The Giants are no longer beating the Padres by a hair.
There are plenty of them.
The Giants brushed past San Diego on Friday night at Oracle Park, 5-4, and extended their NL West lead to 1.5 over the Pads, 2.5 over the Dodgers, in large part because of an Austin Slater home run that may have been in small part attributed to the whiskers above his lips.
It’s not a particularly impressive mustache, which is a tough facial-hair ask for Slater’s blond locks. Mike Yastrzemski’s stache is “more pronounced,” Slater allowed. But both are better than Mauricio Dubon’s babyface.
“I don’t want to blow up his spot,” Slater said with a smile, “But I think he’s trying.”
And Slater’s early results should make Dubon keep trying. Slater has been slumping and was 3-for-26 in his past 11 games entering his seventh-inning at-bat. He was facing a righty, Keone Kela, and was slashing an abysmal .189/.232/.245 against righties entering play, which helped encourage the Giants to acquire Mike Tauchman as a lefty hitter with center-field capabilities.
He planted a fastball on the Arcade in right, putting the Giants ahead to stay, on a day in which he also walked twice and stole a base. Credit his athleticism, elite hand-eye coordination, the tremendous amount of work he has put in over the past few years in retooling a swing that hammers pitches to right.
Or just credit his taking a break from shaving.
“I needed to switch something up. I was going through a little skid there,” Slater said over Zoom. “Sometimes it’s funny things like that. So we’ll see if it keeps going, but it’s off to a good start.”
With Yastrzemski, too. The right fielder was activated off the injured list Friday and debuted a mustache, but also a bushel on his lower lip that Slater called a flavor saver. He also made a smooth running catch on a ball Manny Machado hammered toward Triples Alley, an eighth-inning shot that Statcast estimated had a .650 expected batting average, yet Yaz chased it down to bail out Tyler Rogers.
Both mustaches can credit former Giant Zach Green, who’s now in Milwaukee’s system. The power-hitting third baseman, who played a bit with the big-league Giants in 2019, started Mustache May in Sacramento that season.
“I think Yaz was the first guy to jump on and Yaz started going off,” Slater said of Yastrzemski, who hit nine homers in 22 Triple-A games to finally prompt his call-up. “Then slowly everyone that started doing it just started raking. So I jumped in, I think for like the last like week and a half or two weeks and got hot myself.”
So all they needed to do was stop shaving above the lip. Of coarse.
Slater is a rookie on the force who just wants to keep his head down. Yastrzemski has seen some shit, and he's not above pinching something from the evidence locker. pic.twitter.com/72r0dVmsre
— Grant Brisbee (@GrantBrisbee) May 8, 2021
Wilmer Flores was removed for the first inning with low back tightness, Gabe Kapler said. The manager downplayed it and indicated Flores could have finished the game if needed.
“But given what we’ve had to go through with our injuries recently, I didn’t feel like it made sense to expose him to a potential injury that took them out for a long period of time,” Kapler said.
Yastrzemski returned, but Tommy La Stella and Donovan Solano are going through lengthy IL trips.
Jake McGee may not be all the way back — he allowed a leadoff walk and was saved for the bottom of the Padres lineup — but Kapler saw improvement. The de facto closer, who has been struggling, walked Jake Cronenworth but struck out Victor Caratini, Jurickson Profar and Ha-Seong Kim for his eighth save.
“Getting a nice bounce back from Jake McGee, whose velocity was clearly back and had some good carry through the zone, getting some swings and misses,” Kapler said, “that was obviously one of the major highlights of the night.”
McGee’s fastball averaged 94.1 mph, which is still a touch down from where he was at the start of the season, but was up from 93.3 in his blown save in Colorado on Monday.