As will always be the case this year, there was so much different. There was no one to go from the back of their seat to the front, and then stand on their feet, watching Mike Yastrzemski’s ball just keep traveling.
There was no outburst, no explosions as he rounded the bases. If his teammates were not grouped together around home plate, there would not be a sign a player had just hit a walk-off.
Everything was different. But in Year Two, Yastrzemski is not, as the 29-year-old sophomore is proving last year was not a fluke. He’s proving he can hit any pitcher. And Yastrzemski is proving he is more than just a major league player; he’s a good player.
Last year’s breakout Giant played hero on Wednesday, stepping into a fastball from lefty Matt Strahm to lead off the bottom of the ninth and end the game right there, his first Splash Hit, his second homer of the game and the Giants’ third win of the season, 7-6 over the Padres at Oracle Park.
In the third inning, it appeared Yaz had done the same, but his homer off righty Chris Paddack bounced before hitting McCovey Cove. Though that may have been more impressive, staying back on Paddack’s revered changeup and depositing it over the wall. An early and late statement for Yastrzemski, who’s begun this season making one.
“He just looks like a great all-around player right now,” Gabe Kapler said, “and it’s starting to seem like this is who Yaz is.”
It is who Yaz looked like last year, when he was probably the best Giant once he debuted in Game 51 of the season. He had played six seasons in the minors with Baltimore, constantly stalling at Double- and Triple-A, before the trade that made him trade coasts.
It’s a rarity that a player with 113 games of major league experience sounds like a veteran. Yastrzemski is a rarity.
“In order to be successful in this game, you have to think you’re the best player on the field,” said Yastrzemski, one of the few Giants who can hit lefties and righties and now 9-for-22 (.409) in this short season. “So if you want to play against the best, you want that challenge. And to be in a situation of being in the big leagues right now and the path that I’ve taken, I’m just super grateful every day.”
As are a lot of the players, just happy to be able to play in a season that does not come with guarantees. Kapler said the team’s medical staff talked with the Giants before the game, challenging the group to do a better job of staying distant. They must have been pleased with the next sign of how much things have changed: When Yastrzemski touched home plate, no one touched him.
WALK OFF SPALSH HIT FOR YAZ 🙌
And the socially distanced celebration at the end 😂 pic.twitter.com/X69Jsg01fj
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 30, 2020
Instead, the group hopped and hollered around, a celebration that was distant and yet boisterous.
Kapler called it “really encouraging.” Yastrzemski called it “weird.”
“I didn’t know what to expect. Obviously we’re trying to do our best to stay safe and to avoid as much contact as possible,” said Yastrzemski, now with 23 career home runs. “… Everybody was doing the right thing, so we just jumped around I guess.”
It’s becoming increasingly clear the Giants know what to expect from Yastrzemski.
Kapler announced Kevin Gausman would be Thursday’s starter.