WILMER FLORES OFF JANSEN FOR THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/KIxpo6hDQ4
— KNBR (@KNBR) July 22, 2021
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. The Giants will take this one piping hot.
Twenty-four hours after having their hearts ripped out by a Will Smith walk-off homer, San Francisco got their payback on Wednesday. Wilmer Flores played the role of improbable hero, hitting a two-run blast off Kenley Jansen in the top of the ninth inning, giving the Giants (60-35) a 3-2 lead over the Dodgers (59-38) and ultimately a two-game cushion atop the NL West.
The Giants hadn’t made good contact on a pitch since the first inning, until Buster Posey opened the ninth with a pinch-hit single. Flores looked to have a possible single of his own on the next pitch, but it was questionably called foul by the third base ump. Two pitches later, he put one into orbit.
The turn of events was as incredible as it was shocking. The Giants hadn’t tagged Jansen for a blown save since Gregor Blanco got the best of him on September 12, 2013. Jansen has allowed just one other home run this season, and that was back in April (H/T Andrew Baggarly).
And in a division that looks like it might come down to the wire, it’s a moment that could prove to be very important.
Things somehow got worse from there for Jansen, who left after loading the bases on back-to-back walks, then was boo’d heavily by his own fans as he walked to the dugout.
Victor Gonzalez wasn’t able get out of the jam, walking in a run to Curt Casali on a close pitch at the bottom of the zone, a call that caused the Dodgers bullpen to erupt. Dave Roberts was ultimately ejected at the conclusion of the inning, and the wheels were off.
Here is Dave Roberts’ ejection. pic.twitter.com/qqAo2krXE0
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) July 22, 2021
There was some much needed redemption for Tyler Rogers too. After playing the role of goat on Tuesday, Rogers was thrown right back into the fire, the fates conspiring for him to face Smith again to open the inning. This time Smith was barely able to make contact, flying out softly to right on Rogers second pitch. From there it was a breeze for a reliever who has been one of baseball’s best this season, the 4-2 victory secured.
As was the case on Tuesday, Wednesday’s contest began with the teams trading homers, this time of the solo variety. Mike Yastrzemski hit his second in as many games and fourth in six since the All-Star break, turning on a two-strike fastball that elicited a scream from Dodgers starter Julio Urias, planting it in the right-field seats.
The similarly scorching Chris Taylor countered on the second pitch from Logan Webb in the bottom half, making him pay for a sinker that hung in the zone.
Unfortunately, Yastrzemski’s homer would be the best contact San Francisco made all night off Urias, who looked more like the pitcher he typically is after some rough outings vs. the Giants. Usually a bat-misser, Urias played to contact, striking out just five but eliciting seven ground balls.
Logan Webb was pulled after 75 pitches and likely would’ve gone longer if not for the Giants’ hesitancy to overwork his recovering shoulder. Webb was solid if not spectacular, giving up just three hits but walking as many while striking out five.
Aside from the solo shot in the first, Webb only got into trouble in the fourth, when he left a sinker over the plate to A.J. Pollock, who whacked a double into deep right, scoring Cody Bellinger from second. This gave the Dodgers the 2-1 lead they held until Flores’ heroics.
Though Webb was impressive through five, Jay Jackson was even more so in his relief appearance in the sixth. The 33-year-old, who is getting his third shot at sticking on a big league roster, proved his first three outings as a Giant were no fluke. Jackson struck out Smith, Cody Bellinger and Pollock all swinging, all via his nasty slider. He’s now struck out eight of the 14 batters he has faced since being called up, and hasn’t given up a hit.
The Giants haven’t exactly been manufacturing runs lately, but it looked like they were well on their way to squeezing one out in the fifth, thanks largely to the speed of Thairo Estrada. The newest and fastest Giant legged out an infield single to open the inning, taking advantage of the slow-footed Albert Pujols’ inability to cover first. Estrada then moved to second on a bunt from LaMonte Wade, and quickly took third on a pitch in the dirt.
Unsurprisingly it was squandered. Casali did his best against Urias, finally popping out after seeing eight pitches. Logan Webb followed with a ground out that kept the Dodgers in the driver’s seat.
Speaking of Wade Jr., he’s still hitless in his Giants career against left-handers, going 0-for-1 with a strikeout and the aforementioned sacrifice against Urias. That Wade Jr. got the start at all against Urias is a testament to how effective he’s been as a hitter overall (.252/.347/.520), but also the lack of alternatives on the Giants bench.
With the trade deadline nine days away, it’s fair to wonder if a move for another right-handed bat is imminent.
Either way, thanks to Flores, the Giants are guaranteed to be in first place when they fly back to San Francisco on Thursday, and out of Los Angeles for the final time this (regular) season.