The Giants had no business being in it. They’d committed two costly errors. They’d removed starter Alex Wood too early from the game.
But here they were, against the Brewers’ All-Star closer, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate.
Catcher Joey Bart turned on an inside Hader fastball for a solo shot. Darin Ruf followed him up two batters later by sending a 1-1 changeup into the seats.
After trailing 5-2 for three innings, the Giants trailed by one. Those who stuck around in Oracle park rose to their feet. Yermín Mercedes dug in as a pinch hitter. Austin Slater led off first.
Then Hader picked off Slater. The game would end unceremoniously, or so it seemed.
Not quite. Slater kicked into gear and dove head first into second. Safe.
Then Hader drilled Mercedes. A panicked Brewers infield met on the mound and action began in their bullpen.
It was the type of unexplainable, cosmic conflagration that can only happen on a baseball diamond. Arguably the game’s best closer getting beat, then beat again, then rattled. A team seemingly devoid of hope suddenly an unstoppable force.
Thairo Estrada found a bloop single into the right field triangle to load the bases.
Then Mike Yastrzemski smashed a first-pitch Hader fastball into Milwaukee’s bullpen for a walk-off grand slam. The Giants met him at home plate with a rousing huddle in the unlikeliest of 8-5 wins.
The Giants (46-43) have waited years — literally — for that swing. Their last walk-off home run came from Jaylin Davis in 2019. The Padres, playing in a make-up game, had socked a walk-off home run at Oracle Park between then and Friday.
The Giants needed the impossible comeback because of a stunning turn of unfortunate events. LaMonte Wade Jr. gave SF an early two run lead with a stand-up triple, but his fifth-inning error preceded five Brewers runs.
Wood had struck out seven before two infield singles and Wade’s error knocked him out of the game at 84 pitches. The Brewers piled onto their lead and contained the Giants offense.
Four Giants reached base from the sixth to the ninth inning.
When Hader took the mound, the Brewers had a 96.2% chance at winning.
Then everything changed. Manager Gabe Kapler’s decision to yank Wood became an afterthought. The Giants’ miserable start to July erased. A season, potentially, saved.
But Bart ripped his home run to start the frame. He quickly retreated to the dugout and began putting his pads back on, confident that his team could rally and potentially force extras. It was Bart’s second homer and fourth extra base hit since being recalled from Triple-A, where he might not return for the rest of the year.
Ruf, who has had his worst season since before he went to Korea to rediscover his power, socked his eighth home run of the season — and San Francisco’s third pinch homer of the month after going the first three without any.
Slater, Mercedes and Estrada kept the line moving. And San Francisco’s first walkoff grand slam since Bobby Bonds in 1973 served as an exorcism.