SAN FRANCISCO — With age comes the inevitable physical toll. Bodies don’t bend like they used to. Everything moves a bit slower. Professional athletes, with millions invested in their training regimens, are able to blunt these effects.
But age is undefeated.
Evan Longoria, in his halcyon days as a three-time Gold Glover, probably nabs Tim Anderson at first on his dribbler to lead off the fourth. Brandon Belt, not long ago, never would have allowed Andrew Vaughn’s ground ball to skirt through the infield on the following play.
But Longoria is 36 now, reportedly pondering retirement after this season. Belt is 34 and battled physical issues all season. The Giants are the oldest team in the majors and by many metrics, also the league’s worst defensive team.
So, no, neither soft-hit ball resulted in an out. Both runners would score as part of a three-run rally off Logan Webb, who retired the first nine batters of the game with ease, while his defense imploded behind him, sending the Giants to their ninth loss in 12 games, 5-3, to the Chicago White Sox.
For the seventh time this home stand, more than 25,000 fans — 30,804 on Saturday afternoon — paid good money to watch the Giants take on an opponent with a losing record. And for fifth time, they walked away disappointed in their investment.
On the bright side, many of those fans also walked away with a LaMonte Wade Jr. bobblehead.
And, briefly, the day appeared to be on track for an appropriate celebration.
Facing White Sox starter Dylan Cease, who was just named the American League’s starter of the month for June, Wade led off the bottom of the first with a no-doubter into the visitor’s bullpen. With one swing, Wade equaled the number of earned runs Cease had surrendered since May 29 (34⅓ innings).
But the Giants’ loss Saturday, guaranteeing that they won’t win any of the three series on this home stand, acted as a microcosm of the issues that have held them back all season.
Joc Pederson followed Wade’s home run with a well-hit double. But despite reaching second base with no outs, that’s as far as he would advance, and only one other Giant would advance into scoring position until Darin Ruf doubled home Mike Yastrzemski to pull the Giants within 5-2 in the eighth.
The Giants didn’t capitalize on their best scoring chance in the first inning, then went silent for the rest of the game. They stranded 11 runners and left men on base in seven innings, including the tying run in the ninth. Ruf’s double was one of only two hits in nine plate at-bats with runners in scoring position.
As Gabe Kapler would say — because he has, time and time again — the Giants didn’t come up with the one big hit.
Blanked in the series opener Friday night, the Giants also mounted their best scoring chance in the first inning, loading the bases against Lance Lynn, but came up empty. Absent Wade’s homer — their 23rd solo shot in their past 25 dingers — they were nearly shut out for a second straight game.
In a reversal of the typical pattern around the league, the Giants’ offense has been puzzlingly strong in its first time facing a starting pitcher and progressively weaker as the game goes on. In the first three innings this season, the Giants have scored 137 runs and performed 21% better than the adjusted league average. Innings 4-6: 113 runs, 13% worse than the league average. And innings 7-9: 99 runs, about league average.
Both of the first two runs in the fourth scored when Pederson overcharged a line drive in left field that flew past him and made it all the way to the wall.
Another Giants error — this one by Donovan Walton — led to two more White Sox runs. Webb loaded the bases on the first three hitters of the sixth inning but was set up to get out of it unscathed after striking out A.J. Pollock and inducing a ground ball from Luery Garcia. But Walton threw wide of the first base and Webb fell down while covering the bag, erasing the would-be double play and allowing both runs to score.
The loss was only the seventh time San Francisco has fallen in Webb’s 29 career starts at Oracle Park and only its 11th defeat in Webb’s 42 total starts since the beginning of last season. However, despite Webb’s 2.48 ERA over his past six starts, the Giants’ record in those games is only 2-4.
Contributed by local news sources