'Got every bit of it': Longo breaks out with HR

October 12th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- Usually, when connects with a baseball like that, he knows right away. This time, he had his doubts.

With the Giants and Dodgers locked in a scoreless pitchers' duel in the fifth inning on Monday, Max Scherzer caught a bit too much plate with his 0-2 fastball, and Longoria demolished it. He absolutely crushed it. The ball left Longoria’s bat at 110 mph and soared into the chilly Los Angeles night.

And then Longoria paused. In a game where a fierce Dodger Stadium wind wreaked havoc on every fly ball -- particularly those hit high in the air to left field -- he pondered the unthinkable.

“I knew I got every bit of it, as far as how hard I could hit a baseball,” Longoria said afterward. “But I wasn't quite sure that it was going to go out. I mean, the conditions tonight were crazy.”

The way things have gone for Longoria lately, it would’ve been the cruelest twist of fate. The Giants third baseman entered Game 3 of the National League Division Series mired in a 3-for-44 funk. Lately, however, he’d begun putting together some better at-bats. He’d squared up a few balls with nothing to show for it. This time, he really squared it up.

“Yeah,” he said. “I was thinking if that ball didn't go out tonight, I might have just cashed it in.”

No need. Longoria’s blast cut through the gusting wind and found the fifth row in the left-field pavilion. It proved decisive in the Giants’ 1-0 victory.

Longoria became just the 15th player to win a 1-0 postseason game with a solo homer and the first since 2017. He’s the first Giants hitter to do so since Casey Stengel went deep against the Yankees in the 1923 World Series.

So, yeah, the Giants’ decision to stick with Longoria, even against a tough right-hander like Scherzer, paid off in a big way on Monday.

“I think his swings have been more on time recently,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “You did kind of see the bat speed, and you saw the explosiveness, and you saw the good decision-making. Eventually a caliber of player like Longo is going to run into a good pitch to hit and put a really good swing on it.

“Obviously that was the biggest one of the night.”

It had to be. On a night where several hard-hit baseballs died at the warning track -- including Gavin Lux’s would-be game-tying blast with two outs in the bottom of the ninth -- Longoria somehow managed to neutralize the wind.

Scherzer attempted to go above the zone with a fastball. He left it belt-high, on the outer half of the strike zone. Longoria unleashed, sending it a projected 407 feet. It was Longoria’s third hardest-hit home run since Statcast began tracking in 2015, and his first postseason dinger since Game 3 of the 2013 ALDS while playing for Tampa Bay.

“You get to the postseason, you can always lose by one pitch,” Scherzer said. “That comes into play. Tonight, I lost it on one pitch.”

One pitch, to one of the unlikeliest Giants heroes, at least given the way things have gone over the past few weeks.

In fact, Longoria's glove was likely the only thing keeping him in the lineup against a menacing righty like Scherzer on Monday. The Giants had left-hander Alex Wood on the mound, which meant they were expecting plenty of ground balls from the Dodgers’ righty-heavy lineup.

“It's definitely in my mind,” Longoria said of his recent struggles. “I'm not keeping it out of my mind. But, I mean, I've hit some balls pretty hard that haven't fallen, and just obviously trying to stay as positive as I can and really not take my at-bats to the field. Just keep playing defense, keep us in the game out there. Just trying to believe that at some point a hit’s going to fall in.”

Fall in? No, this one didn’t quite “fall in.” This one exploded off his bat, cut through a vicious wind, landed in the left-field pavilion, quieted a raucous Dodger Stadium and gave the Giants a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series, pushing them to the cusp of their first NL Championship Series since 2014.

If ever there were a way to break out of a slump, this was it.