SAN FRANCISCO — In the last seven days, the San Francisco Giants have faced more adversity than they expected to see over the entirety of a condensed 60-game season.
They endured a COVID-19 scare in San Diego, escaped smoky air in Seattle and sat dormant in hotel rooms along the west coast waiting to be told when and where they’d play again.
After losing their top outfielder and their starting pitcher in the first three innings of Thursday’s series finale against the Seattle Mariners, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see an exhausted club turn in a listless performance.
As the Giants proved in a 6-4 win that featured another big comeback, that’s not how the 2020 club operates.
In the midst of a season where there’s been a rotating cast of stars, it was first baseman Wilmer Flores’ turn to shine as his two-out, two-run triple off Mariners reliever Kendall Graveman gave the Giants a 5-4 seventh-inning lead. Improving to 25-24 with 11 games left to play required a late offensive outburst, but the Giants also needed a stellar performance from a bullpen that tossed seven innings of shutout ball.
The Giants’ depth was tested early and often on Thursday as the club lost right fielder Mike Yastrzemski to a calf injury in the middle of the second inning. After striking out in the top of the first, Yastrzemski left the game before the bottom of the second and was replaced by rookie Luis Alexander Basabe, who had only one major league plate appearance prior to the series finale.
Basabe collected his first career hit in the top of the sixth on Thursday and scored the go-ahead run as he sprinted home from first base on Flores’ seventh-inning triple.
In the bottom of the third, starting pitcher Tyler Anderson talked his way out of the game by arguing a call with home plate umpire Edwin Moscoso. After Anderson threw a borderline pitch to Mariners center fielder Kyle Lewis that was called ball four, he shouted at Moscoso, was warned to stop and was then ejected from the game when he continued voicing his frustrations.
Anderson’s ejection came at a terrible time for the Giants pitching staff as the club is on day two of a stretch in which it will play 13 games in 12 days, but reliever Wandy Peralta was able to pick up his teammate with the best outing of his career.
Peralta emerged from the bullpen in the bottom of the third and set a new career-high by throwing three hitless innings and keeping the Giants in the game. Peralta tossed 49 pitches –16 more than his previous high from the 2020 season– but maintained his fastball velocity and consistently hit 95 miles per hour on the radar gun throughout his appearance.
The Giants’ offense tried to reward Peralta’s efforts with a sixth-inning rally as they loaded the bases with no one out, but were unable to rally from a three-run deficit. Evan Longoria delivered a RBI single and Brandon Crawford drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, but pinch-hitter Justin Smoak bounced into a 3-6-1 double play with runners on the corners to end the inning.
Kapler’s decision to send Smoak up to the plate in place of starting catcher Joey Bart came as a surprise considering the move required the Giants to use their only other catcher, Chadwick Tromp, for the remainder of the game, but the manager saw the sixth inning substitution as a gamble worth taking because Smoak gave the Giants a left-handed hitter against Mariners righty Joey Gerber.
The Giants didn’t catch the Mariners in the sixth, but they scored three runs in the seventh and gave the bullpen a two-run edge when left fielder Alex Dickerson, who entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning, drilled a RBI single up the middle against lefty Anthony Misiewicz.
After Peralta exited on Thursday, four other Giants relievers combined to keep the Mariners off the board as right-hander Tyler Rogers stranded a pair of runners in scoring position in the bottom of the eighth before left-hander Sam Selman picked up the first save of his career by pitching the ninth.
Following a mentally and physically draining stretch in which the Giants played on one day during a five-day stretch and lost both games of a doubleheader in San Diego, the club once again proved its resiliency by securing a pair of victories against the Seattle Mariners.
Smoky air in Seattle allowed the Giants to play two road games at home this week, but their schedule does get more difficult over the final 10 days of the season. With three in Oakland against a first-place A’s team, four against a Rockies team that’s within striking distance in the Wildcard race and four more against a Padres club that’s dominated the Giants this season, Kapler’s team will have to grind through a challenging stretch to play into October.
Challenges, of course, are nothing new to the 2020 Giants.
©2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)