Clinging to their tenuous hold on a playoff spot, the Giants got the kind of pitching performance they needed Wednesday night. Jeff Samardzija struck out a season-high 11 hitters while pitching into the seventh inning. He allowed two runs on a pair of RBI singles, one a flare to center field, the other a sharp grounder to the right side.
It would have been enough the previous night, when the Giants’ offense broke out for 12 runs in a rout of the Rockies. But on the chilliest night of the season -- 55 degrees at first pitch -- the Giants’ bats went cold as well. Colorado right-hander Tyler Chatwood threw eight scoreless innings and the Giants stranded the tying run on base in the ninth, falling 2-0 and squandering a chance to strengthen their playoff position.
The Cardinals lost to the Reds, 2-1, and a win would have given the Giants a two-game lead over St. Louis for the second wild-card spot with four games to play. Instead, the Giants remained a game ahead of the Cardinals and fell 1 ½ games behind the Mets for the top wild-card spot as they were shut out for the 13th time this season and ninth since the All-Star Break.
"I mean, two different teams," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Chatwood’s been tough on us. He was good tonight. We just couldn’t figure him out.
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"I think we got a runner on second base one time through eight innings. That’s not going to work. We pitched well, we played well. This offense couldn’t get it going."
They tried in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Kelby Tomlinson led off with a double. Boone Logan struck out the next two batters but broke late to cover first when Brandon Belt hit a sharp grounder to the right side, leaving Belt safe with a single and bringing up Buster Posey as the potential game-winning run.
Facing right-hander Adam Ottavino, with what remained of the AT&T Park crowd on its feet, Posey worked a full count, fouled off two pitches -- and grounded out softly to third baseman Nolan Arenado.
The Giants are now 0-62 this season when trailing going into the ninth inning, a number that Bochy admitted he finds puzzling.
"That’s kind of been our thing, coming back in the ninth, finding ways to win games, and that hasn’t happened for quite a while," Bochy said. "That’s something that makes a season, when you can pull games out like that in the ninth. That’s been missing lately."
A night after pounding German Marquez, a rookie making his second major-league start, the Giants found themselves stymied at every turn by Chatwood, who might be a more recognizable name if he did not pitch half his games at Coors Field. The right-hander has a 1.69 ERA on the road this season, lowest in the majors, and has a 2.12 ERA in six starts in his career at AT&T Park.
"He’s got electric stuff," Posey said. "Fastball that sinks into righties, away from lefties, and a cutter he throws anywhere from 87 to 89 that can have some downward action on it at times."
Chatwood allowed just three hits Wednesday, all singles, and though the Giants put their leadoff hitter on five times against him, not a single one advanced past first base.
Denard Span led off the first with a single and was caught trying to steal second. Hunter Pence was erased in the second on a fielder’s choice. Conor Gillaspie singled leading off the third and was thrown out when, on a 3-1 pitch, Samardzija pulled back a bunt, swung and missed, leaving a running Gillaspie an easy target at second.
Bochy said after the game Gillaspie was not supposed to be running and took off because of a "miscommunication."
The Giants also drew leadoff walks in the seventh and eighth innings but each time their next hitter grounded into a double play.
"Missed opportunities," Posey said, repeating the question that had been asked of him.
That also applied to Samardzija’s outing, in which the right-hander threw six-plus innings and reached double-digit strikeouts for the fist time in two years. Samardzija’s last two months have actually defied the struggles of his team: He has a 2.42 ERA over his last 10 starts and has allowed just three home runs, a big problem for him earlier in the season.
In his first season of a five-year deal, Samardzija has a 3.81 ERA in 203 1/3 innings, the fourth consecutive season he has eclipsed the 200-inning mark.
"Tale of three seasons I’d say for me," Samardzija said. "Good start, poor in the middle and then good at the end … I felt real good here the last couple months out and really like how I finished the season, and we’re going to keep going."
Samardzija said he now intends to prepare to pitch a potential tiebreaker game Monday if the Giants tie with the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot. He also said he intends to be available should the Giants need him in emergency relief sometime this weekend, with their postseason hopes on the line.
"This is the time of year, man," Samardzija said. "This feels great to be out there pitching when the weather turns a little bit and the season comes to an end.
"I enjoy staring down the tube when it’s about to be done and letting it all hang out. Hope we get a chance to do that a handful more times and really see what we have in there."