Mike Yastrzemski runs hard. He charges to first on ground outs, he will back up throws, he does not take plays off. Which is part of the reason he volunteered early Friday afternoon that he had to now adjust his game in his first start since suffering a calf sprain. He has to save his legs because he wants to be able to use them all weekend and, ideally, in the coming weeks.
Perhaps he should consider more swings like the one he displayed in the fourth inning, after which he doesn’t need to dart his way around the bases.
The return of Yaz made the Giants significantly more optimistic about a return to the postseason. To start the biggest day of San Francisco baseball in four years, Yastrzemski, Wilmer Flores and Brandon Crawford homered while Tyler Anderson was excellent in an important 5-4 win over the Padres at Oracle Park in the first game of a doubleheader. Tony Watson created some late drama, but finished the job nonethless.
Jeff Samardzija is coming off the injured list for the nightcap, his first appearance in seven weeks and facing Dinelson Lamet, a star who already has baffled the Giants once this year. The Brewers (28-29) beat the Cardinals in the front end of a doubleheader. For so many reasons, Friday’s first game was a must, and the Giants (29-28) clung to the wild-card spot they entered play with.
The Giants have not played the Padres well, now 2-5 and just 7-16 against teams above .500. They also had been winless (0-4) in 2020, seven-inning doubleheaders. They picked a nice time to break both trends.
They broke out in the fourth, when Flores, whose bat had disappeared in the past two weeks, entering play 3-for-32 in 10 games, showed why he’s the only Giant to whom Farhan Zaidi has given a multiyear deal. Flores’ 10th home run of the year — he had nine all of last season — was the go-ahead shot, bumping the Giants up, 2-1.
Joey Bart followed with a sharp single to right before Yastrzemski’s 377-foot shot into the Cove, his second career Splash Hit and first with a calf that surely is limiting him. This is the time of year when injuries become ignored, especially for a slugger who endured seven years in the minors before this breakout. He was given a late break with Steven Duggar playing right field in the seventh.
He's back. pic.twitter.com/jGqyGK00S4
— KNBR (@KNBR) September 26, 2020
The longballs made the difference because smallball wasn’t working, the Giants going 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Some rallies were wasted, but Anderson’s brilliance was not.
With their bullpen depleted and turning to an unknown in the nightcap, the Giants needed anything he could give them. Anderson was best when he had to be en route to throwing into the seventh inning, nearly pulling off his second complete game of the year (albeit a shortened one).
Anderson scattered five hits and four walks through his six-plus innings in 98 pitches. He was pulled after a leadoff double from Jurickson Profar in the seventh, Watson entering and causing some heartache in letting the first three batters he saw reach base, the third, Manny Machado, getting on when Watson threw away a tapper back at him. But he got Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Austin Nola to fly out.
Anderson’s first run surrendered came off a Tommy Pham double in the second inning, and the Giants tied it up with Crawford’s homer in the bottom of the frame. But Anderson’s third looked as if it would dig the hole right back.
Trent Grisham led off with a Triples Alley three-bagger off the wall. Against Fernando Tatis Jr., the Giants played the infield in and induced a harmless ground out. After pitching around Manny Machado, Anderson got the ground ball from Eric Hosmer that he wanted — a comebacker that he turned into a double play. He rolled from there, San Diego finishing without a hit with runners in scoring position.
The Giants are not a shoo-in for the postseason and have plenty of work to do, starting immediately. But they escaped a blow that would have crushed those October hopes.