As Santiago Casilla struck out A’s outfielder Billy Burns to end the Giants’ 5-4 win Sunday afternoon, right-hander Jake Peavy was a happy man. The win ensured that Peavy will take the mound against the Dodgers on Monday night with his team still alive in the National League West.
The Dodgers, who lost on Sunday in Colorado, hold a magic number of two to clinch the division, meaning they need to win just once in a four-game series in San Francisco that begins Monday. Put another way, the Giants must sweep all four games, while facing N.L. Cy Young Award candidates Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the first two games, to avoid having to watch the Dodgers celebrate at AT&T Park. The Giants are six games behind the Dodgers with seven to play.
“I’m excited that my team has a chance to be in the playoffs still,” said Peavy, who will oppose Greinke in the series opener. “Obviously, that means us having to win (Monday) night. Fun times. It’s fun to play when everything rides on it. You get excited for these games.”
The Giants gained on the Dodgers by winning the final two games against the A’s, but it may be too late. The Giants staved off elimination by winning a road series for the first time in eight attempts, since Aug. 3-5 in Atlanta. They finished the away portion of their season with a record of 37-44.
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“I’ve said so many times: You never know,” manager Bruce Bochy said of the Giants’ slim playoff hopes. “We wish we were in a little better position. But you keep fighting.”
Bochy and Peavy pointed out the Giants might have made this Dodgers series even more interesting by reversing a pair of one-run losses in San Diego earlier on their final trip, or their 5-4 loss in the opener against the A’s. Sunday’s one-run win was their first since Aug. 28 and only their second since the end of July. In that span, 15 of their 28 losses have been by one run.
The Giants had to hold on for the win Sunday after staking Chris Heston to a 5-0 lead in the third inning. The A’s scored twice in the fifth on Billy Burns’ two-out, bloop double to center field – shortstop Brandon Crawford tried to make an over-the-shoulder catch, and center fielder Angel Pagan did not call him off – and added two runs in the sixth to chase Heston.
But five Giants relievers – starting with George Kontos, who gave up a single to Stephen Vogt that cashed in the final run against Heston before escaping the sixth without further damage – combined to record the final 12 outs of the game, allowing just one A’s runner past first base in the final three innings.
Casilla’s scoreless ninth preserved Heston’s first win since July 27, snapping a streak of nine winless outings for the right-hander in which he had a 4.60 ERA and lasted past the fifth inning just twice. Heston said it felt “great” to earn the 12th win of his rookie season, but the more significant result was the “team win.”
“We need a lot of wins right now,” Heston said. “Anytime you’re mathematically in there, it gives you hope.”
Largely because of injuries, the Giants started six rookies, including Heston and designated hitter Mac Williamson, on Sunday. Jarrett Parker, who Saturday became the first Giants rookie to hit three home runs in one game, did not homer Sunday but reached base three times and scored a run in the second.
“He had an off day, I guess,” Bochy said, smiling.
Parker also ran hard into the wall trying to catch a Max Muncy triple in the sixth and said he caught his leg under him while falling to the ground.
“Once I gathered myself I was fine,” he said.
Fellow rookies Williamson, Kelby Tomlinson and Trevor Brown combined for five hits and four RBIs, prompting Bochy to remark: “It’s good to see guys wanting to knock on the door to stay up here.”
Those players are mostly staking early claims in the battle for roster spots that will occur next spring. But the Giants on Sunday were not yet ready to look past this season – or even to acknowledge a possible Dodgers celebration in San Francisco.
“We don’t think about that,” Bochy said. “We’re in a tough position here – we know it. We’ll go out there and try to win every game. Standings are what they are– we’re in a tough situation. But we’ll come out fighting.”