Giants offense freezes, fails to gain ground

A graphic flashed on the Giants’ game broadcast seconds before Wednesday night’s first pitch detailing the keys to the game. It’s been a command often ignored following a landslide win: Offense keep rolling. Jeff Samardzija keep rolling.

The Giants lost 2-0 to the Colorado Rockies; you can guess which unit followed orders, and which fell short.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.

Samardzija (L, 12-11, 3.81 ERA) took the mound for one final regular season start Wednesday night with 197 innings weighing heavy on his shoulders.

It may be too early to revel in the season’s highs and sob over the lows — what with the Wild Card still in play — but Samardzija’s sandwich of a 2016 season has been a high.

The Shark started off with a leap, posting a 2.84 ERA in his first 11 starts as a Giant, lost his fastball command and sunk to a 6.23 through his next 11.

Then Giants fans got to watch him claw back into his game; he reclaimed his fastball, mixed in a curveball and soared to a 2.40 ERA through his final nine starts.

Wednesday’s outing looked primed to be exclamation point to his spectacular season. He struck out a season-high 11 batters with a nasty splitter and clamped down the Rockies to just two runs through six. Visions of postseason glory propelled his fastball, his game:

“I always love to see the finish line…I love to stare down the tube when it’s about to be done.”

He and Buster Posey looked in charge of this game, punctuated by a strike out/throw out to end a third-inning threat.

The defense even had his back, turning a crucial 5-4-3 double play off Giant-killer Nolan Arenado’s bat to keep a 1-0 game alive in the sixth inning. Bruce Bochy said that was a crucial play:

“He did what we needed him to do, keep it a two run game.”

Samardzija’s performance should have put the Giants offense at ease, but they faced a puzzle of their own.

The same lineup that posted 12 runs 24 hours earlier against a strike-happy rookie collapsed in the face of Tyler Chatwood, who improved to a 3-1 record with a 2.12 ERA at AT&T Park.

Chatwood (W, 12-9, 3.87 ERA) gave up hits to the first three leadoff batters he faced and then zipped the lid, retiring the next 11 until Brandon Belt drew his 100th walk of the season. Buster Posey cleaned it up for him with a double play.

Brandon Crawford drew a four-pitch walk to start the eighth inning. Angel Pagan knocked a 1-1 pitch to the ground for a double play.

Posey noted the righty’s sinking fastball as a killer, Bochy gave the Rockies starter credit:

“Chatwood’s been tough for us, we just couldn’t figure him out.”

With Chatwood gone after eight innings of three-hit ball, the Giants had one sliver at a chance for a comeback.

Chatwood surrendered the mound to a shaky Rockies bullpen, and pinch hitter Kelby Tomlinson got the bottom of the ninth started with a leadoff double.

Two strikeouts later, Brandon Belt beat out a base hit to right field, sliding into first and sending Tomlinson to third. Buster Posey worked a 3-2 count against Adam Ottavino — who had given up a game-tying home run with two outs in the ninth against the Dodgers — before Posey rolled into a ground out to end the game.

Posey’s rally-ending out moved the Giants to 0-62 when trailing after eight innings. The catcher looked dazed when he heard the stat–they’ve had seven walk-off wins, but none of them were born after the eighth– but his skipper knew all about it. He’s been waiting for a big ninth-inning hit:

“That’s been our thing, coming back in the ninth, finding a way to win games. And that just hasn’t happened.”

“That’s something that makes a season, when you can pull games out like that.”

San Francisco remains a game ahead of St. Louis for the second Wild Card slot, but the New York Mets surged ahead by 1-1/2 games for the top position with a win over the mourning Miami Marlins.

Not a great time for the Giants offense to freeze.


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.