SAN FRANCISCO — Before the San Francisco Giants even took the field on Tuesday at Oracle Park, the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals did them a huge favor.
The Nationals aren’t fighting for a playoff spot, but they did fight to keep the Philadelphia Phillies –a top wild card contender– out of one by sweeping a doubleheader on Tuesday.
With a chance to gain an edge over the 27-29 Phillies and match the winning percentages of the .500 Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, the Giants rallied late to beat the Colorado Rockies 5-2.
After former Giants outfielder Kevin Pillar tied the game 2-2 with a RBI double in the seventh, pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson came off the bench in the bottom of the inning and drilled his 10th home run of the season out to center field to give San Francisco a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Exactly four years after hitting his last pinch-hit home run, Dickerson keyed a three-run frame that also included a two-run double from pinch-hitter Brandon Belt. Manager Gabe Kapler knew the Rockies weren’t carrying a left-handed pitcher in their bullpen and seized an opportunity to create favorable matchups against righties Jairo Díaz and A.J. Ramos.
Dickerson’s 10th home run of the season tied a career-high set back in 2016 with the Padres and took place on a night when Giants designated hitter Austin Slater also matched two career-highs. Slater led off the bottom of the first inning against Rockies starter Kyle Freeland with a solo home run to left and reached base five times on Tuesday.
His fifth home run of the year came in his 26th game of the season and tied a career-high set in 2019 when Slater appeared in 68 games for the Giants. Slater also notched his team-leading eighth steal of the season in the third inning, tying his high from 2018 when he played 74 games with the Giants.
Aside from strong performances from several key position players, the Giants also received a great start from left-hander Drew Smyly, who turned in one of his best outings of the year. Smyly went a season-high 5 1/3 innings and held the Rockies to just one run while striking out five Colorado hitters.
Kapler said pregame the Giants were optimistic they could push Smyly past the 90-pitch mark Tuesday and the veteran completed his outing with 92 before right-hander Trevor Cahill emerged from the bullpen.
Smyly worked well with rookie catcher Joey Bart, who came up with a big hit in the fifth inning against Freeland as he launched a double into the left center field gap to score Daniel Robertson from first base. Bart had three doubles in his first three games with the Giants, but picked up two on Tuesday as he also doubled in the three-run seventh.
The Giants secured a much-needed win, but Tuesday’s game was far from perfect as a Giants outfield that’s had its depth pushed to the limit over the last week received more bad news in the bottom of the third inning when right fielder Luis Alexander Basabe left the game with an injury. Basabe appeared to tweak a muscle in his left leg while running out a groundball in the bottom of the third.
None of the Giants’ top three options in right field –Mike Yastrzemski (calf), Austin Slater (elbow) and Joey Rickard (60-day injured list, elbow)– are healthy enough to play the field, so Basabe has served as the replacement over the last week despite never playing a game above Double-A before the 2020 season began.
Instead of inserting Dickerson to the game right away, Kapler brought Brandon Crawford in to play shortstop and moved Daniel Robertson from shortstop out to left field. Robertson had only appeared in 31 games in the outfield in his major league career, but came up with the biggest defensive play of the night when he recorded his first career outfield assist with a perfect strike to second base to catch Rockies second baseman Garrett Hampson trying to extend a single into a double.
Tuesday’s win leaves the Giants at 27-27 with six games to play, including two more against the Colorado Rockies. With the Reds a 28-28, the Brewers at 27-27 and the Phillies now at 27-29, the NL wild card race remains a mess that might not be sorted out until the final day of the regular season.
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