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Giants 3, Cubs 1: Willson Contreras injured in dispiriting loss

It's exactly what this team didn't need.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Willson Contreras has been the Cubs’ best player for more than a month, and was just named National League Player of the Week for his outstanding performance during the last homestand.

Running out a ground ball that ended the Cubs’ eighth inning, he appeared to suffer a right hamstring injury:

There’s no sugarcoating this — that looks like an injury that could put Contreras out for several weeks. It’s crazy that this happened on a day when he was being given a break from catching, starting at first base.

All we can do is hope that Willson can come back soon, and in the meantime, the trade that brought Alex Avila to the Cubs looms even more important. The veteran Avila can certainly handle the pitching staff and provide decent offense (though nothing like what Contreras can). I assume Contreras will be heading to the DL and Victor Caratini will return to back up Avila.

That’s really the story of this bad day in San Francisco, but let me at least summarize what happened in the game.

The Cubs came into this series 15½ games better than the Giants in the overall National League standings.

Thus it seemed to be a pretty good bet that the Cubs could take two out of three in San Francisco and begin the road trip on a high note.

In a game that seemed to drag on forever, the Giants poked across a run in the bottom of the seventh and took the rubber game of the set 3-1, sending the Cubs to their sixth loss in their last eight games.

This one didn’t look easy going in, not with facing Madison Bumgarner. The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the second inning with three singles off Kyle Hendricks.

Albert Almora Jr. got that run back in the third:

The homer was Almora’s fifth of the season and first since July 15.

Hendricks got himself into trouble with walks; he issued three of them and wound up throwing 98 pitches before having to be removed with two out in the fifth. Kyle’s ERA went down again, as he allowed just one run, but he’s simply going to have to go deeper into games. Again, his fastball velocity (based on CSN’s pitch-speed meter) began at about 84, then increased to 86 by the time he was taken out.

Meanwhile, the Cubs couldn’t do much else against Bumgarner. Besides Almora’s homer, the Cubs had just four singles off him, yet managed to keep the game tied until the seventh, when the Giants again put together a three-single rally for a run, this time off Brian Duensing, who had a scoreless streak of 16⅓ innings snapped.

The Giants tallied an insurance run off Pedro Strop in the eighth when Hunter Pence homered. It was Pence’s 10th home run of the season, but just his second in San Francisco.

The Cubs went down meekly against Giants relievers Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson in the eighth and ninth and that, as they say, was that. Incidentally, Dyson was so bad for the Rangers this year that they designated him for assignment and wound up trading him to the Giants for a PTBNL. He’s been really good for San Francisco.

But the story of the day is Contreras’ injury. At posting time for this recap there wasn’t any further information about Willson’s status and we can only hope it’s just a strain and not a tear, and that he can come back quickly.

The Cubs will remain in first place at least until tomorrow no matter what the Brewers do, so there’s that small consolation, at least.

If the tone of this recap seemed a little somber, I suspect you can understand that. The Cubs might have lost their best player for an undetermined amount of time, and that’s never good, and it’s especially bad the way the club has been struggling lately.

The Cubs will fly to Phoenix tonight and spend their off day Thursday in Arizona before opening a three-game series Friday evening against the Diamondbacks. John Lackey will go for the Cubs; at this time the D-backs don’t have any probable pitchers listed for the series.