It is easy to shrug off three games in a 162-game marathon, especially when an injury may be playing a part.
The Giants’ returning Most Valuable Player went 1-for-13 with six strikeouts in the opening series. The regular season began three days after he was drilled in the left hand by a Sean Manaea offering in his last at-bat of the Cactus League season, and yet he did not miss an inning in Seattle.
It’s very much possible his hand is bothering him. It’s also possible that kind of plunking can influence a hitter who dives in as pitches are thrown. It’s especially possible that his timing was thrown off while recovering and traveling from Arizona to Seattle.
And yet, “There’s no excuse,” Yastrzemski said after the Giants dropped the series to the Mariners with a 4-0 loss Saturday at T-Mobile Park. “I just stunk this weekend.”
He did draw a significant walk Friday, just ahead of Donovan Solano’s go-ahead RBI double, and his last at-bat of the series was a single up the middle. They were not redeeming in his mind.
“Not good,” Yastrzemski said of his at-bats as a whole. “They just weren’t to where I’d hoped them to be or where I expect them to be.”
The 30-year-old had looked like himself this spring, which he has turned into high compliment. In 43 plate appearances, he batted .300, worked pitchers and launched four home runs. He and Tommy La Stella at the top of the lineup, especially against righties, can be a deadly and frustrating duo, two resilient batters who hang in at-bats and chew up opposing pitchers.
Yastrzemski received MVP votes last season, slashing .297/.400/.568 in 225 plate appearances in vaulting from an everyday major leaguer to a star. He is the face of the Farhan Zaidi era, in which so many intriguing options have been given a chance to turn into more than that.
It is a slow start, and one that was preceded by a trip to get X-rays (that were negative) on his hand. Gabe Kapler said he doesn’t think there is any mental component to his first three games, but instead focused on it being three games.
“I would probably chalk it up to just being an early stretch in the season where his timing and his rhythm are a little bit off,” the manager said after the Giants, who scored 13 in their first two games, were shut out. “And I probably wouldn’t put too much stock into the hit-by-pitch.”
Matt Wisler, who allowed two hits and a walk without recording an out in his first Giants appearance, in which he was among the relievers to melt down, bounced back. He faced two Mariners batters Saturday — Luis Torrens and J.P. Crawford — and struck them both out.
“Just more aggressive tonight,” said the righty with the excellent slider. “I talked to Buster [Posey] about it the other day, and I was just too passive. Trying to nitpick a little bit, aim too much rather than just going out there and letting it be. Tonight, tried to go out there and be more aggressive in the zone and make guys swing.”
Lefty Jose Alvarez, who walked three in his Giants debut, pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with a strikeout. He threw 10 pitches, eight strikes.
Reyes Moronta pitched in a big-league game for the first time since Aug. 31, 2019, when a shoulder injury sent him to surgery.
He was back on the mound and without his best fastball, touching 95 mph but averaging 94.1 mph with his four-seamer, a few ticks down from pre-surgery (though a few ticks up from his Cactus League debut). His slider, which he is using more prominently, looked solid. His first fastball, thrown to Mitch Haniger, went for a home run. The rest of his inning was clean.
“We saw him lean on that [slider] early,” Kapler said over Zoom. “And I thought it was a good way to get his feet wet in that game. I think that’s exactly what he did, and I think he’ll be able to build on that.”