SAN DIEGO — Mike Yastrzemski on Saturday said his hand was fine, offering no excuse for his slow start.
It was his bat’s turn Monday to send the same message.
The Giants pulled Yastrzemski out of the starting lineup because of hand soreness after being drilled last week, only for the Giants’ best player to emerge in a pinch-hitting role in the seventh and put the Giants back on top in a 3-2, nail-biter of a victory over the Padres at Petco Park to begin the NL West divisional play.
Yastrzemski’s was one of three Giants dingers — they lead the league with nine — as Darin Ruf and Evan Longoria (with a third opposite-field shot of the young season) accounted for the entirety of their scoring. But Yastrzemski’s was the biggest.
The Giants had coughed up their lead in the sixth, when Anthony DeSclafani exited and the Giants’ defensive problems entered, a misplayed flyball turning into a triple turning into a run.
But an inning later, with Gabe Kapler again able to pinch-hit for a pitcher — this was the first game the Giants (2-2) were playing in a National League park this season — he chose Yastrzemski against San Diego righty Craig Stammen. The third pitch he saw was a 91-mph sinker that the outfielder rocketed to dead center for his first homer of the year — and second straight hit after an 0-for-12 start.
Yaz with the pinch-hit homer 💪 pic.twitter.com/Brj55ejMnU
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) April 6, 2021
After Yastrzemski, the Giants’ bullpen did the job. Reyes Moronta, relying heavily upon his slider, required just 10 pitches to set down the Padres in order. Tyler Rogers had more trouble after a Wil Myers swinging bunt, but he struck out Victor Caratini and escaped unscathed.
Jake McGee’s second save was dramatic, which included a walk to Manny Machado and an Eric Hosmer hit by pitch, but Tommy Pham’s game-winning bid was caught on the warning track by Mauricio Dubon.
They did their best to make up for Matt Wisler’s sixth inning, which was not all his fault. The frame was the defense’s undoing, the Giants looking like they looked so often in Scottsdale: sloppy. Even the outs were unsure, Wisler nearly throwing a dribbler into right field but Wilmer Flores making a balletic play to catch it and stay on the bag. The next mistakes were costly, though.
Jurickson Profar lofted one into right-center that had an expected batting average of .110. Center fielder Dubon had a late jump, though, and then all-out dived for a ball that bounced and skittered behind him. Right fielder Austin Slater was right beside Dubon, going for the catch, and thus had to turn around and chase what turned into a triple. Dubon made a circus catch on a Caratini flyball, but it went for a game-tying sacrifice anyway. For good measure, Brandon Crawford then bobbled a grounder, but Caleb Baragar ensured the damage was done.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Giants will take it.
Their first look at the newly formed powerhouse in San Diego was a frightening one for the wrong reasons. Fernando Tatis Jr. collapsed to the dirt after a swing-and-miss in the third, his left arm completing the swing and perhaps overextending. He walked off the field with trainers, and the Padres announced he suffered a left shoulder subluxation, and Tatis will be reevaluated Tuesday.
Their first look at DeSclafani was a solid one. The righty pitched an effective if imperfect five innings, in which he allowed just one run, a second-inning single from Caratini that drove in Profar.
Otherwise, he pitched in and out of trouble successfully, although not all the trouble was of his own doing. In the fourth, Longoria and an awkward hop turned what should have been an out into a two-base error, with Tommy Pham standing at second. But he got Profar to foul out and Tucupita Marcano to ground out to get out of danger.
In the fifth, Jake Cronenworth and Manny Machado singled, but the 30-year-old bore down. He struck out Eric Hosmer on three pitches before finishing his outing with a 94.7-mph sinker that sent down Tommy Pham.
DeSclafani gave them a chance to win, and Yastrzemski and the bullpen did the rest. Considering Yu Darvish and Blake Snell go the next two days, this was an important fourth game of the season.