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Giants back at .500 as Conforto pushes SF over Twins

© Jesse Johnson | 2023 May 23

From 2017 to 2019, his three prime years, Michael Conforto averaged 29.3 home runs per season. 

When the Giants signed him to a two-year, $36 million deal this winter, they were hoping that type of production was still in there — even after he sat out the entire 2022 season due to shoulder surgery. 

For two weeks, he’s proven them right by looking like that peak version of himself, the one that is as pure a hitter as anyone in baseball. 

Conforto blasted his 10th home run in the seventh inning, a two-run shot that turned the Twins’ 3-2 lead into a 4-3 San Francisco advantage. He’s hit six home runs in his last 12 games, behind only Aaron Judge and Christopher Morel in that stretch. 

Conforto’s go-ahead home run put the Giants (24-24) ahead for good in a 4-3 win. He’s on pace to become the Giants’ first 30-home run hitter since Barry Bonds in 2004. His power surge directly correlates to a stretch in which San Francisco has won seven of eight games to climb back to .500 for the first time since April 6. 

Before Conforto’s heroics, the starting pitching ERA leaderboard’s top two spots toed the rubber in Minnesota. 

Neither pitched exactly like it. 

Sonny Gray, whose 1.64 ERA paced MLB before Tuesday, left the bases loaded after five innings, eventually getting charged with two earned runs. Alex Cobb, the National League leader in ERA, gave up two home runs for three earned runs. 

Cobb served up a two-run home run to Byron Buxton in the first inning on a hanging splitter. Three scoreless innings passed before another splitter stayed too high, and Michael A. Taylor crushed it for a solo home run. 

The Giants veteran got just TK whiffs on his split-fingered fastball. His curveball and sinker were significantly more effective. 

As the Twins capitalized on Cobb’s mistake pitches early, the Giants needed time to break through. In both the third and fourth innings, the Giants stranded runners on second and third, leaving runs on the table despite knocking Gray around. 

But San Francisco drove up Gray’s pitch count and loaded the bases on him in the sixth inning before he could record an out. The Giants emptied the bench and earned two runs — both on walks — against Minnesota relievers. 

Then came Conforto against righty reliever Jorge Lopez. Conforto sat on a curveball and punched it 103.5 mph. Like his homer in the series opener, his shot sailed to the opposite field. 

Conforto has spoken about working on staying on pitches through the zone like LaMonte Wade Jr.. Doing damage to all parts of the field isn’t an outlier for the veteran, whose swing manager Gabe Kapler called “one of the most mechanically sound” in baseball. 

And while Gray got the early hook, Cobb worked efficiently to last deeper into the game, where he found his better stuff. Cobb threw just eight pitches in a 1-2-3 inning, then struck out two in an 11-pitch seventh.  

Cobb’s ERA increased to 2.17, but he earned the win. Scott Alexander retired the Twins in order in the seventh. After him, Camilo Doval rung up Buxton with a 101 mph fastball, Edouard Julien on a slider and Willi Castro with a slider in the dirt for the save. 

Conforto wasn’t the only one who supplied the power. 


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