SF Giants waste opportunities, Thairo Estrada’s big day in walk-off loss to Tigers
DETROIT — Despite Friday night’s series opener featuring Thairo Estrada finishing a triple shy of the cycle, a game-tying home run from J.D. Davis and the opposing left fielder dropping a can of corn with the would-be go-ahead run on base, the Giants couldn’t beat the Tigers, a team that lost 96 games last year and nine of their first 12 of 2023.
After trailing for most of the night, LaMonte Wade Jr. even delivered the go-ahead base knock in the top of the 11th. But asked to close out the game in his second inning of work, Camilo Doval served up a walk-off to Nick Maton, who blasted a game-winning homer to right field to beat the Giants, 7-5.
With Estrada covering left field while the Giants deal with a rash of outfield injuries, David Villar was forced to play second base, where he made a costly mental mistake before Maton’s walk-off bomb. With a free runner on second to start the second frame of extras, the first batter of the inning attempted to sacrifice himself but Villar tried to nab the lead runner at third and his throw was well late, costing the Giants the first out of the inning.
Doval responded by striking out the next two batters but made a mistake for which Maton made him pay. It wasn’t overlooked that with one more out — if Villar makes the easy throw to first on the sac bunt — the game would be over with the Giants on the winning end, after LaMonte Wade Jr. reenacted some of his late-night heroics with a go-ahead single in the top of the 11th.
“The ball was hit so hard, I received it so quick, I could’ve easily looked up at third, taken a look at the runner and said, nah, let me take the out here,” Villar said. “Doval strikes the next two guys out, we get out of the game and we win.”
“Unless you’re absolutely certain you have an out at third base, just throw to first base,” manager Gabe Kapler said. Both Kapler and Brandon Crawford consulted with Villar, who took full accountability.
Players of the game
J.D. Davis (2-for-3, HR, R, 3 RBI): In addition to his big home run, Davis made a pair of highlight-reel defensive plays at third base, too. With a runner on second in the fifth, he ranged into shallow left-field to rob Tyler Nevin of a bloop hit and likely a run with a sliding over-the-shoulder catch. With the Tigers threatening again in the sixth, with two on and one out, Eric Haase ripped a line drive at Davis that left the bat at 103.2 mph. Davis fell to a knee, fielded the chopper on one hop, rolled over and threw to second for a force out.
Thairo Estrada (3-for-4, 2B, HR, BB, 2 R, RBI): Batted lead off for the fourth time this season and, on a 3-2 pitch from Tigers starter Joey Wentz, launched the first leadoff home run of his career into the hedges beyond center field. Reached three more times and finished a triple shy of the cycle, but the rest of the Giants lineup combined for five singles in 24 at-bats before Davis’ game-tying home run.
Javier Baez (2-for-3, R, 2 RBI): The Giants’ lead delivered by Estrada lasted one inning, until Baez led off the bottom of the second with a single and scored on a sac fly. Baez also reached base three times and shellacked a hanging slider from Jakob Junis into the left-center field gap for a two-RBI double that made the game 4-1.
Number(s) to know
441 and 110.5: Estrada’s first-inning home run wasn’t only his first from the leadoff spot but also the best-struck ball of his career. Leaving the bat at 110.5 mph and traveling 441 feet, Estrada’s homer was the furthest- and hardest-hit of his career. He’s hit only two others harder than his third-inning single, which he laced up the middle at 106.9 mph. Hitting the ball harder and in the air more often could portend good things for Estrada, who was in the bottom 9% of MLB last season in hard-hit percentage and ranked among the major-league leaders in ground ball percentage.
.233: The Giants’ batting average against left-handed starting pitchers, which actually increased Friday, despite Wentz limiting them to a run and striking out seven over 5⅔ innings (mostly thanks to Estrada’s three hits). Having faced four lefties now, the Giants have lost all four games. Entering Wednesday’s game, their OPS against right-handers (.867) was more than 300 points higher than their OPS against lefties (.537). Sorely lacking their pair of injured right-handed hitting outfielders (Austin Slater and Mitch Haniger), the Giants’ best offensive bet Friday was forced to start in left field instead of his natural second base.
“Unfortunately I’m gonna have to sleep on this one tonight. It sucks. The loss falls on me right there. … My initial thought was if I can get this ball moving toward third, maybe get the out at third. I didn’t take into consideration with Doval on the mound, you’ve got a guy on the mound with some plus stuff and can get some strikeouts. … I don’t want to make any excuses. That’s the mental part of the game. You’ve got to stay locked in the whole time. It’s a decision I made pre-pitch and I’ve got to live with it, but I’m not going to sit here and make any excuses. It’s a play I normally make to first base 99 out of 100 times.” — David Villar, on the fateful sacrifice bunt attempt in the 11th inning on which he threw to third and failed to record an out.
“Yeah, I mean, look, it’s not ideal. In a perfect world you always have a player playing their primary position. There are almost no teams around baseball who have it like that all the time. So on a day when you’re facing a left-handed starter, you mix and match a little bit and, with a long stretch of games coming up, you try to make sure your guys are getting the time off they need. Sometimes that means shuffling the deck a little bit.” — Giants manager Gabe Kapler on Thairo Estrada starting in left field for the first time this season and the 15th time of his career.
“It’s definitely tough. Coming from different time zones, now switching into night games, having this rough 5-6 innings, just not getting anything going besides Estrada’s leadoff home run, Wentz did a great job mixing up everything: up and down, changing speeds, different locations. It seemed like the sixth or seventh inning, we got our second wind and got some energy and we started to string some things together. I just ambushed the first pitch that I saw. … To tie the game, get back into it and take the lead, it was definitely a tough pill to swallow.” — J.D. Davis on his game-tying home run in the seventh inning and the difficulty of the loss.
OF/DH Joc Pederson (wrist) was unavailable after receiving a cortisone shot in his right wrist on Wednesday to treat some mystery swelling. … OF Michael Conforto (calf) was feeling good enough to pinch-hit in the ninth inning after leaving Wednesday’s game early but was substituted out for a pinch-runner after drawing a walk. His status for Saturday remains up in the air. … OF Bryce Johnson (concussion) was placed on the seven-day injured list. He was replaced on the active roster by RHP Sean Hjelle. OF Austin Slater (hamstring) began a rehab assignment, while fellow outfielder Mitch Haniger (oblique) is expected to join him next week. … C Austin Wynns cleared waivers and elected free agency. While fellow catcher Roberto Pérez underwent season-ending surgery Wednesday, Kapler said that does not speed up the timeline of Gary Sánchez, who is 3-for-21 in his first five games with Triple-A Sacramento.