SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have gotten to this point by being consistent, playing .600 ball every month of the season until September. With the playoffs approaching, they have turned it up a notch.
A 1-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night at Oracle Park was the 20th of 26 September games and gave this roster 104 wins, the most since the franchise moved to San Francisco.
The 20 wins are the most in any month this season, topping the 19 from August. So yes, the Giants are playing their best baseball of the season when it matters most, although Wednesday's game was a second consecutive ugly effort against the last-place Diamondbacks.
The Giants left seven runners on in the first three innings alone, and for a couple of hours this was shaping up to be one of those nights where they would really, really regret not pulling away early. But the pitching, led by Alex Wood, held tough, and Kris Bryant's sacrifice fly brought Steven Duggar home for the first run of the night in the bottom of the seventh.
Duggar nearly made it 4-0 in the eighth, but Daulton Varsho robbed him of a three-run homer with an incredible catch in left. It was the second time in a week that Duggar has been robbed of a homer.
With their 16th win of the season against the Diamondbacks, the Giants cut their magic number to clinch the NL West to three.
Those Famous Small-Ball Giants
Multiple times this year, Gabe Kapler has had to answer an odd question: "Is your team too homer-reliant?"
The Giants do not play much small ball, but they executed to perfection while taking the lead in the bottom of the seventh. Tommy La Stella came off the bench and lined a single to right. La Stella has a sore Achilles, so Duggar ran for him and promptly stole second. LaMonte Wade Jr. put down a perfect sacrifice bunt and Bryant hit one just deep enough to right that Duggar could race home ahead of the throw.
Making Them Count
Wood is still on a pitch count as he builds back up after more than a week of dealing with COVID-19, but he didn't need a long leash to get deep into this game. Wood threw 74 pitches but got through six shutout innings. He allowed just three hits, walked none and struck out six.
Wood has made three starts since returning from the IL and allowed two earned over 13 innings with 17 strikeouts and no walks. This was his last scheduled appearance of the regular season, although he would be lined up to pitch a Game 163. If he doesn't need that assignment, a simulated game next week should get his pitch count up to a normal territory in time for a postseason start.
That's A Bold Strategy
We don't criticize in-game moves too often in this space, because usually it's worth waiting until after the final out to figure out why a manager might have done what he did. But there's not much of a rational defense for what Torey Lovullo did in the top of the fifth inning.
With two on and two outs, Lovullo let starting pitcher Merrill Kelly hit for himself even though he had thrown 82 pitches and basically flirted with disaster all night (the Giants had seven left on base in the first four innings). Kelly, a .067 hitter, struck out to keep the game scoreless.
Predictably, Kelly pitched just one more inning after the Diamondbacks wasted their best chance to score against Wood. The Giants benefited from the Diamondbacks pulling Kelly after eight shutout innings in a matchup in August, and on Wednesday they benefited from him staying in the game.