ATLANTA — Alex Wood’s homecoming was not one to remember.
On a sweltering 94-degree day, Wood earned an early shower while making his first start since 2019 in the area he calls home in the offseason, against the organization that drafted him. With six runs in the first two innings, the Braves built up a big lead early and handed the Giants a 7-6 defeat to send them home with a losing record on this seven-game trip.
Wood lasted six batters into the second inning; they all reached base and he was yanked without recording an out. He was tagged with six runs over one-plus innings, the shortest outing of his career besides a 2015 start that he left injured after two pitches.
“It just sucked. It’s really deflating. … It’s just unfortunate I threw like that it front of all my family and friends,” said Wood, who had a 3.68 ERA over his past six starts entering Thursday. “I actually thought my slider was pretty good today. … Against a lineup like that they usually make you pay.”
In a series — and a road trip — that was defined by close games, its finale teetered on a blowout.
Wood’s dud put the Giants in 7-1 hole by the end of the fourth inning. He walked two and hit two batters while also allowing six hits, including one of two home runs on the day by Dansby Swanson, raising his ERA over 5.00 for the first time this season. In the second, he threw 31 pitches without recording an out.
“We kind of think about that 35-pitch range in a single inning as when a guy might be running out of gas. It started to feel like it was going to be difficult for him to get out of that inning in under 40, maybe even 45 pitches,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “At that point, we figure out how to stretch the game and try to stay in the game.”
The deficit proved too large to dig out, even with scoring rallies in the sixth and the eighth that pulled the Giants within two. All seven games of this trip were decided by two or fewer runs, and the Giants won only three of them.
Joc Pederson unloaded on a mammoth home run with the Giants down to their final out, hammering a pitch from Kenley Jansen 426 feet into the upper concourse in right field that made this only a one-run defeat. The Giants scored the final five runs of the game, and Pederson finished his return to Atlanta 4-for-12 with two home runs.
The Giants’ bullpen gave them a chance at comeback by tossing seven innings while allowing only one run after Wood left the game.
“I told ’em all sorry they had to do that today,” Wood said. “Especially on a day game in Atlanta. It’s not fun for anybody. Hopefully we won’t see that happen again.”
An opposite-field home run from Austin Slater in the fifth was the highlight of the Giants’ day at the plate. Slater, who finished 2-for-4 and was the only Giant with multiple RBIs, got the rare start against a right-hander after Luis González was placed on the 10-day injured list before first pitch with back tightness that also kept him out Wednesday.
The Giants loaded the bases twice but produced a combined two runs out of the prime scoring opportunities. They put runners on base in each of the first four innings but grounded into double plays in each frame.
Mike Yastrzemski’s fourth strikeout of the game ended a bases-loaded opportunity in the sixth, stranding Tommy La Stella and Thairo Estrada, who drove in the inning’s two runs. In the first, three straight Giants slapped singles to load the bases after Yastrzemski went down with his first strikeout. But Evan Longoria grounded into the first double play of the day, ending the inning without a run.
“The ninth inning, we had a chance to win it. The tying run came to the plate. It felt like we did everything we could to stay in that game,” Kapler said. “I feel like we had some good at-bats today and kept fighting back all the way through the end of the game. I feel like that’s a moment to be proud of the club for not laying down.”
Just like their day at the plate, the Giants’ seven-game trip through Pittsburgh and Atlanta will be defined by its missed opportunities.
The Giants won the first two games of this trip but dropped four of the last five. They looked primed to sweep the Pirates in its first leg, until being walked off by a rookie’s third home run of the game. The series loss in Atlanta — dropping three of four — should sting even more, after two more walk-off losses that each featured their starters go seven innings while limiting a fierce Atlanta lineup to one run.
“It felt like we were an inch short,” Kapler said. “We weren’t able to get the big hit. They made one more pitch, made one more play, advanced one more base than we did. I personally don’t take a lot of satisfaction out of being close in games. …
“What I will say is whether it’s the Dodgers or the Atlanta Braves, I feel like we can play good baseball with any of them. We’re a good baseball team that hasn’t quite come together yet … that hasn’t been particularly healthy yet. We have a starting rotation that is consistently keeping us in games and a bullpen that has plenty of talent to get it done. I feel like we’re in a fine spot. It’s not great, but it’s fine.”
On the bright side, they return home to face three teams with losing records.
The Giants’ team charter was scheduled to land back in San Francisco around 8 p.m., giving them less than 24 hours to regroup before hosting the Cincinnati Reds to begin an eight-game homestand.