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Gorkys Hernandez credits career-best season to offseason weight training



SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants’ most important at-bats of Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies came from the same player, executed in opposite fashions. Giants center fielder Gorkys Hernandez was responsible for both, including a 415-foot homer to center field to tie the scoring at one run apiece in the third inning, then capped with an eight-pitch walk in the eighth inning that ultimately scored the game-winning run in San Francisco’s 3-2 win.

Tuesday night encapsulated Hernandez’s growing worth to this team replete with more prominent-named outfielders. Out of one-time National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, three-time All-Star Hunter Pence, and Austin Jackson, Hernandez — a career reserve— has engineered the best season of them all.

Most notably, Hernandez is hitting for consistent power that seemingly sprouted out of the ground this season. After his 1-3 night on Tuesday, the 30-year-old now has 10 homers this season, including in back-to-back games, to tie for second on the Giants with Evan Longoria. Hernandez, now hitting .284 on the year, had four career homers in 525 career at-bats entering the 2018 season. He did not hit a single homer last season.

But really, Hernandez’s power was steadily gained during a weight training program he participated in throughout spring training, he divulged postgame. He focused on weight-lifting and using his hips and legs to drive gappers into the outfield seats. He did not work on changing his swing or even expecting more homers, though he wanted to have more power, but that has been a pleasant byproduct of his offseason work.

“That’s not my game,” Hernandez said postgame. “(I) try to hit the ball hard, see what happens. If the ball is gone, it’s gone.”

Simple enough.

Perhaps his most important at-bat of Tuesday night came in the eighth inning when he drew the walk. After falling to a 1-2 count, he forced consecutive balls, fouled one off, and stayed back on a slider that was inches away from sweeping in for a strike. Brandon Crawford, who reached base four times Tuesday night, scored the Giants’ third and deciding run.

Hernandez’s final at-bat was another example of his maturation. He entered Tuesday as a lifetime .153 hitter on 1-2 counts, .176 in 2-2 scenarios, and .146 on full counts.

“He just gives you good at-bats,” Bruce Bochy said postgame. ” It’s what he has been doing all year. It’s why he is out there every day. He has made himself into a good, all-around player, and he’s a threat up there. He has a good eye at the plate.”

Bochy’s decision to make Hernandez the everyday center fielder last month came with some backlash. It has since been met with gradual approval, as Hernandez is playing the best baseball of his career and clearly asserted himself as the top option at that spot and in the leadoff position. He has reached base safely in the past seven games.

Since May 23, Hernandez’s batting average has hovered above .275. He has been as consistent as any Giants hitter, while making outs with impressive speed and dexterity in center field.

For a team that was dead-last in homers last year by a whopping 23 homers, Hernandez’s power and consistency have been much-needed.