SAN FRANCISCO — Gone were the Dodgers, the heated rivalry and National League West implications. But what the Giants apparently couldn’t leave in Los Angeles was a little drama.
The Giants trailed again entering their final at-bat but couldn’t snatch a third straight victory from the grasp of Pittsburgh closer Richard Rodriguez like they had Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers the past two nights. Lamonte Wade tripled home Darin Ruf to pull the Giants within two runs with an out to go, but Rodriguez eventually shut the door on the 6-4 loss.
“What’s frustrating is I don’t think we played our best game from any angle,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I don’t think we played our best offensive game, like our best brand at the plate. I think we were uncharacteristically out of the strike zone, and I don’t think we defended our positions the way we are capable of. It’s hard to win a baseball game when you’re not at your best in those three components of the game.”
San Francisco tied the game at 3 in bottom of the sixth on one swing of Alex Dickerson’s bat but gave the lead right back the next inning. Dominic Leone struggled to find the strike zone, and Pittsburgh rallied for three runs and the decisive advantage.
Leone walked three of the first four Pirates in the seventh inning and allowed all five batters he faced to reach base. With a ground ball to first, the Giants appeared to find their way out of the inning down by only a run, but Wade bobbled the ball as he transferred from his mitt to his throwing hand and two more Pirates were allowed to score.
There was no shortage of heart-pounding pitches Friday night, but was there any lack of urgency against the club with the fourth-worst record in baseball?
“I don’t think there’s any risk of us not taking this game especially seriously,” Kapler said before the game. “The last few days were incredibly intense, and we all had a lot of fun. But right when that game ends, we have to turn the page and do so immediately. … That started pretty shortly after last night’s game.”
Dickerson turned on a hanging slider from Pirates starter Chad Kuhl to tied the game at 3. His home run sailed off the top of the tall right-field wall, scoring Buster Posey, who reached on his second opposite-field double of the game.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – July 23: San Francisco Giants’ Alex Dickerson (12) is congratulated by Donovan Solano after hitting a 2-run homer in the sixth inning to tie the game 3-3 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Friday, July 23, 2021, at Oracle Park in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Kuhl had primarily used that slider to quiet the Giants through five innings.
The Giants’ first eight outs all came via strikeout, and Kuhl had matched his career-high by the end of the third inning.
The only run the Giants could muster through five frames came on a solo shot off the bat of Steve Duggar that splashed down into McCovey Cove. The dinger was Duggar’s first since June 16 and his first RBI in 12 games.
Kapler came out to check on Duggar a couple pitches prior, after he showed some discomfort around his ribs. Duggar informed Kapler he felt fine, then proved it two pitches later.
Dickerson’s home run was his 10th this season and made him the seventh player on the roster with double-digit dingers, one closer to the franchise record of nine. (Three others Giants have nine home runs, and San Francisco leads the majors with 146 this season.)
Giants starter Johnny Cueto needed 65 pitches to make it through three innings and was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth. Cueto, who owns the lowest ERA against the Pirates of any pitcher in the live-ball era with at least 200 career innings against them, allowed three runs on three hits over five innings while striking out seven.
Bryan Reynolds, whom the Giants traded to Pittsburgh as part of the Andrew McCutchen trade in 2018, put a hanging slider from Cueto over the right-center field wall to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead in the third inning, his 17th long ball of the season.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – July 23: Pittsburgh Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds (10) is greeted by Ben Gamel (18) after hitting a 2-run homer in the third inning against the San Francisco Giants, Friday, July 23, 2021, at Oracle Park in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Cueto also reached on a walk in the third inning and hustled into second a few pitches later for the first stolen base of his career. It was the first time a Giants pitcher had swiped a bag since Kirk Reuter in 2003, according to NBC Sports Bay Area.
“It’s something that I’ve been thinking for a long time,” Cueto said with a laugh through an interpreter. “I was joking with the first base coach (Antoan Richardson) and he kept saying no. I told him, if you just give me the green light, I’m going to steal the base and that’s what I did.”
SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – July 23: San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto steals the first base of his major-league career in the third inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Friday, July 23, 2021, at Oracle Park in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – July 23: San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) congratulates Steven Duggar (6) on his third inning home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Friday, July 23, 2021, at Oracle Park in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – July 23: Pittsburgh Pirates’ Kevin Newman is forced out at home by San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey the seventh inning, Friday, July 23, 2021, at Oracle Park in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – July 23: The full Buck Moon rises over the Giants-Bucs game at Oracle Park, Friday, July 23, 2021, as San Francisco hosts the Pittsburgh Pirates at Oracle Park. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
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