SAN FRANCISCO — Fewer than 24 hours after dousing each other in champagne and donning matching “Built for October,” T-shirts in a well-deserved clubhouse celebration, the Giants took the field at Oracle Park with a renewed sense of purpose.
The playoff berth they officially locked up on Monday night was certainly a feather in their cap, but the Giants are determined to win the National League West crown and their pursuit continued with a 6-1 victory over the Padres on Tuesday.
A high-stakes division race between the first-place Giants (95-50) and second-place Dodgers is only picking up in intensity as San Francisco won its ninth consecutive game while Los Angeles appeared poised to secure its fifth straight victory to keep its deficit at 2.5 games.
Buster Posey kicked off the post-clinch festivities on Tuesday by hitting an early home run, igniting a third-inning rally and catching another fantastic game from a Giants pitching staff led by starter Anthony DeSclafani.
The Giants’ nine-game win streak is the club’s longest since San Francisco won 10 in a row under Felipe Alou from May 20-31, 2004. Gabe Kapler’s offense has scored at least six runs in all nine games during the streak, marking the Giants’ longest stretch of scoring at least six runs since the 1929 club did so in 15 consecutive games.
Posey put the Giants on the board in the first inning against Padres starter Jake Arrieta by launching a 1-2 sinker that missed well off the inside corner into the left center field bleachers. According to MLB researcher Sarah Langs, the pitch was 1.37 feet off the center of the plate, making it the furthest inside pitch a right-handed Giants batter has homered on since at least 2008.
Posey’s 18th home run of the season moves him within striking distance of the third 20-homer season of his career and his first since 2014, when the Giants catcher hit 22.
Posey was also responsible for the Giants’ next run as he reached base in the third inning on an infield single that deflected off of Arrieta’s glove and trickled to the left side of the infield. After advancing to third base on LaMonte Wade Jr’s. single, Posey trotted home and scored when Arrieta sailed a pickoff throw past first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Arrieta was charged with a third earned run in the fourth inning after Padres manager Jayce Tingler removed him so lefty Tim Hill could face left-handed Giants leadoff man Tommy La Stella with two outs and center fielder Steven Duggar standing in scoring position.
On Hill’s first pitch, La Stella sent a sinker thrown below the strike zone into center field for an RBI single that gave the Giants a 3-1 lead. DeSclafani preserved that edge until he was removed in favor of reliever Tony Watson in the top of the seventh.
The Giants starter turned in one of his best outings of the second half on Tuesday as he completed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball while giving up just three hits to the Padres. A night after the Giants ran a bullpen game in their series opener, the club was counting on DeSclafani to preserve their pitching depth for Wednesday’s game when Kapler again plans to have his relievers cover every inning out of necessity.
DeSclafani struck out only three Padres hitters, but he benefitted from plenty of soft contact and from watching two long flyballs hit by Fernando Tatís Jr. and Manny Machado die on the warning track and in the gloves of Giants outfielders in the top of the fifth.
The Giants’ offense ensured closer Jake McGee could take the night off as Darin Ruf and Brandon Belt each delivered late RBI doubles while a Machado throwing error led to the team’s sixth run.
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