Not quite three months ago, the SF Giants were riding high. At 37-29, they sat just 3.5 games behind National League West division-leading Los Angeles and had seemingly announced themselves as strong candidates to defend their NL West title from 2021 with a three-game sweep of the Dodgers just a few games prior.
And then they went on the road for a four-game set at the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
In that series, the Giants won just one game. All three losses came by one run, two by walk-off.
Since then, the Orange and Black have been looking blue-and-black. Getting beaten up by teams with records much worse, seeing the offense and bullpen that were so clutch in 2021 not live up to their abilities.
Monday, after taking two of three over the weekend from the Chicago Cubs, the Giants welcomed the Braves into Oracle Park for a three-game series. At 67-73 and nearly 30 games out of first place in the division, San Francisco was in a much better place than the first time they took the field against Atlanta - eliminated from division contention and their Wild Card hopes hanging by a thread, nine games back of a playoff spot with just 22 games left to play.
This time, the Giants weren't phased by their position, or the fact that Atlanta is just a few games out of first in their own division: going against NL Rookie of the Year candidate Spencer Strider, the Giants scored three runs and it held up thanks to a great start from Alex Cobb and the bullpen for a 3-2 win.
The hosts started the scoring in the second, with Brandon Crawford and Thairo Estrada reaching base with one out. Willie Calhoun, just called up from Triple-A Sacramento, singled to score Crawford before Luis Gonzalez drove in Estrada for a 2-0 lead.
In the fifth, with two on and two out, Estrada's ground ball was stopped on a dive by Atlanta second baseman Vaughn Grissom. The throw to first was in the dirt and skipped away, allowing Mike Yastrzemski to score from second base.
Cobb in control for SF Giants
Cobb allowed six hits and no walks while striking out seven in seven shutout innings. He was never really threatened; no runner reached third base and only two were safe on second.
Zack Littell came on for the eighth and struggled, allowing the first four runners to reach base with two scoring on a single. Littell buckled down and induced a double-play grounder, but with Ronald Acuna Jr. standing on third as the potential tying run Gabe Kapler made the decision to insert left-hander Scott Alexander. Alexander got the job done, recording a fly out to end the frame and then working around a leadoff single in the ninth to record his first save.