How players rebound from an 11-game road trip through four big-league cities can say a lot about an organization’s current outlook and determination.
The Giants displayed no shortage of energy following their successful stretch away from home, stacking three-run homers from Wilmer Flores and Austin Slater atop another gem from Carlos Rodon to rough up the Athletics 8-2 at Oracle Park on Tuesday evening.
Flores went 2-for-4 with four RBI, including a loud three-run homer in the third. One flaw Gabe Kapler said he has noticed with his club’s offense is a lack of balls put into play. Flores – who proved notoriously tough to strike out last season – has worked to counter that flaw, hitting .263 with five runs, three doubles and five RBI during their recent 8-3 road trip.
On Flores’ night Flores, Kapler said:
I just see what Wilmer is doing is what he did for us for the last few calendar years. Very consistent at the plate. Good decision maker. Good barrel accuracy. Excellent squaring up the baseball no matter where it is in the zone. Lays off pitches that he can’t drive. He didn’t get off to a perfect start, but he was always having pretty consistent, quality at-bats and now those are resulting in some damage.”
The big swing came in the third inning with two outs. After Brandon Belt singled and Brandon Crawford walked, Flores lifted a 93-mph offering from Oakland starter Daulton Jefferies over the left-center field wall for his second homer of the season.
The Giants busted open the game in the seventh when Slater drove Jacob Lemoine’s slider to the opposite field and barely over the brick wall in right field for a three-run homer. The call was reviewed by the A’s – to the naked eye it looked like the ball may have rattled off the top of the wall – but was upheld to make the score 8-3.
It was Slater’s second homer of the year, with first coming Friday in Washington D.C. against the Nationals. It, too, went to the opposite field.
Slater said his home run was a nice surprise:
You never know with right field, it kind of swirls out there. And luckily, they changed the rule this year so if it hits [the tin], it’s a homer.”
Despite not having his best stuff, Rodon was solid through six frames. The southpaw allowed three hits, two walks, an earned run and nine strikeouts. He would’ve surely gone deeper but Oakland’s offense showed signs of resilience, spoiling off numerous quality pitches and aggressively working the count against him.
Kapler talked about Rodon’s outing:
Carlos came out throwing strikes and even when the A’s – which they did all the way through the game – took really good high-quality at-bats on him took good swings, fouled off some pitches and ran his pitch count up. He continued to attack the strike zone, even without his secondary weapons.”
Rodon was tagged in the third inning when he walked Nick Allen and allowed a wild pitch to advance him to second. Sheldon Neuse followed with an RBI single to cut the lead in half at 2-1. It took 30 pitches for Rodon to navigate the frame.
Discussion about stretching out starting pitchers has been popular among the baseball world in the first month of the season. Due to the shortened spring, managers have been hesitant to let starters work deep into games.
Rodon’s pitch count has creeped higher and higher across his first three starts – 89, 90, then 95. Since a bullpen game is expected for the second game of the series Wednesday, the Giants squeezed as much length as possible from the 29-year-old, and he finished with 104 pitches.
In the future, Kapler said, the Giants will look to stretch their starters more and more as the season progresses.
With eight strikeouts on Tuesday, Rodon passed Tim Lincecum’s franchise record of 35 strikeouts through his first four starts of the 2009 season. Rodon sits at the top of strikeout and run-oriented metrics in all of Major League Baseball, making the offseason signing look even better.
Dominic Leone entered to pitch the seventh but couldn’t escape it after yielding a one-out single to Christian Pache and an RBI double to pinch-hitter Seth Brown to inch the Athletics closer at 5-2. Lefty Jarlin Garcia – against whom hitters are now 1-for-15 to start the season – struck out Tony Kemp looking to end the frame and avoid further crisis
The scoring initially began after Crawford drew a walk to begin the second inning against Jefferies, who then uncorked a wild pitch that advanced him to second. The mistake became costly when Flores cranked an RBI double off the left-center field wall to give the Giants an early lead. A few batters later, Thairo Estrada reached on a fielder’s choice to score Flores from third to make it 2-0.
The Giants conclude the short, two-game series against the Athletics on Wednesday evening. Paul Blackburn (2-0, 1.80 ERA) will take the ball for Oakland. San Francisco has not yet announced a starting pitcher but Kapler noted that left-hander Sam Long and righty Jakob Junis are viable options to receive the nod.
In an unexpected move a little more than an hour before Tuesday’s first pitch, San Francisco placed reliever Zack Littell on the injured list and recalled righty Kervin Castro from Triple-A. Littell tested positive for COVID-19 and is showing flu-like symptoms. He is vaccinated and boosted. … Mike Yastrzemski is still quarantining in Washington D.C. after testing positive for Covid-19 on Sunday afternoon. Kapler reported that he’s overcome a sore throat and woke up with body aches on Tuesday morning. … Just minutes before first pitch, the Giants announced they acquired infielder Kevin Padlo from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for cash considerations. The 25-year-old will report to Triple-A Sacramento.