Playoff hopes are far from dashed for a Giants team now seven games back in the division following a 3-1 loss to the Diamondbacks at AT&T Park Wednesday night.
But with Buster Posey out for the remainder of the season, and many of the available bats producing below expectations, San Francisco may be focused more on 2019 heading into the final 27 games of 2018. For that reason, a series finale defeat at the hands of the division-leading D-backs (73-60) may have offered more promise than frustration.
Arizona has been far from scalding offensively, going scoreless in the first two games of the three-game set. Still, seeing rookie right-hander Dereck Rodríguez battle through a lack of command to complete five innings of three-run ball and keep the Giants (67-68) well within reach provided a glimpse at a skill Rodríguez has rarely had to reveal this season — the ability to compete through less-than-best stuff.
Rodríguez (L, 6-2, 2.47 ERA) walked four, including two in the first inning, and found his way into the zone on less than 58 percent of his throws — his season average entering the game was 64 percent.
And when he was getting strikes, the 26-year-old former outfield prospect was flipping in-the-zone misses at an itchy D-backs bunch. But a low-90s heater and darting changeup allowed Rodríguez to get around the mistakes — most of them.
Steven Souza Jr. was one hitter unwilling to allow the rook’ to get away with his misses. The first-year D-back clubbed a solo home run (4), abusing a 91-mph middle-middle fastball, over the left field wall to open the scoring in the third. He then added an RBI double in the fourth to finish the evening 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Even with his abundance of misses, though, Rodríguez surrendered just five hits. That was the positive the Giants can absorb from another punchless night.
Rodríguez’s opportunities to deal with adversity have been few and far between. He has now allowed more than five hits in just four of his 16 starts, and each of those came in his month as a big leaguer. His stock has been trending directly up since the calendar flipped to July — and, really, even before.
Wednesday marked the first appearance of his lat 11 (including one in relief) in which Rodríguez allowed more than two runs, though he had recorded just four wins over that stretch.
The Giants hurler is looking up at Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. in the National League Rookie of the Year race, and even more so after his 16th start. But Wednesday gave his club an audition, and the youngster stared down adversity and did a starter’s job: gave his team a chance to win.
He may very well have done that had it not been for Souza and Arizona starter Zack Godley.
Godley (W, 14-7, 4.42 ERA) allowed one hit, a fourth-inning leadoff double by Joe Panik who never advanced past second, before the eighth when Gorkys Hernández double and Hunter Pence walked back to back ending his night. Archie Bradley entered the fray and snuffed the uprising with just one run crossing, and the Giants could not muster another challenge in the ninth against D-back closer Brad Boxberger (S, 30, 3.50 ERA).
The Arizona did ruffle some feathers in the home dugout when he hit three batters, including Nick Hundley who was drilled in the back with a 91-mph sinker. Panik and Bradley, who struck out the San Francisco second baseman to end the eighth, also exchanged words as the two were heading off the field following the eighth. San Francisco did not retaliate, though.
The Giants get an off-day to regroup after falling back below .500 before playing host to the Mets (58-73) over the weekend. Rookie southpaw Andy Suarez (5-9, 4.42 ERA) is San Francisco’s scheduled starter for Friday night’s tilt.