SAN FRANCISCO — A double with two outs in the ninth inning Tuesday cost Alex Cobb a no-hitter and what would have been his second shutout of the season, but moments later, Cobb froze Elly De La Cruz to clinch an easy victory. It was a pretty big one for the Giants, and not just because of how it went down.
By taking the first two games of the series, the Giants clinched the tiebreaker against the Cincinnati Reds, a fellow Wild Card contender. They weren’t able to get greedy, though, losing 4-1 on Wednesday.
The series win against the Reds came a few days after the Giants won on the final day in Philadelphia, gaining a tiebreaker advantage against the team that currently leads the Wild Card race. The Giants will have a chance to keep that run going over the next week.
They’re off to San Diego, and it won’t matter who wins that season series. When Josh Hader gave up a walk-off homer on Wednesday in St. Louis, the disappointing Padres fell 10 games under .500.
Next week’s series in Chicago will have huge playoff implications, though. The Giants are currently two games behind the Cubs, who took two out of three at Oracle Park in June. Head-to-head record is used to break any ties under the new playoff format, and it’ll be up for grabs at Wrigley Field.
The Giants currently hold a 6-5 edge on the Diamondbacks with two games to go next month in Phoenix. They tied their season series with Miami, but the second tiebreaker is intradivision record and the Giants are just about a lock to have that edge over the Marlins, who have faded to three games out of a playoff spot. With a few well-placed wins over the next few weeks, they could have the tiebreaker over all of the Wild Card field. With MLB no longer playing extra games after 162, that could be crucial.
A week ago, it was hard to think much about how a tiebreaker could impact the Giants at the end of the season, but they played much better baseball against the Reds, and with the way Cobb and Kyle Harrison threw this week, the Giants feel good about their odds heading into the season’s final month.
In large part because of the general mediocrity of the Wild Card field, they have remained right in the race despite struggling through the toughest part of their schedule. They can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, with two series against the Rockies looming after they get through this road trip.
As his team prepared to board another flight, manager Gabe Kapler said he felt the vibes shifted against the Reds. Cobb’s one-hitter came a night after Harrison’s spectacular home debut, and Kapler was feeling good about his group even after another disappointing offensive performance on Wednesday. It was a far cry from the feeling in the manager’s office at the end of the last homestand.
“The momentum from the last several games hasn’t changed,” he said. “We’re going to carry it into San Diego and quickly wash this (loss) off, get on the plane and go get ready for the Padres.”