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Longoria goes deep twice as Giants crush Kelly, Diamondbacks

© John Hefti | 2022 Sep 30

Before the Willie Mac Award ceremony, before all the Bye, Bye Babies, before the home run trots, Evan Longoria played with his kids. 

During batting practice, Longoria tapped around a ball on the top dugout step and hung out in the tunnel to the clubhouse with his children. With his kids draped over him pregame, Longoria smiled and laughed. 

He doesn’t get to enjoy those moments often during the season. The 15-year veteran’s family lives in Arizona but made the trip up to the Bay for the Giants’ final home series of 2022. The third baseman is 36 and has talked openly about the possibility of retiring. 

But he didn’t look like a player on his last legs Friday night. Longoria’s family saw him crush two home runs and drive in five runs in a runaway 10-4 Giants win. Austin Wynns and Mike Yastrzemski followed Longoria’s lead with homers of their own. 

“It was awesome, man,” Longoria said postgame. “I’ve talked to you guys a lot about them, kind of just not being here. Any time they’re around, it’s special no matter how the game goes. That’s the beauty of non-baseball stuff — you go home and they don’t care how well I do. But when I have nights like tonight, obviously they’re in the stands, they’re excited. We win the game, makes for a really fun night.”

The Giants (79-78) hadn’t hit Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly all year. In a disappointing season, they hadn’t done a lot of things they’ve suddenly mastered in a bizarre stretch of 10 wins in the past 11 games. The sustained quality baseball has SF over .500 for the first time since Aug. 17.

Before Friday, Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly had owned the Giants. In five starts this year, the righty had gone 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA. The Giants hit .149 against Kelly. 

Kelly had been so dominant, SF manager Gabe Kapler faced not one, not two, but three questions about adjusting to Kelly in his pregame media availability. 

“He’s had a phenomenal year,” Kapler said. “Not just against us…He’s a great pitcher. He should be considered a great pitcher.” 

The Giants had scored six runs across five Kelly starts. They surpassed that total in two innings Friday night. 

Longoria’s first-inning blast — a no-doubter to left — scored three. He turned on a 1-2 inside fastball and sent it halfway up the bleachers.

Longoria secured his 21st career multi-homer game in the second inning, right after Joc Pederson tripled and scored on an error. Pederson’s Little League homer was his third triple in the past four games. He hadn’t hit any in his first 126 games of the year and totaled three in his previous two seasons combined. 

“The Little League thing really fits,” Kapler said postgame. “He’s just like a giant kid out there. He really enjoys playing the game. He’s as fun to watch as anybody.”

Pederson put the Giants up 5-1, and Longoria pushed Kelly and Arizona further. 

Kelly gave Longoria another fastball over the plate, and he crushed it 400 feet into Arizona’s bullpen in right-center. 

Earlier this season, against the Mets in May, Longoria also went deep in each of the first two innings. According to MLB researcher Sarah Langs, the only other Giant to homer in both the first two innings of a game twice in an entire career is Willie Mays. 

Longoria did it twice in a season, and the two rare feats are his lone multi-home run games of 2022.  

Longoria has hit .247 with 14 homers and a .776 OPS this year. His goal for much of the season was to stay on the field, and he has accomplished that in September after battling multiple hamstring injuries earlier. A club option with a buyout for 2023 looms.  

“I just think it’s really clear how much life he has in his body,” Kapler said of Longoria. “The bat is really whistling through the zone.”

Yastrzemski, who replaced LaMonte Wade Jr. (thumb) in the starting lineup at the last minute, added a solo homer to right in the fourth inning for the Giants’ eighth run off Kelly. The eight earned runs matched Kelly’s season-high. 

Kelly had allowed one homer in his previous five starts against SF. Longoria and Yastrzemski tagged him for three. 

The Giants made a conscious effort to be more aggressive against Kelly, who typically throws a lot of strikes. Unlike in previous starts, more of his strikes hung over the plate than on the corners.

And when Kelly departed, the Giants kept teeing off. Wynns struck a solo homer in the sixth — his second of a scorching hot September. The backup catcher entered Friday hitting .368 in the month. 

Longoria grounded out and struck out in his next two at-bats, but by then the Giants had already built a 10-4 lead. Thomas Szapucki, Alex Young and Yunior Marte each pitched scoreless frames. 

The Longoria family picked the right time to pay a visit.

 

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