SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants’ offensive issues haven’t been solved, and their losing streak reached five games Friday night against the St. Louis Cardinals, wasting a strong effort from Alex Cobb.
A two-run home run by the Cardinals and a two-out rally by the Giants was all the offense either team could muster for the first eight innings Friday night. But St. Louis beat San Francisco at its own game, getting the game-deciding base knock from a late-innings substitution and scoring a pinch-runner from second base to send the Giants to their seventh loss in eight games, 3-2, and their fifth in a row.
Their losing streak is longer than any streak last season and dropped them to 14-12. Over their past four games, they’ve scored five total runs.
Pitching his second inning, after getting out of a jam in the eighth, Camilo Doval allowed a line drive just past the outstretched glove of third baseman Jason Vosler. The Cardinals inserted Brendan Donovan as the runner at second base, and Dylan Carlson, a Sacramento-area native who entered as a sixth-inning defensive replacement, ripped a single in to left field to scoring the deciding run.
For a moment, it appeared the Giants’ bench would be the one that provided the heroics.
The Giants’ recent anemic offense was excited for the addition of LaMonte Wade Jr. (right knee), making his season debut, but it was Wade’s exit in the fifth inning that paved the way to their only runs Friday.
Wade’s return meant right-handed hitters Austin Slater and Darin Ruf were available off the bench when the Cardinals turned to left-handed reliever Genesis Cabrera. With runners on second and third, Slater softly grounded out pinch-hitting for Wade, but Ruf followed by batting for Mike Yastrzemski and sending a first-pitch fastball through the gap in the Cardinals’ shifted defense, bringing home Luis Gonzalez and Joey Bart to tie the game at 2.
The Giants’ two runs in the fifth inning were more than they had scored in any of their past three games.
The Cardinals threatened to break the tie in the eighth, when Tommy Edman tripled off the bricks in right field with two outs, but the Giants turned to Camilo Doval, who got Nolan Arenado to ground out and end the inning.
After failing to make it out of the first inning in his last start, Cobb didn’t allow a base runner for his first three innings Friday night. He struck out eight and needed only 74 pitches to generate 19 swings and misses, a rate (25.7%) comparable to Carlos Rodón in his memorable Giants debut, when he got 24 on 89 pitches (27.0%).
Cobb threw his splitter 39 times, resulting in called strikes or swings and misses more than half the time.
Entering Friday, no pitcher in the majors had a larger gap between the slugging percentage he was allowing and the one that, according to the contact being made, he was expected to be allowing. Cobb’s expected slugging percentage: .196; his actual one his : .353 — a schism of 106 points.
The only two runs he allowed in five innings against the Cardinals came on a ball that traveled 358 feet, or about a foot clear of the left-field wall, and had an expected batting average of .200. That was enough for Harrison Bader’s swing on a 1-2 splitter to carry all the way into the very first row of fans and put St. Louis ahead 2-0.
Sean Hjelle, making his MLB debut, pitched a clean seventh inning, striking out one and inducing two soft-hit ground balls. At 6-11, he became the tallest player to appear in an MLB game (officially tied with Jon Rauch).
Until their two-run fifth inning, Brandon Crawford was the only Giants runner to reach scoring position. In a XXXXX effort, Crawford walked in his first trip to the plate but was stranded at third base and lofted a pop-up that landed in shallow center field and legged out a double in his second at-bat but was stranded at second base. He added a single in the sixth but was caught between first and second on a pick-off attempt by the St. Louis reliever Cabrera.