Villar's 1st HR highlights quiet night for Giants' offense

July 9th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- Rookie infielder David Villar provided some spark by crushing his first Major League home run, but the rest of the Giants’ offense continued to fizzle in a 6-3 loss to the Padres on Friday night at Petco Park.

Villar’s fifth-inning solo shot to left field stood as the Giants’ lone run against San Diego starter Blake Snell, who struck out 11 over six innings. San Francisco recorded only four hits until Brandon Belt launched a pinch-hit, two-run homer off Nick Martinez that cut the deficit to three with two outs in the ninth.

With their 14th loss in their last 18 games, the Giants slid to .500 (41-41) for the first time since they were 2-2 entering play on April 12. They are now three games behind the Phillies for the final National League Wild Card spot, with their playoff odds sliding to a season-low 29.7%, according to FanGraphs.

“It’s kind of been a bit of a train wreck,” veteran Evan Longoria said. “Over the last two and a half weeks, it feels like we’ve been the worst team in baseball. And that might be pretty accurate in terms of some of the statistics and the win-loss record.”

With Anthony DeSclafani undergoing season-ending ankle surgery on Tuesday, the Giants turned to a parade of relievers to plug the hole in their rotation on Friday. Lefty Sam Long drew the starting nod on his 27th birthday, but he allowed three consecutive hits to start the bottom of the first, including a three-run blast to Manny Machado.

The early deficit ultimately proved too much for the Giants’ slumping offense to overcome. Snell retired the first nine batters he faced before Austin Slater ended the run with a leadoff single in the fourth. Wilmer Flores and Darin Ruf subsequently worked walks to load the bases with one out, but Snell coaxed a popout from Thairo Estrada and struck out Brandon Crawford to escape the jam.

“It’s tough,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “When Snell is on, he’s really challenging because he’s got several breaking balls. Obviously, he was able to get a lot of swing and miss on those. We had an opportunity to score some runs. We weren’t able to capitalize on that.”

The Giants’ bats have been mired in a deep funk over their last 30 games, averaging only 3.8 runs per game while hitting .213 with a .662 OPS. In search of a jolt, they promoted the hot-hitting Villar earlier this week from Triple-A Sacramento, where he was batting .284 with a 1.042 OPS and 21 homers over 66 games.

Villar, 25, made his Major League debut on the Fourth of July and collected his first hit by doubling off Giants legend Madison Bumgarner. On Friday, he crossed another first off his list, hammering a misplaced curveball from Snell 379 feet (per Statcast) out to left field for his first homer.

“It was awesome,” said Villar, who managed to get the ball back by giving a young fan a pair of his batting gloves. “Everything was in slow motion rounding the bases. Hearing a lot of boos from the crowd. It was nice to see [third-base coach Mark] Hallberg give me a high-five rounding third. It put a big smile on my face.”

Villar is now 3-for-16 over his first five games with the Giants, and he will likely get an extended look at third base while Longoria works his way back from a left oblique strain. He won’t be the solution to San Francisco’s offensive woes, but he’s off to a promising start and flashing the talent that earned him a spot at this year’s Futures Game.

“We played a little bit together in Richmond last year,” Long said. “I knew what type of player he was, and to see him have some success and get that first home run under his belt, I think that’s big for him. I think he’s a guy that can help us win down the road. I’m just happy for the guy. Great dude. Super easy to be around. That’s something he’ll never forget.”

Belt, too, emerged as a bright spot after coming off the bench to crush his first home run since June 15. The 34-year-old veteran enjoyed a career year at the plate for the Giants in 2021, but he’s been in an offensive rut in the past couple of weeks and entered Friday only 7-for-47 (.149) since being activated from the injured list on June 14.

“I feel like Brandon -- and he’s been vocal about it -- feels like he’s close, and he is,” Kapler said. “Maybe this is the home run that sets him on track.”

The Giants can only hope a turnaround is on the horizon for them, as well. While they’re still within striking distance of the Wild Card race, they’ll have to find a way to halt their freefall or risk turning into sellers with the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline looming.

“We have been a really bad team for like two and a half weeks, but we’re still right there,” Longoria said. “I believe we have the pieces to do it. I believe that everybody in this room believes that, too.”