LaMonte Wade Jr.

Giants' defensive issues continue to haunt playoff-hopeful team

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The late comeback on Monday night allowed the Giants to move on quickly after a sloppy defensive effort. A night later, they weren't so lucky.

LaMonte Wade Jr.'s misplay at first kept the sixth inning going, and the visiting Cleveland Guardians took advantage, immediately scoring two runs that proved to be the difference in a 3-1 game. The loss kept the Giants from picking up ground on a night when every other team in the wild-card race except the Cincinnati Reds lost, and it was a familiar story if you watched the 2022 campaign.

The Giants vowed to be better defensively after that side of the ball tanked their hopes last season, but they didn't get all that much more athletic in the offseason. The results have been a mixed bag, and it really depends on which metric you trust. Defensive Runs Saved has the Giants as a bottom-10 defensive unit, while Outs Above Average has them in the upper third of the league. 

On Tuesday, metrics didn't matter. Wade's error on a grounder to first led to two runs and the Giants also failed to turn what would have been a key inning-ending double play in the first inning. Thairo Estrada and Brandon Crawford went to the same spot, and Estrada ended up flipping the ball to Crawford for one out as a run scored. The defensive wheels have started to come off a bit in September, with the Giants also losing a game in Chicago last week in large part because of poor defense. 

Tuesday's struggles were magnified by what was happening on the other side. The Guardians had a strong night on the infield, and center fielder Myles Straw made a tremendous play in the ninth to help close things out, robbing Blake Sabol of what would have been at least a double. Three innings earlier, first baseman Josh Naylor scooped a 102 mph shot from Joc Pederson for an unassisted double play, which might have been the biggest play of the night. 

"They played excellent defense and made some really big plays, in the outfield and the play that Naylor made to his right was an excellent play as well," manager Gabe Kapler said. "They just played cleaner defense than us and it's not a surprise that that was the difference in the game."

The Wade error was the Giants' 100th of the season, matching their total from last year and extending their MLB lead.

While Patrick Bailey has been a star behind the plate and Estrada has played Gold Glove-caliber defense at second, the overall effort hasn't quite been what the Giants hoped as they tried to regroup in the offseason. There were times in the first half when Kapler was very pleased with the effort, but there has been some slippage in the second half, and right now -- unless they're facing the Colorado Rockies -- the Giants don't look capable of hitting their way past mistakes.

"I think it gives us an opportunity to continue to go back to work," Kapler said. "The only way we can attack problems like us needing to play better defense is to work on it and attack it. The game plan as always is to get together with our group and put our drill packages together for tomorrow and get after it before the game."

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