The Giants’ first half has been marked by struggles and successes, costly inconsistencies with the bullpen, a slow start but emerging excellence from the rotation, mostly hope from the veterans and, most of all, a few breakouts that have carried the team and provided a glimpse into next season.
The story of the first 30 games, though which the Giants are 14-16, is complicated. It is far simpler for Mike Yastrzemski though, who has come from minor leaguer lifer to Farhan Zaidi pickup to call-up to major leaguer to, suddenly, MVP candidate.
He’s been a gift to the Giants since arriving and had another gift for them on the day he turned 30.
Yastrzemski welcomed the season midpoint by breaking a tie with a sixth-inning home run in a 6-1 victory over the Diamondbacks at Oracle Park on Sunday, stretching the Giants’ win streak to six and sealing a sweep of Arizona.
When the Giants begin play with the Dodgers at home Tuesday, they will be heading downhill in a wide-open season with the playoffs still within striking distance, Los Angeles the only team in the NL West that has broken from the pack.
San Francisco has a losing record after 30 but every reason to feel it’s trending in the right direction, led by the majors’ leader in WAR.
Yastrzemski saved the Giants a night prior by making a tremendous catch at the wall. He traded his weapon of choice a day later, glove for bat, powering a 401-foot home run into the Giants’ bullpen off Arizona starter Luke Weaver to push the Giants ahead. It was his seventh homer and 23rd RBI, the growing star now slashing .309/.429/.645.
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) August 23, 2020
While Yastrzemski has been the constant, good teams demonstrate their abilities by sharing the load, a new star each day. On this one, the struggling Alex Dickerson stepped up.
The Giants, with a shaky bullpen, wanted separation, and Dickerson gave them that breathing room. Off to a slow start and hovering around .200, Dickerson swatted a three-run homer to right in the seventh, allowing Tyler Rogers and Jarlin Garcia, who followed Tony Watson, to make Trevor Cahill’s brilliance stand up.
Cahill became the third straight Giants starter to befuddle Arizona bats. His best start of the year ended after 5 1/3 innings and 88 pitches — still being slightly build up — but he allowed a single run on a single hit and two walks while striking out eight, the most for Cahill since April 8, 2019, when he was an Angel.
The Diamondbacks hit just three balls hard off Cahill, whose best pitch was a changeup but had a solid sinker going, too. His only run charged was not entirely his fault, walking Kole Calhoun in the sixth before Caleb Baragar entered and bent slightly, eventually allowing a long sacrifice from David Peralta to tie it. Yastrzemski and Dickerson would take over from there.
Overall in the series, Giants starters went 21 1/3 innings with nine hits, two walks and three earned runs. They are not going to lose many games with that success, and they lost none here.
They also have not lost a game without Joey Bart, who had his own moment yet again in the fifth. He ran an impressive distance to get near the Giants’ dugout for a Stephen Vogt pop-out that ordinarily would be Evan Longoria’s ball, but the shift was on. Bart kept running and running, then the ball swept back. He tumbled, stuck out his glove and made the catch — all while holding his mask.
Joey Bart 👀 pic.twitter.com/Nhw2POP09U
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 23, 2020
Halfway through and now with their catcher of the future, the Giants are starting to come around.
Emphasis on starting. And always this year, emphasis on Yastrzemski.