Greek Giant

In Praise of Yaz

When Mike Yastrzemski hit his two-run home run in the top of the ninth with LaMonte Wade Jr. on first, with two outs with a 2-2 count and the San Franciscans trailing by 5-3 and on their way to a getaway day loss it felt like the Giants became a new team, one that believes in itself as a playoff contender. That home run was one of the most exciting Giant blasts in recent memory and may rank as the homer of the year in this still-young 2023 season. With a two-strike count against Cardinals closer Giovanni Gallegos, a lights-out reliever under most circumstances, Yaz sat on a fastball and got one, right down the middle and belt-high. It did not matter that it was coming in at 97 MPH. The Giant was ready for it. The majestic bomb took a graceful arc into the second deck over the right field wall. The Giants dugout erupted and just like that San Francisco staved off defeat and was on the way to a rare series sweep in St. Louis, their first in the gateway to the west since June of 1998.

There’s so much more I could write about concerning Yaz. He may never hit more than 25 or so homers a year. He may never win a gold glove or MVP award but that young man is a ballplayer’s ballplayer. He hustles instinctively. He runs the bases with skill and determination. He is a super outfielder and he can hit the occasional Babe Ruth home run. You gotta just love Yaz!

With that new life the Giants took back the momentum of the game that had been owned and operated independently by the St. Louis Cardinals ever since Tommy Edman, the Cardinals ninth-place hitter and center fielder, hit a grand slam in the bottom of the second inning off a struggling Anthony Desclafani to erase a 2-0 Giants lead just like that in the early afternoon Missouri sunshine.

Early Runs Then ZILCH

The Giants started the game auspiciously with Austin Slater reaching base on an infield single followed by Luis Matos, in his first Major League at bat, singling up the middle. It’s two on nobody out and Jordan Montgomery, the towering lefty of the Cardinals is already on the ropes. Thairo Estrada hit an RBI single to left to score Slater. Then Wilmer Flores walked. That loaded the bases for Patrick Bailey who, batting right handed, went against the shift with a hard grounder to the second baseman. Under normal positioning that’s a routine double play ball. But because the Cardinals have not yet been weaned off their over-shifting addiction, Bailey reached when Donovan, the St. Louis second baseman, could only knock the ball down. That made it 2-0 Giants with the bases still loaded, nobody out and LaMonte Wade Jr. up. Wade would hit into a fielder’s choice grounder to Goldschmidt at first who threw home for the force out. The next batter, Casey Schmitt, grounded into an inning-killing double play.

What’s Wrong With Desclafani?

Montgomery was out of the jam with only two runs. The Giants failed to capitalize and it felt like a small victory for St. Louis. Anthony Desclafani pitched a shutout in the bottom of the first. But in the bottom of the second the bottom fell out of his start. Desclafani was behind counts, either nibbling because he did not trust his stuff or simply wild. The reason is not important. The result was the Edman grand slam with two outs.

Desclafani appears to be a bit of a conundrum. After an all-world start to his season the righty seems to have lost his confidence in his fastball and is throwing a very ineffective slider far too much. That pitch has been hit hard in the past three starts and when it’s not finding bats it’s a ball as Desclafani has difficulty throwing it for strikes of the swing and miss variety. His command is not what it was in April and that spells stress on the Giants bullpen.

After that horrible grand salami the Cardinal fans, for the first time in the series had something to cheer for. In fact, those “Best fans in baseball” let out more than a few boos on this day and one has to wonder how long this under-achieving St. Louis team will go before major changes are made in the front office or with the Manager or both.

The lead 4-2 Cardinals and Jordan Montgomery shutting down the Giants for the rest of his 6 1/3 innings, at one point retiring 16 straight San Franciscans, the Redbirds appeared poised to salvage a game. The Giants clawed a run in the top of the seventh on David Villar seeing-eye hustle double down the right field line just in the Bermuda Triangle. Yaz singled him home and the Giants comeback was on its way for the climactic ninth.

The Winning Tenth Inning

The Giants took the lead in the top of the tenth inning with Yaz on second base thanks to a Thairo Estrada single up the middle. Thairo then stole second, his fifteenth of the year and later scored on a sharp Wilmer Flores single to left field. After Bailey struck out Wade Jr. hit an RBI single to drive in Flores from second base. Both the Wilmer and Estrada runs came on potentially close plays at the plate and credit must be given to Giants third base coach Mark Hallberg for his aggressive send of the runners.

The Giants Bullpen Saves the Day, Again

Once again the unsung heroes of the game were the relievers who held the Cardinals scoreless run after the third inning, when Desclafani was lifted. They were, in order of appearance, Jacob Junis with three innings of work, Taylor Rogers, Ryan Walker and Tyler Rogers, with an inning each. They were all excellent and Camilo Doval came in to save the game in the ninth allowing only a walk.

How sweep it is!