The San Francisco Giants keep finding new ways to win ballgames in their stunning 2021 season. But this time, they would’ve lost the game to their biggest rival — and biggest threat for an NL West crown — if not for a rough call by first base umpire Ed Hickox.

After already scoring one run in the ninth inning to trim the Dodgers’ lead to 3-2 on Thursday night, the Giants had Darin Ruf at the plate vs Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen with a full count, two outs, and the bases loaded. Ruf checked his swing… or so Hickox thought.

That certainly looks like a swing, which would’ve made it ball four instead of strike three. And that would’ve made it a 3-2 Dodgers win instead of a 3-3 tie with the bases still loaded.

Well, the Giants quickly took advantage of the extra life. On the very next pitch, LaMonte Wade hit a two-run single to give the Giants a 5-3 lead, which would serve as the final score.

Jansen’s line: 2/3 innings pitched, four hits, four earned runs, two walks, two strikeouts.

Even though Jansen should’ve gotten out of the inning with just one run allowed and a save, he still didn’t look sharp. And that comes after he allowed three hits (including a home run) and three earned runs — while getting just one out — to blow a save in Wednesday night’s 4-2 Giants win. So, blown saves for Jansen in consecutive nights, with seven earned runs allowed in one inning over the two games.

Jansen now has a 3.05 ERA and 3.66 FIP on the season, and his walk totals are particularly concerning.

The three-time All-Star has a 16.0 walk percentage this season (26 walks in 38 1/3 innings), which is the seventh-worst mark among qualified relievers. It’s an alarming rate when it comes to Jansen, who hasn’t even had a walk rate of 9% or above since 2011. Entering play on Thursday, his walk percentage was at 7.5 for his career, and he was at 2.7% (seven walks in 68 1/3 innings) in his incredible 2017 season. This is a very new trend for him, and it’s not a good one. Pitchers losing command with age isn’t exactly shocking either, especially if the stuff isn’t quite as effective and the pitcher feels forced to avoid the zone more instead of getting hit hard.

With the trade deadline exactly one week away, the Dodgers — like just about every contender — should have high interest in Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel (0.50 ERA, 1.10 FIP on the season; last allowed an earned run on May 15). The defending champions are still an extremely talented team, but there’s reason for concern in the back-end of the bullpen. And even if Jansen returns to form after a trade for Kimbrel, hey, even better! Then you have two of the greatest relievers in baseball history in the bullpen, while essentially “shortening” the game, and it’s a huge advantage to have in October.

Every baseball pundit and evaluator had the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres as the teams to beat in the NL West, and even the NL in general. The rest of the division was an afterthought. And here the Giants are with MLB’s best record at 61-35 (.635 winning percentage), three games ahead of the Dodgers (59-39) and 5.5 games ahead of the Padres (57-42).

We can question just how good the Giants are, but it’s clear that answer is at least “very good.” And the bottom line is that they’ve banked 61 wins with a week still to go in July. Maybe they really can win this division after all.

About Matt Clapp

Matt is an editor at The Comeback. He attended Colorado State University, wishes he was Saved by the Bell's Zack Morris, and idolizes Larry David. And loves pizza and dogs because obviously.

He can be followed on Twitter at @Matt2Clapp (also @TheBlogfines for Cubs/MLB tweets and @DaBearNecess for Bears/NFL tweets), and can be reached by email at mclapp@thecomeback.com.