YAZ SPLASH HIT GRAND SLAM FOR THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/kkVr14jHvl
— KNBR (@KNBR) June 16, 2021
It was hard to believe it was happening, and yet Mike Yastrzemski knew.
It was as much golf as baseball, clubbing a down-and-in offering, swinging through it and watching it sail an estimated 395 feet away. “Sail” being an apt verb for a ball that splashed into the Cove and must have made the Diamondbacks feel as if they won’t get their head above water again this season.
Yastrzemski’s eighth-inning grand slam completed a massive comeback that led to a 9-8 win at Oracle Park on Tuesday, the Giants taking the first two of the series and Arizona now having lost 21 straight games on the road. This one seemed unbelievable.
The Giants (42-25) moved 1.5 games ahead of the Dodgers, who were midgame as of publication, and 4.5 up on the Padres in the NL West, which would have been hard to believe when San Francisco was down 7-0 after one and a half innings.
But they finished off their rally in the eighth, when Brandon Belt’s third hit of the night got them started, Curt Casali’s pinch-hit walk allowed his Vanderbilt buddy a chance to be the hero, and Yastrzemski came through against Humberto Castellanos. His first career grand slam made the Giants the winner once Tyler Rogers locked in the save.
Giants fans could forgive the opener. Zack Littell, who has been so good, allowed four runs without recording an out and had to be bailed out by Sammy Long, who made his Oracle Park debut. Littell left the bases loaded, so the lefty entered mid-inning to strike out Josh Reddick and induce a double-play ball from Nick Ahmed to escape without a scratch.
Long, the exciting rookie from Fair Oaks and Sacramento State, had said he accounted for about 30 tickets for friends and family, but it’s possible plenty more of his pals bought tickets. The fan section, on a night with an announced attendance of 9,867, was easily the loudest group in the park and ready to explode any time the 25-year-old, who had just about quit baseball three years ago after the Rays cut him, did anything positive. You have never seen fans get louder for a tapper a few feet in front of the plate, the first big-league contact Long made.
Sammy Long was brought in and the Sammy Long cheering section went NUTS pic.twitter.com/K5VMWA94Yu
— KNBR (@KNBR) June 16, 2021
But there were bruises in the second for Long, the first of his career. Four of five Arizona batters reached, including back-to-back doubles from Christian Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera that accounted for three runs.
But he settled, with his killer curveball helping him strike out three in five innings. He retired eight straight before Arizona got another in the fifth, when a double to Peralta preceded an RBI ground out from Reddick.
The last time Long allowed four runs in a start was July 26, 2019, when his Kannapolis Intimidators lost to the Greensboro Grasshoppers. He hadn’t even pitched A-Ball before he started the season with Double-A Richmond, sailed up to Triple-A Sacramento and now has made two big-league appearances.
The Giants’ offense, handed a 7-0 deficit in the second inning, kept battling. They finished with 12 hits — three from Belt, who has woken up from a slump.
Steven Duggar went deep for the fifth time of the season — a new career high — and the first time off a lefty (Alex Young), and into the Cove for the first time as part of a three-run second inning. With Alex Dickerson due back as early as Saturday, a hot streak might keep Duggar with the team.
They got two more in the sixth, when Donovan Solano singled in Belt, who had tripled, and Jason Vosler singled in Solano. But they regretted their missed chance an inning prior, when they loaded the bases for Wilmer Flores, whose comebacker bounced off Corbin Martin’s leg but not far away, the pitcher scooping the throw to first.
They completed the rally in the eighth and made Conner Menez, Jarlin Garcia and Jimmie Sherfy good work in relief count.
It was the kind of win that reminds this Giants season might be special, and the Diamondbacks’ is the opposite of that.