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Giants will need hope, help to make postseason after another loss to Padres

By Kerry Crowley, The Mercury News on

Published in Baseball

SAN FRANCISCO - In a week that's been filled with gut-wrenching losses, careless mistakes and missed opportunities, the San Francisco Giants will still play a game with postseason implications on the final day of the regular season.

A Milwaukee Brewers victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday ensured the Giants couldn't clinch a National League wild-card berth on Saturday against the Padres, but San Francisco's 6-2 loss to San Diego took the Giants' playoff destiny out of their own hands.

If the Brewers beat the Cardinals again on Sunday, the Giants will likely be sitting at home in October, thinking back on a week and a 60-game season loaded with crushing late losses. The only scenario the Giants can make the postseason if they lose on Sunday would require St. Louis to lose to Milwaukee and then travel to Detroit on Monday where they would have to drop both games of a doubleheader against the Tigers to fall to 29-31.

The Giants can still secure the eighth and final seed in the NL playoffs and ensure a first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they'll need the Cardinals' Austin Gomber to shut down the Brewers and secure their own win over San Diego to move to 30-30 on the year.

After reliever Sam Coonrod blew seventh-inning leads on Thursday in a 5-4, 11-inning loss to the Rockies and on Friday in Game 2 of a 6-5 seven-inning doubleheader defeat to the Padres, it was the Giants' offense that let the team down on Saturday.

The Giants scored a pair of runs in the eighth inning and had the tying run at second base before third baseman Evan Longoria struck out against reliever Dan Altavilla to end the team's only rally of the night. In the top of the ninth, the Padres erased the Giants' efforts with home runs from Tommy Pham and Mitch Moreland against left-hander Tony Watson.

Right-hander Johnny Cueto allowed three runs in the top of the fifth including one on a go-ahead solo homer from shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr., but was otherwise effective against a tough San Diego lineup.

The Giants' best scoring opportunity with Cueto still in the game came immediately after the Padres took the lead as center fielder Mauricio Dubon reached on a single and catcher Tyler Heineman was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the fifth. With the Giants trailing 3-0 and leadoff hitter Mike Yastrzemski at the plate, Dubon committed another stunning base running mistake in a season that has featured far too many of them.

 

As reliever Craig Stammen started his motion toward home, Dubon took off for third on a needless attempt to steal a base and was thrown out by catcher Austin Nola. A reasonable risk-reward calculation would have rendered the idea of attempting to steal third useless, but Dubon took off anyway and was thrown out during an at-bat that ultimately finished with a Yastrzemski strikeout.

Cueto's night ended after 61/3 innings when a borderline 3-2 pitch was called a ball to Nola on the 13th pitch of a plate appearance. It wasn't the ending Cueto wanted, but it was hardly the season he wanted either as his 5.40 ERA was easily the highest of his 13-year major league career.

A Giants victory on Saturday would have eliminated manager Gabe Kapler's former club, the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL wild-card race, but the Phillies will also remain alive on the final day of the regular season. Philadelphia can't get into the playoffs if the Giants win Sunday, but the Phillies hold a tiebreaker over the Brewers and would secure a wild card spot with losses by the Giants and Brewers.

In a year that began with low expectations from a fan base that's seen the Giants suffer through three consecutive losing seasons, Kapler's club managed to provide entertainment and excitement in unexpected ways.

That missing the playoffs would suddenly feel like a major disappointment can be viewed as a sign of progress, but that's a big-picture perspective. After watching the Giants climb out of an 8-16 hole to open the season to control their own destiny for much of the final week, fans understood the playoffs were well within reach.

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