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Sammy Long announces himself, but feel-good Giants win becomes extra-inning disappointment

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants fielded a lineup Wednesday that had four Opening Day starters. Four began the season in the minors; Mike Tauchman opened the year with the Yankees.

Their “starter” began at Triple-A. Their bulk-inning pitcher was getting ready to make his Double-A debut at the start of 2021, having never taken the mound at such a high level.

The Giants have overworked the MRI tubes and must be unrecognizable to the casual fan, but it was not the unknowns who were the issue Wednesday.

Their offense, at long last, went silent in the late innings, and Tyler Rogers allowed a soft run in the ninth before Jake McGee gave up the game-winner in the 11th in a 4-3 loss at Globe Life Field on a day that was filled with bright spots until the final shadows.

The Giants (38-23) could not sweep the short, two-game set from the Rangers and moved two games up on the Padres, 2.5 up on the Dodgers before either NL West divisional rival had played Wednesday.

McGee got two outs in the 11th, but Brock Holt’s single to center was the walkoff. The clubs had traded runs in the 10th, and LaMonte Wade Jr. — the ghost-runner — got in a rundown in the 11th off a Wilmer Flores ground ball, which took away the runner from scoring position.

The Rangers tied it off Rogers when Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounded a softly hit single down the first-base line before stealing second without an out in the ninth. A sacrifice to center moved him to third, and Adolis Garcia blooped one into shallow right-center; the infield was in and outfield back, and the ball fell. According to Statcast, the ball had an expected batting average of .090.

It was a small blow to a team that has weathered every injury. Each scratch has led to a step-up; each painful regret has led to a revelation. With Aaron Sanchez and Logan Webb out, Sammy Long loudly announced himself as a serious weapon on a team that is a serious contender.

Long, whose story is remarkable — the Sacramento State product was out of baseball and taking EMT classes after being cut by the Rays before the 2018 season — is so much more than a feel-good tale. He was filthy after taking over for Zack Littell to start the second inning, taking a combined no-hitter into the sixth inning.

In his major league debut, Long was charged with one run in four innings — a runner he left on scored — while he struck out seven and gave up one hit and one walk. He is not stretched out as a starter, having pitched about 60 pitches in each minor league outing and lasting 69 Wednesday, and the Giants have a decision to make about whether he is a significant long (Long?) man or a starter.

The results were good, the stuff was better. He struck out five Rangers batters in a row at one point, getting swing-and-miss on a fastball that touched 95, a solid changeup with downward movement and a curveball that seems unfair. It starts at eye level and then dives, sometimes into the strike zone, sometimes right below, and the Rangers whiffed six times on the pitch.

The 25-year-old faced 14 batters and struck out half of them; of the first 10 batters he faced, just two put the ball in play (neither was a hit).

His first hit surrendered, finally, came in the sixth, when Eli White doubled. Dominic Leone came in and some small ball scored the Rangers’ run, but it would be their only one until the ninth.

Littell, Long and Leone passed the ball to Conner Menez, who again was excellent in two scoreless innings, totaling eight without a run this season. Until Rogers emerged, the Giants had pitched a combined two-hitter.

Offensively, the Giants were missing Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella, Mike Yastrzemski, Dickerson, Darin Ruf, Curt Casali and Buster Posey (just for an off day).

Jason Vosler — who was brought in from the Padres without a major league resume as back-of-the-40-man depth — and Chadwick Tromp — who was picked up two offseasons ago as minor league catching depth — did the only damage on the afternoon.

Vosler bounced a homer off the right-field foul pole in the fifth, his sixth hit of his career/season, and half have been dingers. Immediately following him was Tromp, who took Kyle Gibson deep to left. He has started two games in the wake of Casali’s elbow injury, and in both he has had big offensive days.

A good example of how stubborn the Giants’ offense can be arrived in the third inning, when Gibson had Wade down 0-2 with two outs in the frame. Wade worked his way into a walk, before Brandon Belt did the same. Wilmer Flores grounded out without a run scoring, but the Giants forced 17 more pitches out of Gibson after he was one strike away from getting Wade.

They needed hits in the late innings, though, and couldn’t find them.


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