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Believe it or not, baseball is back.

For weeks we’ve debated if baseball, or any sport for that matter, would be able to return in the middle of a pandemic. But here we are, exhibition baseball.

Opening Day looms just three days away, and the San Francisco Giants began a two-game series with the Oakland Athletics Monday night.

A solid night from the Giants pitching staff, combined with an offensive explosion from Austin Slater (3-for-4, 5 RBIs), propelled the Giants to a (6-2) win in a preseason game with fake crowd noise and cardboard cutout fans.

Monday night stood as the first full-game preparation the Giants have had since summer camp opened at the beginning of July. Because there are only three days left before rosters and rotations need to be finalized, these two exhibition games will be key for those battling for roster spots.

A’s lefty Sean Manaea started for Oakland Monday night against the Giants, whose lineup consisted of mostly starters.

Prior to Monday’s game, Giants manager Gabe Kapler provided an update on two key Giants.

The first inning of baseball without fans began with a Slater opposite-field single. The Giants went down quietly after the leadoff base hit.

Kevin Gausman, who has earned a spot in the Giants rotation this season, took to the mound against Oakland. The Giants righty retired the side in order.

Mauricio Dubon reached base in the second inning on a fielder’s choice. Both Jaylin Davis and Chadwick Tromp followed with infield singles, loading the bases with two outs. Slater came through with a bases-clearing double into left field, giving the Giants an early 3-0 lead.

Gausman was done after one inning, probably by design. Lefty Tyler Anderson took over in the second inning, surrendering a solo home run to Stephen Piscotty, cutting the Giants lead to 3-1 after two.

Following a quiet top of the third, lefty Drew Smyly took over for the Giants in the bottom half of the inning.

The hard-throwing lefty Caleb Baragar took over for the Giants in the bottom of the fourth. Matt Chapman walked to lead off the inning, followed by a Matt Olson base hit, sending Chapman to third. Khris Davis followed with a sac-fly, cutting the Giants lead to 3-2.

Wilmer Flores and Pablo Sandoval flashed some leather to turn two.

Tony Watson, who suffered a shoulder injury in spring training, pitched the bottom of the sixth, his first game action since March. One base runner reached on an error, but a clean inning otherwise. If he can remain healthy, Watson has sights on the role as the Giants closer this season.

With two outs in the top of the seventh inning, Davis walked, and Tromp doubled, setting up the Giants with runners at second and third for Slater. Adding on to his already impressive game, Slater roped a double into right-center field, scoring both runners, and giving the Giants a 5-2 lead.

Slater erupted, collecting three hits and five RBIs in his first four at-bats. Flores followed with a single on a fly ball to center, scoring Slater and extending the Giants lead to 6-2.

Carlos Navas closed out the game for the Giants in the bottom of the ninth inning. Walking Mark Canha to lead off the inning, Navas retired the side to close things out.

An all-around solid night of great pitching and timely hitting gave the Giants their first win in front of an empty crowd, the new norm from here on out this season.

Notes

  • Prior to the start of Monday’s game, multiple Giants, including manager Gabe Kapler took a knee for the National Anthem.

Kapler addressed his, and multiple other Giants decisions to kneel after Monday’s game:

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about the anthem over the last 72 hours. We connected with small groups of players, and we connected with players individually, having many conversations about this topic. I spoke to the group today, and essentially gave them two messages. First, our coaching staff and organization would support any statement they wanted to make. The second message I wanted to share was what my plans were. I wasn’t pleased with the way our country has handled police brutality. I wanted to amplify their voices, the black community, and marginalized voices as well. I wanted to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with systemic racism in our country. I wanted them to feel safe speaking up.”

  • Giants assistant coach Alyysa Nakken coached first base for the first time in a game this season.
Taylor Wirth

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