By Evan Webeck
DENVER — The postgame meal of the best player on the field here Sunday was steak and rice.
After nearly single-handedly willing the Giants to a 9-8 victory over the Rockies in 11 innings Sunday, Evan Longoria interrupted his dinner with first baseman Brandon Belt to address reporters and sent a clear message.
“The days are starting to run out,” Longoria said. “But there are still signs of life in here.”
Without Longoria’s vintage all-around showing, the Giants risked falling even further out of playoff position. Their losing streak would have run to five games. They would have been swept here by the last-place Rockies.
Instead, after Longoria laid a swipe tag on Sam Hilliard at third base for the final out of the game, they pulled within six games back of Philadelphia for the final National League wild card spot with 41 left to play.
The tag, which followed a perfect throw from LaMonte Wade Jr. in right field and resulted in a game-ending double play, was so close that it required replay to overturn the initial safe call at third base. Video showed Longoria’s glove touching Hilliard’s foot before his hand reached the bag.
“I purposefully put myself out in front of the bag to be able to get his foot hopefully before he got to the bag,” Longoria said. Really, the credit goes to LaMonte. He put the throw right on the money.”
“It was a great play by Longo,” said Wade, returning the praise like a ping-pong serve. “He put that tag down there to get him out. Hats off to him. He had a great game today, too.”
The game-ender was only the latest and most consequential highlight of a banner day for Longoria, who played like the Giants’ season was on the line.
Longoria, 36, broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning with a grand slam, his first since 2013 and one of three hits while finishing a triple shy of the cycle.
And before the game-ending tag, Longoria made key defensive plays in each of the two preceding innings, barehanding a high and slow hopper before nabbing the speedy Garrett Hampson at first base in the ninth, and backhanding a hard-hit grounder from Brendan Rodgers in the 10th, firing a one-hop throw that just beat him to first base.
“On a day like today where he just sort of took the game over and looked like the best all-around player on the field, you realize how much he has left in the tank, and it’s a lot,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He’s still an excellent athlete, capable of changing the game with his glove and his bat and his presence. We saw that on display today.”
The Giants were in position to win in the 11th thanks to Wilmer Flores’ sac fly that drove home Mike Yastrzemski, who had advanced to third on a sac bunt by Wade. Longoria’s grand slam gave them a 6-2 lead in the seventh, and they took another 8-6 advantage in the 10th, but the bullpen coughed it up each time.
Longoria’s grand slam was also the Giants’ third hit with runners in scoring position on Sunday, more than they had over their entire four-game losing streak that was snapped Sunday.
The Giants were 2-for-25 (.080) with runners in scoring position over the course of their four losses and were batting .216 (29-for-134) in those prime scoring chances since the start of August.
After Longoria’s grand slam, RBI hits from Thairo Estrada and Austin Wynns in the 10th and two more run-creating knocks from Wynns and Brandon Crawford in the second, the Giants finished Sunday 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
“The performance was fun … (but) all I really care about is if we get to come in here and celebrate,” Longoria said.
As Longoria waited to step into the batter’s box in the top of the seventh, Rockies manager Bud Black had a lengthy conversation on the mound with starter Kyle Freeland and the rest of the Colorado infield. Freeland was at 99 pitches and had allowed a single to Yastrzemski, a double to Austin Slater and issued a walk to J.D. Davis. Two Rockies right-handers were warming up in the bullpen, but Black opted to let Freeland face Longoria.
Moments later, Freeland doubled over on the mound in despair as Longoria’s tie-breaking grand slam flew over the left field wall. Longoria attacked the first pitch, which was low and inside off the plate, “but kind of right where I was looking for it,” he said.
“Really the plan there is to just get the ball elevated into the outfield and drive a run in and put us ahead at that point,” Longoria said. “But here you find the barrel and the ball will go.”
The extra-inning win meant not only would Longoria’s day not go to waste, neither would a stellar showing from starter Jakob Junis, who had never pitched in the unique elements of Coors Field that can cause problems for so many hurlers. Two home runs amounted to the Rockies’ only damage off Junis, who allowed three earned runs, struck out six and didn’t issue a walk over 6⅔ innings.
It was the second straight strong showing from the 29-year-old right-hander after struggling in his first five games back from a monthlong stint on the injured list with a strained hamstring.
“We needed to win this one, for sure,” Junis said. “This was a big win for us because we’ve been really streaky. We win five, we lose five, you know what I mean? Anyway to shorten those losing streaks and get back on track — I think going into the off day, especially, losing this game would’ve been really tough. Thankfully we pulled it out.”
Junis’ day ended prematurely with another injury scare, though he avoided the worst-case scenario.
On his 85th and final pitch, Hilliard lined a 108-mph comebacker that struck Junis in his left hand. Junis finished the play, throwing over to first to record the second out of the seventh inning but appeared to be in serious pain. Head trainer Dave Groeschner came to check on him and eventually walked off the field with Junis.
Initial scans came back negative, but the right-hander will get a CT scan on Monday.
“Worst-case scenario would’ve been hitting me in the right wrist. … It definitely hurts but the good news is that X-rays were negative,” Junis said. “I didn’t even have time to react, he hit it so hard. It was like I blinked or something and the ball was hitting me. … Hopefully get some treatment this week and be able to squeeze the glove by next Sunday.”
Source: Paradise Post