The Giants combined for six home runs for the first time since 2014. Three of those homers came from Mike Yastrzemski while another two came from Kevin Pillar. At one point, the Giants led by five runs, and at another, they had Will Smith on the mound with three outs left to go.
They still almost lost.
The Diamondbacks also hit six home runs because it’s 2019 so of course they did. Jeff Samardzija, Fernando Abad, and Reyes Moronta got the Giants through seven innings with just two runs coming across. Tony Watson, Sam Coonrod, and Will Smith gave up five home runs in two innings.
After Dereck Rodríguez stifled the Diamondbacks’ bats, they opened tonight with a jarring salvo. Ketel Marte drew first blood when he knocked a pitch on his hands out of the park. It wasn’t a terrible pitch from Samardzija; it was right at the letters. While Marte hasn’t hit those pitches hard, he’s gotten good results on them (.245 expected wOBA, .444 actual wOBA), and that’s exactly what happened tonight, too. At 97.4 mph, it had just a .380 expected batting average. The ball was just flying, and that was a continuing theme.
Samardzija ran into more trouble with a mix of loud contact and BABIP nonsense. From the outset, it looked like everything would break the Diamondbacks’ way. The Giants had four balls hit over 100 mph in the first two innings. Only one of them went for a hit. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks found every hole. Grounders slipped through the infield and if they didn’t, the Giants couldn’t turn the double play. Nick Ahmed even stretched a grounder up the middle into a double.
Ahmed’s hustle double created a sticky situation as Samardzija walked the next batter, Carson Kelly, on four pitches. But catastrophe was averted when Buster Posey ceased to have it. Ahmed took a big lead from second to ensure he could reach third on the bunt, but when Leake missed the bunt, Posey struck. He threw behind Ahmed to snag him easily.
Posey doesn’t go for the back-pick often. He only throws if he thinks there’s a chance to get them. Catchers who love to throw, like Willson Contreras, try for a back-pick at least once per game, so runners are generally ready for it. Posey, on the other hand, is like a cobra, hypnotizing his prey into complacency with his steely blue eyes before he strikes them dead.
There probably aren’t any appreciable effects from a momentum swing between two teams who more than likely aren’t making the playoffs in mid-August, but from that point, fortunes switched. Samardzija settled in and more balls found gloves. On offense, the Giants started swatting dingers and they didn’t stop.
Mike Yastrzemski and Kevin Pillar were the stars of the evening. Yastrzemski became the first Giant to have a three-homer game since Jarrett Parker in 2015. He also tied his grandfather for three-homer games in 3,238 fewer games.
Mike Yastrzemski has his first career 3-HR game in his 70th career game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 17, 2019
His grandfather Carl played 3,308 career games and only had one 3-HR effort: May 19, 1976 vs the Tigers. pic.twitter.com/1i5H3rbxru
A family sitting in the right field seats brought a “Hit it here, Yaz,” sign, and their voodoo worked. “Hit it here” signs are a great way to get on TV and to ensure that the named player goes 0-for-4, but Yastrzemski actually hit it there.
YAZ HIT IT THERE!— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 17, 2019
That’s as close as we’ll ever get to seeing a player obey a “Hit it here” sign. Even when 11-homer games become more and more commonplace. That family is going to remember that moment forever.
I don’t know what it says about me, but when I watch that highlight, I don’t zone in on the jubilant family but rather the sulking Diamondbacks fans in the background. Probably it says that I’m petty and spiteful.
Yastrzemski doesn’t need a sign’s permission to sock dingers, though. He hit another one out in the seventh.
First career multi-home run game for @mikeyaz18.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 17, 2019
That made it the first multi-homer game, but Yaz the Younger wasn’t done there. In the 11th, Yaz took on the deepest part of Chase Field.
Yaz is having a night.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 17, 2019
I know it’s tempting to dunk on the Orioles for thinking they had five outfielders better than Mike Yastrzemski, but we need to remember to punch up. I think enough has gone wrong for Baltimore from the Chris Davis deal to leaving Zack Britton in the bullpen to everything that happened in 2018. Do we really need to remind them they could have had Mike Yastrzemski instead of this:
The Baltimore Orioles, 2019: pic.twitter.com/ardpuZbmKR— Connor Newcomb (@ConnorNewcomb_) August 11, 2019
Yastrzemski hit his game-winner over the spot where Brandon Belt missed a homer last night, but tonight Belt didn’t hit it to the deepest part of the yard tonight.
That ball was BELTED™️.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 17, 2019
That was Belt’s first home run of August and just his third since the All-Star break. The previous two came at Philadelphia and Milwaukee, two parks that make it easier on lefties. Belt has been scuffling, but he’s also been a little unlucky. He has just three hits on his last nine barrels. I mentioned in last night’s recap that he was due for them to start falling in or going over the fence. He’s also due for some more singles to fall in like his blooper in the sixth.
Kevin Pillar’s two-homer game will get swept under the rug because of Mike Yastrzemski out-homered him and Will Smith let his would-be game winner get erased, but let’s appreciate the team leader in homers.
Today's giveaway: HOME RUN BASEBALLS— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 17, 2019
¡Adios, pelota!— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 17, 2019
With the two homers he hit tonight, he set a career high at 17. Pillar has presented the Giants with a repeat of the Gorkys conundrum. On one hand, it’s great that their center fielder is putting up unprecedented homer numbers. On the other, he still shouldn’t be leading the team.
This game had the potential to be an all-time heart breaker, but the Giants hung on. It would have been great if Tony Watson and Will Smith didn’t suddenly start looking vulnerable, but Mike Yastrzemski and the offense are doing a fine job of distracting from that.