Flashing a lineup stuffed with homegrown talent, the San Francisco Giants erupted for a five-run second inning to steamroll the Pittsburgh Pirates 14-4 at Oracle Park Monday afternoon in front of over 39,000 Memorial Day fans.
After a 5-2 road trip, the Giants continue their winning ways at home, having now won 11 of their last 14 games dating to May 15.
On the offensive outburst, manager Gabe Kapler was encouraged by the “keep the line moving” mentality:
“I thought up and down the lineup we had guys swinging the bat and driving in runs, getting big hits and supporting one another. I think we’re coming together as a team. I think that started obviously on the road trip, maybe even a little bit before, but now we’re getting contributions from everybody on the team. We’re not just waiting for one or two people to come up with a big hit. We’re getting quality starts nearly every time through.”
In lots of ways, the Giants’ recent success is centered around health. The club welcomed back a key piece to their lineup with the addition of Austin Slater, who has only appeared in nine of the 54 games this season due to a left hamstring injury.
Slater returned to the leadoff spot with a bang, crushing a two-run homer to center to cap a five-run second inning against Pirates starter Rich Hill. It was Slater’s first long ball of the season, and it’s no surprise it came off a southpaw.
In eight prior games this season, Slater’s success at the plate has come only against left-handed pitching: 7-for-12 with a double and two runs batted in, night and day compared to the 0-for-7 clip against righties. Either way, his presence, especially at the tail end of his highly-celebrated“Mustache May,”is a bright spot delivering depth for San Francisco.
Slater finished the afternoon 3-for-6 with four RBI.
As an eighth-round selection in the 2014 draft, Slater was one of six homegrown players the Giants featured in Monday’s lineup. The other five were Casey Schmitt, Patrick Bailey, David Villar, Brandon Crawford and Bryce Johnson.
It’s an accomplishment for an organization which has spent the last few seasons on a mission to develop talent from within, a task which has clearly benefited them the past few weeks as they’ve adapted to what some might call a youth movement.
A few younger members of the homegrown bunch ambushed the veteran starter Hill – the 43-year-old lefty who has been hurling baseballs from a mound since before some of his opponents were out of kindergarten.
Hill was lit up for six earned runs over six innings of work. Five of the runs were put on the scoreboard by the Giants in the second.
After Mitch Haniger singled to start the frame, Schmitt took a rip at a 72.6 mph curveball and, despite being early and hitting it off his front foot, banged it off the wall in left for a double. Bailey – celebrating his 24th birthday – was next, poking a two-run double to right to put San Francisco on the board.
It was yet another swing from the right side of the plate, an area of Bailey’s game deemed a weakness in the minors. During his tenure at High-A Eugene in 2022, Bailey recorded just two doubles and a single homer in 70 plate appearances against lefties. Now, he’s flipped the narrative, matching those numbers in just 13 plate appearances.
On Bailey’s success, starter Anthony DeSclafani said:
“He’s very young, but seems very mature beyond his years and it seems like he’s been doing it for a while so definitely a great quality to have. It seems like he carries that confidence behind the dish…”
Crawford followed up by knocking in Bailey with a double down the right field line that trickled off the first base bag to make it a three-run lead, before Slater’s dinger concluded the damage in the frame. Crawford notched his first three-hit game since April 1.
Schmitt, who can seemingly record multi-hit games rolling out of bed, also added a three-hit afternoon to his already-lofty big league resume. In the seventh, he cranked a two-run single to left to break the game open at 9-3. Haniger also was the recipient of a three-hit afternoon.
Kapler is intrigued by the production from Schmitt and Bailey, the two high-profile rookies on the club:
“It’s unusual to see two rookies come up and have the type of success and the sustained success that these two players are having. And I imagine –– this is a little bit of a speculative take –– that they’re having a shared experience around it. So you can kind of dream on the possibilities of these guys playing together for a really long time.”
Bailey came up big once again in the seventh when he crushed a no-doubt, two-run homer into the arcade beyond the right field wall. His second big-league homer and first from the left side of the plate extended the lead to 11-3.
The Pirates bullpen, which entered into Monday’s action with the second-lowest ERA (3.52) in the National League behind only the Padres, melted down for eight earned runs – all credited to Cody Bolton.
Anthony DeSclafani took the hill for San Francisco, pitching efficiently by racking up groundouts early in the count. He struck out just two Pirates, but the tradeoff was another lengthy outing for the veteran righty.
In an unfortunate turn of events in the seventh, Jack Suwinski’s solo shot flew into McCovey Cove on a fly, before a miscommunication that led to a bloop single and a fielding error closed the San Francisco lead to 6-3.
Suwinski added a second solo shot in the ninth off outfielder Brett Wisely, another blast which flew into San Francisco Bay on a fly.
DeSclafani’s final line included seven innings pitched, eight hits and three earned runs allowed with two strikeouts.
DeSclafani has opened the season with 11 consecutive starts of at least five or more innings and two or fewer walks. He passed Juan Marichal (1966) and tied Johnny Cueto (2016) and Allen Watson (1996) for the third-longest such streak.
A bizarre moment in the top of the first resulted in a three-pitch inning turned in by DeSclafani. Tucupita Marcano led off the frame with a double past the outstretched dive of center fielder Johnson. After Bryan Reynolds lined out, Andrew McCutchen blooped a shot pop-up that landed in the charging glove of Slater in left field. Marcano–– either unaware of the number of outs or completely adamant the ball would find some real estate in front of Slater – was rolling hard around third when he was doubled up at second.
It was the first three-pitch inning by a Giants pitcher since Logan Webb did it on Sept. 28, 2021.
On the win, Bailey said:
“We’ve been swinging it really good, whether we’re putting up a lot of hits or runs or getting the big hits that we needed. Keep it rolling.”
The Giants haven’t announced a starter for Game 2 of the three-game series on Tuesday evening, but it’s expected to be a bullpen game with an opener starting the game. Pittsburgh is set to roll out righty Johan Oviedo (3-4, 4.70 ERA).
As good as the bullpen has performed recently, they may be in store for additional strength. Luke Jackson, a free agent signing during the offseason, is eligible to come off the injured list starting on Monday. The right-hander is just about complete with his rehab from Tommy John Surgery and has been appearing in minor league games for the past few weeks. On Sunday, he struck out the side for Triple-A Sacramento. He’s expected to be activated within a few days.
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.