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Giants walk off the Mets for the third time in four days

A 12th-inning home run by Mike Yastrzemski sent everyone home happy.

New York Mets v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Mike Yastrzemski.

That’s it. That’s the entire article.

Yastrzemski - who made his MLB debut less than two months ago, and was nearly optioned just a few weeks ago - came up to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning, in a 2-2 game. No one had scored in a few hours. We could have been here a long time.

Instead, Yaz lifted one the other way, just deep enough to clear the left field wall and give the San Francisco Giants a four-game series win over the New York Mets.

All three of the games they won came in extra innings. It’s not how you draw it up, but damned if it isn’t a lot of fun.

Yaz got soaked with not one, but two ice coolers during his post-game interview with Amy G. I’m sure he’ll be fine with that. It comes with the territory, and it was his first MLB walk-off.

In recent years, the Giants haven’t had many call-ups like the ones they had on Sunday. Usually, Giants call-ups fit into one of two categories.

Category 1: The team is so far removed from the playoff picture that they realize it’s a smarter decision to find playing time for youngsters than for fellows who will be off the squad in a year.

Category 2: The team is so bad that they realize no harm can be done by benching the veterans and trying something new.

On Sunday, two Giants were not only called up, but penciled into the starting lineup for their Major League debut. And they introduced a third category.

Category 3: The team, which is playing good baseball and trying to win important games, realizes that some players in the farm might afford them even better opportunities to win.

The Giants simultaneously showcased a commitment to winning in the short term and the long term by calling up pitcher Conner Menez and corner infielder Zach Green, and designating Derek Holland for assignment in the process, likely eating the rest of his semi-pricey contract.

And it paid off, as both youngsters had the type of performance that will surely have Farhan Zaidi and Bruce Bochy excited to put them back in the lineup.

Green - who will platoon at third base with Pablo Sandoval until Evan Longoria is healthy - had hard hits in his first two at-bats. The first - a single up the middle in the second inning - moved Buster Posey into scoring position, which allowed him to score on a Brandon Crawford single.

The second - a solid double down the third base line in the fourth - scored Posey, and tied the game at 2-2, where it would stay until extra innings.

He finished the day 2-3, with a big hand in the Giants first two runs.

And Menez, who will take Drew Pomeranz’s spot in the rotation, made one heck of an impression in his debut.

It’s impossible to measure the mental aspect of sports, and even if we could, it would be equally impossible to quantify how much it impacts winning. All we do is witness it and digest it as it comes along, and draw the conclusions that feel natural to us.

Menez displayed all kinds of composure and fortitude in his first MLB game. He escaped the first inning unscathed, in large part due to an utterly sensational defensive play from center fielder Kevin Pillar.

In the second, Menez got his first big league lesson, when Michael Conforto took him deep with a strong home run. Unperturbed, Menez responded with the first strikeout of his career.

Then, one batter later, Amed Rosario punished a bad pitch for the second home run of the inning. On the broadcast, Duane Kuiper summed it up accurately and succinctly, stating that “it’s not a forgiving league.”

Menez walked the next batter, and for a second it looked like the wheels might come off on the debut.

But he struck out his counterpart, Steven Matz, to end the inning. And when he came out in the third, he faced the scorching trio of Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis, and Pete Alonso.

He struck out all three, doing so masterfully enough that he prompted Alonso to do this:


Menez only went five innings, but he allowed just three hits and two walks, while striking out six. He never got in trouble after those second-inning home runs. He pounded the zone with his fastball, had tremendous break on his secondary pitches, and displayed great comfort throwing his changeup in any count.

He threw 84 pitches, and 56 of them went for strikes, including 12 swings-and-misses. The Mets crushed two mistakes, but otherwise never looked comfortable, even losing their bats on multiple occasions, and breaking them on others (and not just in the manner that Alonso did).

No matter how you slice it, it was a stellar debut.

The Giants had chances to end this game earlier, but couldn’t capitalize. Donovan Solano reached second on a two-base error to open up the fifth inning, but never came across the plate. Brandon Belt and Posey began the 11th with back-to-back walks, before a double play by pinch hitter Alex Dickerson left Belt on third with two outs. Pablo Sandoval hit a bullet into center field, but he hit it too hard, and it made it all the way to a glove.

After their offensive explosion over the last few weeks, the Giants offense has calmed down, especially with runners in scoring position. It makes the margin for error a bit slimmer, even if it makes it easier to appreciate the pitching.

And speaking of the pitching, it wasn’t just Menez who had a strong day. The bullpen was, once again, exceptional, as they combined for seven scoreless innings with barely any threats.

Check out the reliever work that was done after Menez exited:

Reyes Moronta: 1 inning, 0 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 0 runs
Tony Watson: 1 inning, 0 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 0 runs
Sam Dyson: 1 inning, 0 hits, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 0 runs
Will Smith: 1 inning, 0 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 0 runs
Mark Melancon: 2 innings, 1 hit, 0 walks, 1 strikeout, 0 runs
Trevor Gott: 1 inning, 1 hit, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts, 0 runs

Together, Giants pitchers held the Mets to just five hits and four walks in 12 innings of baseball.

One of the best things about the Giants working themselves into the playoff picture has been watching them play with fire and vigor. I don’t mean to suggest that they were slacking when they were losing but . . . come on. You play 162 dang times a year, not to mention spring training. You need every possible tool at your disposal to bring ferocity and energy to a Sunday afternoon game. It’s hard to tap into that when you’re 13 games under .500. Fire and ferocity occasionally, sure, but not in the productive ways. More in the “what in the hell is going on here, I’m frustrated” ways.

Today we saw the “we have something to play for” fire that comes from a team on a roll. In the eighth inning, in a 3-1 count, Buster Posey ducked to avoid a pitch gunning for his head. The ball buzzed over his head but managed to ricochet off his bat for a foul ball.

The next pitch thudded directly off of Posey’s chest. He flung his bat, and looked about as angry and demonstrative as we’ll see him. Which, admittedly, still isn’t much, but is worth noting.

The next pitch came to Kevin Pillar, and missed the strike zone by quite a few inches, only to be called strike one. Pillar wasn’t having it. After grounding out, Pillar let the ump know exactly how he felt, which led to a funny sentence from Kuiper: “Pillar’s gonna have to be careful when he oh and they just kicked him out.”

It was apparent, from Menez’s opening pitch to Yaz’s Gatorade bath, that this team was highly, highly invested in winning the game.

It was hard to imagine that being the case a few months ago.

So the Giants are back to .500, and they’re there partially because of players who climbed out of a hole that they didn’t dig in the first place. Menez, Green, and Yastrzemski weren’t a part of the Giants early season struggles Neither were Dickerson and Austin Slater and Tyler Beede and Shaun Anderson.

The Giants are 50-50, but the guys comprising the current roster have been much better. At this point, it seems fair to assume that the Giants are a .500 team at worst.

They’ve now won 15 of their last 18 games. They’ve won five series in a row. They’re two games out of the second Wild Card spot.

They’re worth paying attention to.