December 7, 2022

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'Wild night': Giants outfielder pitches, then homers … off Pujols

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ST. LOUIS — Rookie outfielder Luis González summed it up best: “It was just a wild night.”

The Giants dropped two out of three games to the Cardinals following their 15-6 shellacking in Sunday night’s series finale at Busch Stadium, but the sting of the blowout loss was partly ameliorated by entertaining pitching cameos from position players on both sides.

González, who started in left field, recorded the final four outs for the Giants in his Major League pitching debut and then flashed his two-way prowess by hitting a three-run home run off future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, who pitched the ninth inning for the Cardinals.

“There were some pretty historic things that happened in that game for me, so it was a good time,” González said.

Pujols took the mound with St. Louis leading 15-2, though the Giants managed to cut the deficit after Darin Ruf walked and Evan Longoria singled to set up González’s second home run of the year. Joey Bart added a solo shot, causing Pujols to walk away with a 36.00 ERA following the first pitching appearance of his 22-year career.

“I thought it was just great theater,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “ It was kind of cool to see the Pujols-Longoria matchup. I think it was just what was needed, at least for our side. Obviously, their fans loved it, and I’m sure their dugout was hanging on every pitch. We all had a lot of fun with it. It was the right time to kind of let go of the negative outcomes of the game and get involved in the fun of it.”

The Giants hadn’t had much to smile about up to that point.

Left-hander Carlos Rodón was tagged for a career-high-matching eight runs over 3 2/3 innings against the Cardinals’ aggressive lineup, causing his ERA to jump from 1.80 to 3.49. It marked the most runs Rodón had allowed in a start since he gave up eight against the Tigers on April 26, 2019, exceeding his total from his first six starts of the season (7) combined.

Longtime Giants tormentor Paul Goldschmidt set the tone for the Cardinals early, crushing a first-pitch fastball from Rodón into Big Mac Land in left field for a two-run shot that kicked off a four-run first inning. It was the first blast allowed by Rodón this season, snapping a 43-inning homerless streak that dated to Sept. 20, 2021.

The night didn’t get much better for Rodón, who departed after allowing a season-high 10 hits with the Giants trailing 7-0.

“It wasn’t very good,” Rodón said. “I threw a lot of strikes, but they got hit. … On to the next one. It’s going to be a long six days or whatever it is.”

San Francisco’s bats, meanwhile, were shut out through the first five innings before Joc Pederson launched a two-run shot off Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright with two outs in the sixth.

It was Pederson’s seventh homer of the year and his first since missing three games with a mild groin strain last month.

Still, it wasn’t enough to close the increasingly widening gap between the Giants and the Cardinals. With San Francisco trailing 14-2 with two outs in the seventh, Kapler decided to summon González to the mound, making the 26-year-old outfielder the first Giants position player to pitch in a game since Austin Slater on Aug. 30, 2021.

González, who logged 36 career pitching appearances at the University of New Mexico, gave up only a single to Dylan Carlson while throwing 23 pitches, with his offerings ranging from 42 mph to 85 mph.

“I was pretty pumped up,” said González, who went 2-for-4 at the plate to raise his batting average to .349 over 21 games. “I was telling Joey, ‘I’m going to be throwing some gas up there, you be better be ready.’”

What was cooler, pitching in a game or homering off Pujols?

“It’s pretty close,” González said. “Pitching lasted longer, so I think the pitching was a little bit more cool. But hitting a homer off Albert Pujols, that’s pretty surreal.”

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