PHOENIX — Rejoice, San Francisco, the season-worst skid is over.
To break out of this funk, prevail for the first time in seven games and give a jolt of life back into a season that appeared to be in peril, the Giants reverted to their winning ways from last season. It was done with a bunt and a blast — from two timely pinch-hitters.
Stepping in to the batter’s box for the first time all game, with no outs in the eighth, Darin Ruf delivered a game-tying home run that brought home Austin Slater, who also entered as a pinch-hitter and beat out a bunt single to lead off the inning. Slater’s substitution proved crucial an inning later, when he lined a two-RBI double down the right field line that scored the go-ahead runs in the Giants’ 7-5 win over the D-backs.
“When you get into streaks like we were just in, it just feels like the game can just pile up on you and just bad things are always going to happen,” Slater said. “To break that feeling, guys had to come up with big hits in big situations.”
The Giants scored five runs in the final two innings to snap their losing streak at six games prevent them from falling to .500 for the first time since April 9, after the second game of the season. Sam Long needed to record the final out, notching his first career save, after Camilo Doval loaded the bases, allowed a run to score and needed 37 pitches to get two outs in the ninth.
“Everyone was pumped. That was a big win,” Long said. “You could feel there was a weight lifted off some of the guys’ shoulders.”
With one game to go until the halfway point of the season, they are 41-39 but still 1.5 games out of the playoff picture and 10.5 back of the first-place Dodgers. Those are the consequences of a two-week stretch of baseball that featured three wins and 12 losses.
“It takes those types of games to break it,” said Alex Cobb, who gave the Giants six innings and allowed four runs, despite battling an illness that left him vomiting earlier in the day. “Just a grindy effort. Come from behind. Stopped the streak in its tracks. Those are the types of games that can turn around a season.”
Although all of Cobb’s four runs were earned, some discretion was taken by the official scorer. The win will go down in the record books as the Giants’ first game since their last win without committing an error, though maybe with an asterisk.
Tommy La Stella, in his first start at second base this season, let a ground ball bounce off his glove for an RBI double and one of three runs in the second inning. The next frame, rookie third baseman David Villar pulled Brandon Belt off the bag at first with a high throw that led to an infield single.
“We played better baseball tonight,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We got more big hits tonight. We made more plays. We made more pitches. But we’re not going to get too high or too low.”
The Giants had managed only two hits until the eighth inning, coming up mostly empty against Arizona starter Merrill Kelly, who held them hitless until Brandon Crawford’s double in the fifth.
In his first game back from a month at Triple-A, Joey Bart gave the Giants their only life until the eighth.
Showing off his revamped swing, Bart hit what was initially ruled a three-run home run to left field that would have scored Crawford and La Stella, who reached on a walk. But left fielder David Peralta pointed that a fan had reached over the wall. Upon review, Bart was awarded a ground-rule double and two runs were erased. A second run eventually scored, but only when Bart got caught between second and third on a ground ball from LaMonte Wade Jr.
Slater subbed in for Bart, while Ruf batted for Wade.
The message to the rookie catcher while being subbed out after coming inches short of a home run, Kapler said, “was way to swing the bat tonight. Great job.”
“I think he’s coming out of the game feeling confident on defense and offense. Sometimes that’s valuable, too.”
As the game turned to the top of the eighth, the Giants looked to be well on their way to a seventh straight loss, which would have matched their longest skid since 2019 (May 22-29). Their win probability, according to Statcast, sank as low as 9.2%.
Even after Slater’s bunt single, the D-backs were 80% favorites.
With one swing, Ruf swung the win probability by 30 points. Slater’s double the following inning gave the Giants a 24-point boost.
The home run was a no-doubter, landing a dozen rows beyond the left-field wall, 429 feet away. After getting an MLB-record 18 pinch-hit homers last season, Ruf’s was their first this year.
San Francisco pinch-hitters had performed 30% below the league average this season, according to OPS+, and Ruf’s struggles had begun to embody those of the Giants. Ruf was 5-for-28 and without a homer since June 23 and stuck in a season-long slump that Kapler recently commented on as the worst of his career since a three-year detour in Korea that predated his tenure in San Francisco.
“Darin Ruf is on the roster to beat left-handed pitching. Austin Slater is on the roster to beat left-handed pitching,” Kapler said. “In order for pinch-hitting strategies … to work, you have to deploy them over a long period of time. You have to employ them consistently. You can’t get bent out of shape when the perception is it’s not working anymore. … I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to judge those strategies, but if you punt on them, they don’t have a chance to work.”
With the win, the Giants avoided being swept here at Chase Field for the first time since 2017 (Aug. 25-27).
Now, they head to San Diego to try to breathe more oxygen into a season on life support. They have four games against Padres, who are 4.5 games ahead in the standings but scuffling just as mightily as the Giants, losers of eight of their past 10.
Source: Paradise Post