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SF Giants win 99th game, extend NL West lead over Dodgers behind another big night for offense
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SAN DIEGO - When the Giants secured their first win of the season on April 2 against the Mariners, Scott Kazmir hadn't made a big league start in four years, Camilo Doval had yet to make his major league debut and Kris Bryant was focused on leading the Chicago Cubs to the playoffs.
As the Giants earned their 99th win of the year on Wednesday at Petco Park with an 8-6 defeat of the Padres, a trio of players the club has added amid a magical ride toward the postseason made critical contributions in another series-clinching victory.
San Diego rallied for two runs against Giants closer Tyler Rogers in the ninth inning and brought superstar shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. to the plate with a chance to walk the game off, but a flyball that initially made the stomachs of Giants fans turn landed comfortably in Bryant's glove in left field to end the game.
Kazmir covered four-plus innings for an exhausted Giants pitching staff, Doval recorded the three biggest outs of the game and Bryant gave his team a first-inning lead it wouldn't relinquish to help San Francisco extend its National League West lead over the Dodgers to 2.0 games with 10 left to play.
Less than an hour after Bryant cleared the bases with a three-run double against Padres starter Vince Velasquez, the Dodgers' 10-5 loss to the Rockies went final, giving a crowd mixed with Giants and Padres fans something both sides could cheer about.
Bryant's two-strike hit set the tone for an offense that scored at least six runs for the 13th time in September.
The Giants' left fielder had plenty of help on Wednesday as catcher Buster Posey had four hits including a pair of doubles while Brandon Crawford, Mike Yastrzemski and LaMonte Wade Jr. all drove in runs.
The Padres cut an 8-1 deficit to 8-4 with a three-run seventh inning, but when armed with a chance to pick up a game in the standings, Giants manager Gabe Kapler turned to his highest-leverage relievers.
Dominic Leone, Tony Watson and Rogers all allowed multiple baserunners on their second consecutive night of work, but the trio ultimately shut the door to secure a win that was a lot more tense than the Giants would have liked.
With veteran starter Johnny Cueto still sidelined due to a right elbow strain that's kept him out for the last three weeks, the Giants selected Kazmir's contract from Triple-A Sacramento for the second time this year.
The 37-year-old left-hander had already completed his unlikely major league comeback in May and spent July earning a silver medal with Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, so being thrust into a heated race for a division title only extended the wild ride Kazmir has enjoyed in 2021.
The left-hander wasn't overpowering against San Diego, but he touched 95 miles per hour on the Petco Park radar gun and fired four scoreless innings before encountering serious trouble in the bottom of the fifth.
Two walks and a softly hit single loaded the bases for the Padres against Kazmir before Posey made an uncharacteristic mistake.
As Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth attempted to fight off a 1-1 pitch from Kazmir, Posey's mitt made contact with Cronenworth's bat.
The catcher's interference was the first Posey has committed since 2013 as it gave the Padres a free run while bringing an end to Kazmir's night.
With San Diego threatening, Kapler called on Doval, a flame-throwing rookie who hit 102.5 miles per hour on Tuesday night with a fastball against Manny Machado.
Machado never saw a fastball on Wednesday as he struck out on three consecutive sliders for the first out of the inning before Doval induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of left fielder Tommy Pham to end the inning and keep the Giants ahead 3-1.
When Doval returned to the third base dugout after the inning, Giants assistant pitching coach J.P. Martinez put his fingers on the rookie's neck as if he was checking his pulse.
After a shaky stint with the club in May, Doval has showcased newfound poise after being recalled in early September.
The right-hander doesn't lack for confidence, and neither does a Giants team that will look to become the fourth club in the franchise's San Francisco-era history to win 100 games on Thursday.
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