By Morris Phillips
SAN FRANCISCO–It’s official: The Giants’ embarassing weekend is over.
After three days of being used like a doormat by the more talented A’s, the Giants have bounced back, winning a second straight over the Angels Wednesday night, 7-2.
Of course, the response against the struggling Angels won’t generate the headlines that getting embarrassed by the rival A’s did, but the Giants are back to their process. Just get better, one day at at a time.
Wilmer Flores came through with a two-strike, two-out, three-run homer, and Austin Slater hit a two-run shot to back Giants’ starter Johnny Cueto. The veteran pitcher won for the 128th time in his career, and moved to 2-0 on the season, pitching 5 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and two runs.
“Johnny pitched great and he was able to go deeper into the game for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We asked a lot of him and he gave us a lot of pitches. We were able to hand the ball over to the bullpen and they did a nice job for us.”
While Kapler has walked on eggshells in regards to how he utilizes his pitching staff, penciling in his offensive lineup has been a comparative joy. Donovan Solano and Mike Yastrzemski have parked themselves among the league leaders in several offensive categories. The Giants are slighty above MLB average in home runs, triples and RBI. It’s a start for now, and it appears to be picking up steam. In the last eight games, the Giants have hit 13 homers while hitting .295 with runners in scoring position.
When Kapler was forming Wednesday’s lineup against left-hander Patrick Sandoval, Slater with his impressive numbers against lefties had to be penciled in as the DH batting leadoff. Flores or Belt at first base was a tougher call, but only because both are swinging the bat well. This time, Flores got the nod.
“You’re trying to give everyone an opportunity and stay sensitive to the fact that guys are making adjustments and trying to get better,” Kapler said. “This was one of those days. This was one of those lineups.”
Flores rewarded with two hits and four RBI while his batting average climbed to .301. Yastrzemski had a pair of knocks to lift his average to. 318. And Slater’s home run, single and a walk got his OBP to a team-best .453.
That’s progress for a club that at 10-16 is taking its lumps, but showing up everyday and playing for a new manager under unique circumstances.
Meanwhile, the Angels have had little go right in the last week outside of taking advantage of Trevor Gott on Monday for their only win of the stretch. At 8-17, they’re experiencing their worst 25-game start to a season in franchise history.
When the lineup, includes superstar Mike Trout, World Series MVP Anthony Rendon, high-priced import Shohei Ohtani, and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, that’s not pretty. Manager Joe Maddon, also in his first year, has been through plenty, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
“These are the moments when you just really, you do have to dig down deeply and you do have to fight through them and you do have to keep pushing to come out the other side,” Maddon said. “In our game, the thing that we have to do consistently well, and I’m not banging on the pitching, we just have to pitch more consistently.”
On Thursday, the Giants and starter Kevin Gausman will face lefty Jose Suarez in his season debut for the Angels.