October 5, 2022

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Lefties come to life in homestand opener

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Yastrzemski, González shake off recent struggles to lift Giants over Bucs
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SAN FRANCISCO — As the saying often attributed to Mark Twain goes, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Unfortunately, that statement has rung true for some of the Giants’ bats, particularly Mike Yastrzemski.

“I’m just trying to take it one at a time and have good plate appearances, and try and be useful somehow to the team, whether it’s a walk, seeing a lot of pitches.” Yastrzemski said. “Just staying focused on that has kind of helped relieve some of the stresses of the struggles that have been going on. It feels good to kind of contribute.”

Yastrzemski has been a streaky hitter throughout his career, but this particular cold stretch has lasted for the entire summer. Since June 1, Yastrzemski had a slash line of .169/.256/.344 going into this series opener, and that .169 average is the lowest among qualified big league hitters by over 20 points.

Yastrzemski took a step forward with a productive day at the plate, going 2-for-4. He got the Giants on the board first on the very first pitch he saw, clubbing a solo home run to left-center field in the second inning.

Yastrzemski then took advantage of some sloppy defense to collect his next two RBIs. He came to the plate in the third inning with the bases loaded and nobody out, and wasted no time in hitting a sharp grounder toward Pirates first baseman Michael Chavis. Chavis fired to catcher Jason Delay in an attempt to force Austin Wynns out at the plate, but the throw took an odd bounce and hit Delay on the shoulder, bringing in a run and leaving everybody safe.

Finally, Yastrzemski drove in his third run with what at first appeared to be a flyout. But Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds stumbled as he tracked the ball down, and it dropped right next to him. Brandon Belt motored around the bases from second to score, while Yastrzemski ended up with a double.

“I think he’s just taking good swings,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He’s on time, bat’s moving through the zone well, and he’s using the whole field. He’s getting more and more confident.”

Luis González, who was in a cold streak of his own, provided the rest of the offense for the Giants, driving in two runs and snapping an 0-for-21 streak.

“I didn’t even know that it had been that long for González, but he’s also had some good swings that have not turned into base hits,” Kapler said.

It was certainly a positive sign for the two left-handed-hitting outfielders, both of whom swung extremely hot bats to open the season — Yastrzemski and González both batted over .300 in May — but have now found themselves scuffling for extended periods.

In a way, that mirrors how the Giants’ season has gone. San Francisco began the 2022 campaign with the hope of repeating their success from the previous season, but it has not performed to those lofty expectations. Instead, the Giants find themselves a season-high 7 1/2 games back of the third NL Wild Card spot with 50 games left to play.

That makes this upcoming stretch so important, as the Giants’ next 11 games come against the Pirates, D-backs, Rockies and Tigers — all well under .500. It’s a huge opportunity to gain some ground in the Wild Card standings, but to do that, they have to focus on what’s ahead, not fixate on what has gone wrong this season — just as Yastrzemski has approached his own slump at the plate.

“It’s just one of those things where you have to stay one game at a time, where you can’t look too far ahead,” Yastrzemski said. “You can’t look in the past. You just kind of keep plugging along, trying to play your best and hope good things happen.”

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