What we learned as Crawford's walk-off homer saves Junis' gem originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO -- Down to their last strike, the Giants found a way to keep climbing back into the playoff picture.
Thairo Estrada tripled off the right field wall with two outs in the ninth and Brandon Crawford followed with a two-run shot over the center field wall, giving the Giants a 2-1 walk-off win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Oracle Park.
After another frustrating night of doing nothing against Merrill Kelly, they came alive in the late innings. The fifth straight win allowed them to pick up another game on the Padres, who now hold just a 4 1/2 game lead on the Giants.
Then when Mike Yastrzemski gave the crowd of 21,000 a jolt with a fly ball to left-center in the ninth, Diamondbacks center fielder Alek Thomas chased it down just in front of the 399-foot sign. Three batters later, Crawford picked up his fourth career walk-off homer.
Gabe Kapler has been coy about Junis' pitch counts since he returned from the IL, but it was clear the Giants were being very cautious with him. The restrictions came off Tuesday.
Junis completed seven innings for the first time as a Giant and allowed just one run on four hits. He struck out seven and threw 101 pitches, a season high and by far his most since he came back from a hamstring strain. Junis hadn't crossed the 80-pitch mark in his previous five starts and hadn't completed five innings.
Junis has been searching for the feel on his go-to slider, and he had it Tuesday. He threw 49 of them and got 40 strikes, including 11 swinging strikes. The start was his first this year with double-digit swinging strikes on his slider.
Too Much Merrill
In the afternoon, Kapler credited Kelly for having great command and utilizing a good changeup to neutralize the Giants' left-handed hitters. That continued.
Kelly gave up just four hits and struck out seven in seven shutout innings. Only a pitch count that was approaching 100 kept him from mowing the Giants down for another inning or two.
Kelly has now faced the Giants four times since July 6 and allowed four total runs in 28 1/3 innings. The familiarity isn't helping at all, either. In his last two starts against the Giants, Kelly has allowed just seven hits in 15 scoreless innings.
Wild Card Watch
The next time the Giants are in Miami, someone might need to buy Brian Anderson a drink. The Marlins right fielder made an incredible throw from deep right to cut Wil Myers down at third and shut down a Padres rally in the eighth inning. The Marlins went on to win 4-3. The Padres have lost both games in Miami thus far and three of their last four.
The Dodgers did not do the Giants any favors in Milwaukee. The Brewers are the first team on the outside of the race and they won 5-4 in extra innings. Struggling closer Craig Kimbrel gave up a two-run, walk-off single in the 11th.
The Giants are focused on the third wild card spot, and they'll have to be. The Braves blanked the Mets, and they're absolutely running away with the top spot as they try to chase down the NL East title. The Phillies improved to 65-51 with a win over the Reds.