifth but could not score. They loaded the bases in the sixth and again came up empty. The shutout was the 12th of the season and second of the homestand, and Bochy said there likely will be lineup changes on Monday.
Even before this series, Bochy indicated that Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson might start against left-handers. Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill happen to be lined up to pitch Monday and Tuesday for the Dodgers. Eduardo Nuñez also could be in line for a move. Bochy has looked at different leadoff options, and Nuñez has 13 hits in his last 27 at-bats.
The Giants lined up their top three starters for this latest “biggest series of the season.” The Dodgers did the same, with Kenta Maeda following the two lefties.
“They’re going to be tough, but we’re going to give them all we’ve got,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “I think we’re ready for them. Today we lost, but tomorrow is a new day. I think for the most part, we played good baseball in this series. If we can do that and put a few more runs on the board, we’ll be alright.”
--- Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora was removed in the second inning after taking a wicked foul tip off the mask. O’Nora was diagnosed by a concussion and was told to refrain from traveling for the time being. He told an Associated Press pool reporter that the foul tip — off Hunter Pence’s bat — was the hardest one he has taken in 30 seasons behind the plate.