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Loss to Cubs shows how high Giants' expectations have risen

NBC Sports
Gabe Kapler

On Tuesday night, the Giants will hit the 60-game mark, which was all Gabe Kapler got in his first year in charge at Oracle Park. They'll start that 60th game with 37 wins and a hold on first place in the NL West, a big improvement from the 29-31 record that got them bounced on the final day of the 2020 season. 

Sunday was not a day for reflection, though. Kapler was still thinking about missed opportunities in a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs when asked by a reporter if he could discuss the big picture for a minute.

"You know, openly and as directly as I can -- after we lost a really close game I'm not in the mood to talk about and reflect on the season and the record," Kapler said. "I think we're in a good spot, I think we've performed well to date, but I'm looking forward to turning the page and getting ready for Texas."

Kapler's short answer actually spoke volumes about how far the Giants have come in the last couple of years. They did lose Sunday, but they still took three of four from the Cubs, who came to town in first place in the NL Central and fresh off an impressive sweep of the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are 6-0 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Padres this season, but couldn't come close to replicating that against the Giants. 

 

For a few years there, a series like this could have been one of the highlights of the season for the Giants, but expectations have been raised. They wanted to get greedy Sunday, and they were left thinking about a few plays that cost them a sweep. 

Two stood out. 

In the top of the fourth, with a runner on and two outs, Johnny Cueto grooved a slider to Patrick Wisdom, who had already homered once off Cueto. Wisdom did it again, tying the game after the Giants elected not to just put him on first base.

"I wanted to keep the ball outside but it just stayed in the middle," Cueto said. "He hit two home runs with me making location mistakes and leaving the ball in the middle."

The second big mistake came an inning later, when the Cubs loaded the bases with one out. Javy Baez hit a slow grounder to short and Mauricio Dubon came home with it. His throw beat Kyle Hendricks to the plate, but it was low and Buster Posey dropped it. 

"I thought Dubie made the right play there," Posey said. "I kind of got my feet a little bit mixed up. I was trying to find my left foot on the plate, ideally I want to have my right foot there. But still, it's a ball I should catch."

The Giants had been able to play from ahead all series, but given a one-run lead, the Cubs rode a good bullpen to the finish line. The loss was just the third in 12 games since the Dodgers came to Oracle Park and swept the Giants, but both the other teams at the NL West lost on Sunday as well, so the Giants didn't give up any ground. 

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They'll head back out on the road with a two-game lead over the Padres and a three-game edge on the Dodgers. It's something nobody saw coming two months ago, and that's raised expectations to the point that even a very good weekend overall couldn't take the sting out of a disappointing Sunday.

"We lose today and the guys come in and it's pretty quiet, it's disappointing," said Evan Longoria, who went on the IL in the morning. "I think that shows that even after a good series -- beating a team who came in pretty hot three out of four is a good series -- the guys really aren't satisfied."

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