It’s been the waiting game for the San Francisco Giants when it comes to their new free agent acquisitions. Between health and slow starts, the entourage of newcomers haven’t contributed like expected.
For Michael Conforto, that narrative is starting to change.
Conforto, arguably the highest ceiling out of the many new faces, notched two hits – including a three-run homer to the opposite field – as San Francisco flew past the Philadelphia Phillies 6-3 in the series opener at Oracle Park on Monday evening.
Prior to the game, Giants manager Gabe Kapler said Conforto’s at-bats have been consistent throughout the season, but he’s just now finding results in the power department.
It was evident in a 2-1 game in the second when the Giants right fielder drove a first-pitch fastball from Phillies left-hander Bailey Falter over the left field fence to put the Giants ahead. The blast carried an estimated 361 feet and was cracked at 99.9 mph off the bat.
Conforto’s eighth homer of the year was his fourth in six games. The success could continue through the series – he’s seen the Phillies well in his career. Conforto ranks second for any player since 2015 with 23 career homers and 72 career RBI against Philadelphia. Only Los Angeles first baseman Freddie Freeman has done more damage during that span.
Just as Kapler said, Conforto’s swing has been trending in the right direction for quite some time:
“It’s not a real surprise. He’s got one of the most mechanically sound swings in the league and he can drive the ball to the opposite field as good as anybody, so maybe just confirmation of that.”
The back of the baseball card may shrug and disagree, but Conforto – entering into Monday’s game – recorded a 16% strikeout rate in his last 13 games, compared to a 33% clip during the first month of the season. In addition, he’s been hitting the ball hard all season. His 91.4 mph exit velocity is up from his last full season in 2021, and his hard hit rate still remains the best of his career and ranks in the top 8% of the league.
Despite the 7-for-41 (.171) clip in the month of May, all signs suggest a continued offensive surge after a 6-for-his-last-18 stretch during the recent road series in Arizona.
On the big homer, Conforto said:
“I think really today it was just a good swing and being ready for a fastball first pitch and not missing it, not fouling it back, and staying inside and just driving the ball is what I’ve been working on. … It feels really good to execute on that one.”
The Giants added on after Conforto’s go-ahead blast. Fellow offseason addition Mitch Haniger wrapped an RBI single to right before Brandon Crawford snapped a 2-for-20 stretch against lefties with a run-scoring single of his own to make it 6-2.
Casey Schmitt stayed red-hot with his fifth multi-hit box score in seven career games. The 24-year-old started at second base for the first time at the big league level after playing the position in just minor league games.
Starter Alex Wood said he thinks Schmitt knows he’s a big-league player:
“He’s just gotta go out there and show it and so obviously, he’s off to a to a torrid start I’m sure he’ll come back down to earth as we play some play some more games. The baseline is that glove and he can play all over the field and he’s got a cannon, he can pick it, so he’s been a really big bonus for us so far, and I look forward to seeing him play the rest of the year as well.”
Wood took the ball for San Francisco in his first start since April 18 when a hamstring injury ended his outing in Miami after 2-1/3 innings of work. He was shelved on the 15-day injured list and activated on Friday, appearing in an inning against the Diamondbacks.
On Monday, he fired 4-2/3 innings, allowing four hits, a walk and two earned runs. He struck out four Phillies hitters over 72 pitches.
Wood said he felt good:
“I think 65 was my pitch count going in. Stamina was good. stuff was good and (I) just gonna build off that and keep going.”
The southpaw was hurt by one swing – a two-run blast in the second off the bat of first baseman Alec Bohm to open up the scoring.
The Giants embark on a tough assignment for Game 2 of the series on Tuesday when they face All-Star righty Zack Wheeler (3-2, 3.80 ERA). San Francisco will send out Alex Cobb (3-1, 1.70 ERA). First pitch is 6:45 p.m.
The Giants activated outfielder Mike Yastrzemski from the 10-day injured list. He was sidelined since May 1 with a left hamstring strain that was suffered during the late-April series in Mexico City. As a corresponding move, Joc Pederson was placed on the injured list with a right hand contusion … There’s a possibility Luke Jackson could be activated when first eligible to return off the 60-day injured list on May 29. The right-hander tossed an inning on Sunday during his rehab assignment with Low-A San Jose as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. The Giants could use another reliable option in their bullpen.
Steven Rissotto has covered the San Francisco Giants for SFBay since 2021. He is the host of RizzoCast, a baseball interview show featuring players, coaches, media and fans. He attends San Francisco State University and will major in Journalism and minor in education.