Rookies Conner Menez (ND, 0-0, 3.60 ERA) and Zach Green stepped on the field Sunday as big leaguers for the first time in the same uniforms as their childhood heroes, and each put up stellar debuts in the Giants 3-2 extra-innings victory over the Mets.
The Giants played three extra-innings games with the Mets (45-54) this week, totaling 47 innings over the four-game set. They spent 32 of those innings tied, including eight Sunday. It was Mike Yastrzemski, who finally untied the knot with a longball that put the Giants (50-50) back at .500 for the second time this season.
Twenty-four-year-old Menez, who grew up rooting for the Giants from Hollister, tossed five innings of three-hit ball for the Giants racking up six strikeouts.
Two of the three hits he allowed were solo homers in the second, one of which landed in the Bay off the bat of Michael Conforto, the first splash hit since Max Muncy told Madison Bumgarner to get the ball he hit out of the “ocean.”
Menez said the homers were a reality check for him, but he quickly found his rhythm after that. He said:
“I knew those pitches were down the middle and kind of like left them up a little bit but I tried not to let that bother me and just focused on the next pitch.”
Menez struck out the side in the third and followed with another 1-2-3 frame in the fourth before a fifth inning walk that the Mets failed to cash in on.
Of the experience overall, Menez said:
“I felt good, a lot of adrenaline pumping, [but] after that third inning I kind of got a couple of innings under my belt and kind of knew that my stuff was working good after that.”
He said pitching to Buster Posey made his debut even more special, describing it as “a dream come true.”
The young southpaw said he didn’t get to make it up to the ballpark more than a handful of times growing up, but a 2007 outing to then-SBC Park for his 12th birthday was formative. He said:
“For my 12th birthday, my dad took me a Giants game. Lincecum was pitching that day and they got me a Lincecum jersey and I saw him pitch so that was one of my special moments.”
Green had an exciting day of his own, batting 1.000 thrtough his first two big league plate appearances against Steven Matz (ND, 5-6, 4.75 ERA) and tag teaming with Posey for both of the Giants early rallies.
He said the experience was surreal and described what it was like to play for the team he lived and died for as a fan:
“I grew up a big Giants fan. I remember watching them lose in ’02 and that was my first time being heartbroken as a sports fan. Then they won in 2010 and that was a special year. For my first big league uniform to be a Giants uniform is extremely humbling and special.”
In the second inning Sunday, Green followed a booming double to right from Posey by knocking a single up the middle on the second pitch he saw for his first career hit. Of the experience, he said:
“Talk about weight off the shoulders. It was special, it happened like that. Next thing I knew I was on first base and Algie was congratulating me. Sometimes that first one is the hardest to get, so it was pretty cool that I got it out of the way.”
Brandon Crawford came up next to single Posey home.
To open the fourth Posey swatted a double to the deepest part of the ballpark again setting Green up. The rookie came up a batter later and a and notched his first career RBI with a double of his own down the left field line to tie it up, 2-2.
And then the teams broke into a familiar pattern, remaining tied for another eight innings, making the total innings tied in the series 32.
But the Giants bullpen, which has offered a spine of steel all season to San Francisco carried them through the final seven innings of the long series. Reyes Moronta, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, Will Smith, Mark Melancon and Trevor Gott (W, 6-0, 3.73) held the Metropolitans off until Mike Yastrzemski could snatch the win with his first career walkoff in the bottom of the 12th off Robert Gsellman (L, 1-2, 4.92 ERA).
Yaz was doused in lemon-lime Gatorade, and he said in playing extra-inning ballgames, particularly in the case of three in four days, winning makes all the difference when it comes to fatigue and recovery:
“When when you’re on the winning side of it, it’s a lot easier to get in the ice tub or to do whatever you need to do after, so it doesn’t doesn’t hurt as much.
With the victory the Giants have won 15 of their last 18 contests and they’ve won their last five series.
The Giants open a three game series at Oracle Park with the Cubs Monday night. Shaun Anderson (3-2, 3.87 ERA) will toe the rubber against fellow right-handed rookie Alec Mills (0-0, 4.50 ERA) for a 6:45 p.m. start.
Kevin Pillar was ejected for the first time this season and the second time in his career in the eighth inning after arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Mark Ripperger.