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Giants’ playoff magic number down to 1 after sweeping Cubs for 7th straight

CHICAGO — After winning the first five games of their road trip, the Giants showed up for Sunday’s series finale against the Cubs and practically looked like a different team.

Their offense missed out on several early scoring opportunities, their budding ace gave up five runs and their outfield defense was sloppy and unsettling.

Great teams still find ways to win games they should probably lose and the 2021 Giants are a great team. With an outstanding offensive effort from infielder Wilmer Flores and a solid showing from the team’s bullpen, the Giants beat the Cubs 6-5 to complete a 6-0 road trip and extend their longest win streak of the season to seven games.

The Cubs had the tying run at third base with two outs in the ninth inning, but Giants closer Jake McGee was able to retire Chicago slugger Ian Happ to cap off the win.

By improving to 93-50, the Giants inched closer to snapping their four-year playoff drought as their magic number to clinch a postseason berth dropped to one following the Reds’ 2-0 loss to the Cardinals.

The Giants’ primary focus for the remainder of the regular season is to hold off the Dodgers and win the National League West, but the club can pop champagne bottles as soon as Monday if it beats the Padres at Oracle Park.

Flores was the offensive catalyst Sunday for a Giants team that has now scored at least six runs in all seven wins during their streak as the infielder returned from a 10-day stint on the injured list to go 3-for-4 with a home run and a walk.

The Giants could have left Flores in San Francisco for an additional day and activated him at the beginning of their seven-game homestand, but the club chose to have the infielder fly to Chicago on Saturday so he could be in the lineup against Cubs lefty Justin Steele.

Flores made the most of his day at Wrigley Field as the right-handed hitter drove in the Giants’ first run of the game with a RBI single in the second inning before providing starter Logan Webb with valuable insurance runs with his two-run home run in the fifth.

Flores was also at the plate in the seventh inning when the Giants added to their lead against Cubs reliever Codi Heuer, but he did not receive credit for a RBI after Kris Bryant raced from third base to the plate following a wild pitch in a 3-2 count that helped Flores reach base for the fourth time.

Webb didn’t pitch poorly, but the five earned runs he allowed over six-plus innings were the most the right-hander has allowed in a start since May 5 when he surrendered six runs to the Rockies at Coors Field.

Webb’s final line would have looked even better if not for a few outfield miscues involving center fielder Austin Slater.

After Webb retired the first nine batters he faced Sunday, Rafael Ortega hit a flyball to center field that Slater lost in the sun in the exact same fashion that Mike Yastrzemski failed to catch a ball in Saturday’s game. The miscue allowed Ortega to reach third base with a triple which allowed him to score with ease on Frank Schwindel’s RBI groundout.

The Cubs tacked on another run in the fifth inning shortly after Slater and Kris Bryant collided in right center field on a flyball that either outfielder could have caught. Bryant was charged with an error as David Bote advanced all the way to third on the play before scoring on Nick Martini’s RBI groundout.

The Giants hoped to get seven innings out of Webb on Sunday, but he issued a leadoff walk to open the bottom of the seventh before Bote yanked a RBI double down the left field line to cut Chicago’s deficit to 6-4. After Robinson Chirinos flipped a bloop single over Flores’ head at first to bring Bote home, Kapler went to the bullpen and called on Rogers to get out of the jam.

The Cubs had the bases loaded with one out against Rogers, but catcher Willson Contreras was called out on strikes on a 3-2 offering from the Giants reliever that clearly missed off the inside corner of the plate. The call helped Rogers, who then got Alfonso Rivas to swing through a 3-2 pitch to end the inning and keep the Giants ahead by a run.

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