Help on the way for shorthanded Giants

May 4th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- The Giants and Dodgers found themselves in lockstep throughout the entire 2021 season, with their epic race for the National League West title coming down to the final day of the regular season.

The 107-win Giants ended up outlasting the 106-win Dodgers for the division crown, but Los Angeles ultimately triumphed when it mattered most, winning a thrilling NL Division Series that ended with Wilmer Flores’ controversial check-swing call in the decisive Game 5 at Oracle Park last fall.

It’s still early, but the Giants and Dodgers appear poised for another tight race given their mutual championship aspirations in 2022. Their first matchup since their NLDS clash last year did nothing to suggest otherwise, with the Giants falling, 3-1, in Tuesday night’s series opener at Dodger Stadium.

Carlos Rodón tossed six innings of two-run ball in his fifth start of the year, but he was outdueled by fellow left-hander Julio Urías, who fired six shutout innings on 65 pitches to hand the Giants their fourth loss in their last five games.

“A little wonky second inning there,” Rodón said. “Walking the two lefties, which are guys I need to get. I was pretty bad that inning. Gave up those two runs. Two-out walks definitely hurt. Chris Taylor is a pretty good hitter, man.” 

The Giants’ superior depth allowed them to emerge as an unlikely behemoth that ended the Dodgers’ reign atop the NL West last year, but that strength has been tested in recent weeks due to a rash of injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak. They flew to Los Angeles missing several regulars, including Mike Yastrzemski, Brandon Belt, LaMonte Wade Jr., Evan Longoria and Tommy La Stella.

The Giants felt those absences on Tuesday, as their depleted lineup mustered only five hits against Urías and four Dodgers relievers. San Francisco didn’t get on the board until Urías left the game, with pinch-hitter Luis González delivering a sacrifice fly off lefty Alex Vesia that cut the Dodgers’ lead to 2-1 in the seventh. Still, Los Angeles tacked on an insurance run in the eighth after Hanser Alberto doubled and scored on a wild pitch.

“It’s always nice to have a full lineup, a full roster,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “There are very few teams around baseball who have that luxury all the time. It’s not a surprise that we’ve struggled a little bit without some of our best guys since we’ve had this little COVID instance. But again, that’s just baseball. Every team deals with it. We have to find ways to weather the storm.”  

The good news for the Giants is they should be getting a couple of core pieces back soon.

Kapler said Yastrzemski, who has been out since testing positive for COVID-19 on April 25 at Washington, D.C., could return as soon as he’s eligible on Wednesday. 

Wade, who missed the first month of the season with a left knee injury, played in his sixth rehab game for Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday night and could also rejoin the Giants on Wednesday. His bat certainly looks ready, as he hit .294 with one home run and six RBIs for the River Cats.

“LaMonte is physically ready to come off the IL,” Kapler said. “One of the things we’ve talked a lot about is that just being the first step. The second step is comfort and confidence. We want him to be fully confident on his knee, which is a major psychological factor, and then be ready to play multiple games.”

Wade likely could have been activated on Tuesday, but the Giants opted to have him play one more game in Sacramento since the Dodgers sent a left-handed pitcher to the mound in Urías.

San Francisco instead brought in another right-handed bat, Kevin Padlo, who went 0-for-2 in his Giants debut.

“We’re just in a place now where we’re laying on that context and deciding what’s best for [Wade] and for the Giants,” Kapler said. “With respect to tonight, I don’t think we needed to force him into his first start back against one of the tougher left-handed pitchers in baseball.”

Kapler said Belt, who also tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, is feeling better and has been working out while he quarantines. Longoria and La Stella aren’t too far behind, either, as they began rehab assignments with Sacramento on Tuesday and could be activated later this month.

“We’re not that far away from having some of our regular players come back,” Kapler said. “We look forward to those moments.”