SAN DIEGO — Mike Yastrzemski was asked how his hand feels.
“It feels a little better now,” he began.
And it has reason to.
The Giants outfielder was out, then in, then the hero of the dramatic, 3-2 victory over the Padres at Petco Park on Monday in the first chance to see (and take down) the powerhouse that San Diego has built.
Shortly before batting practice, Yastrzemski felt some swelling in a knuckle on his left hand — the same one that was drilled a week ago by Sean Manaea, which required X-rays (that were negative). He has said the hand didn’t bother him in Seattle, but his season began 1-for-12.
With a hand that was a bit too big, Yastrzemski took a few swings at batting practice and conversed with his manager. They decided he shouldn’t start — Austin Slater moved to right, Mauricio Dubon to center and Brandon Crawford was inserted at short — but Yastrzemski thought he could still take some hacks.
“We would evaluate him right up to game time, but if we had a big spot for him, we’d use him to hit,” Gabe Kapler said over Zoom after the Giants improved to 2-2. “But we wouldn’t double-switch him into the game, so he’d have to play defense.”
That sweet spot occurred in the seventh inning of a tie game. The pitcher’s spot was due up, Caleb Baragar having recorded the last out of the previous frame. The Padres had a righty, Craig Stammen, on the mound. He threw a fastball low and away.
“I knew I hit it good,” Yastrzemski said after his first home run of the season, a go-ahead blast to dead center. “… I was getting beat a lot in Seattle and spinning off the ball, and I just wanted to really stay through the middle of the field. Just got a pitch that I could do it with.”
The Giants will be deep with pinch-hitters — on a given night, Darin Ruf (who homered Monday), Austin Slater and Wilmer Flores could be weapons off the bench from the right side, while Brandon Belt (who pinch-hit Monday), Tommy La Stella and Alex Dickerson could be late-game lefties.
But the Giants hope Yastrzemski will not be a pinch-hitter long. He will be re-evaluated Tuesday to see how his hand feels and whether he can play the field. The Padres will be throwing righty Yu Darvish, so the Giants will want their lefty in the lineup.
If not? Perhaps he can channel Pablo Sandoval again. Yastrzemski shouted out the Panda, whom he watched often get ready to make a contribution off the bench.
“Everybody knows him as this fun-loving guy,” Yastrzemski said of the now-Braves bat, who’s still a late-game weapon. “[But] the second that he knew there’s an opportunity, he was quiet about his business, made sure that he was completely mentally checked in and ready to take an at-bat. Just being able to see that and learn without even asking questions … really helped me in those situations.”
Kapler was happy that Anthony DeSclafani, who is not built up to go 100 pitches, kept his velocity and stuff through his five, one-run innings.
“Some of his best stuff was in that last inning of work,” Kapler said.
DeSclafani’s last two batters were fifth-inning strikeouts of Eric Hosmer (on three pitches) and Tommy Pham (on a 94-mph sinker).
Donovan Solano stole a base for the first time since July 23, 2014.
Kapler on managing a truly National League game again: “That was a lot of fun. It really was. There’s just a little bit more to think about at every turn.”