Chapman's slam lifts Giants to victory

Three outfield assists, diving catch help big homer stand up vs. Reds

May 12th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- Desperate for a spark, the Giants finally got one in the form of , who broke out of his prolonged early season slump in a major way on Saturday.

Chapman hammered a first-inning grand slam to carry San Francisco to a 5-1 win over the Reds at Oracle Park, giving the Giants only their fourth victory in their last 12 games.

The Giants came into Saturday averaging a mere 2.87 runs per game since April 24 -- the second-lowest mark in the Majors -- but they wasted little time jumping on Cincinnati lefty Nick Lodolo in the first.

LaMonte Wade Jr. and Patrick Bailey singled and Heliot Ramos walked to load the bases with two outs for Chapman, who belted a middle-in fastball out to left-center field to give the Giants an early 4-0 lead. It was Chapman’s fifth home run of the season and his second career grand slam (his first came with Toronto on April 9, 2023, at Angel Stadium).

“A grand slam in the first inning is a big deal, especially against a really good pitcher,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Now as a pitcher, you can go out there and you don’t feel like you have to be perfect all the time and every pitch isn’t the last pitch of the game for you. It was a bit of a relief to score a crooked number in the first.”

The Giants hope the big hit will help spur an offensive turnaround for Chapman, who entered Saturday batting only .152 (7-for-46) with 17 strikeouts, no extra-base hits and no RBIs over his previous 12 games.

“That’s the kind of swing I want to repeat,” Chapman said. “I’m just trying to be consistent and getting into a consistent position to get a swing off like that. I think I’ve been a little off balance or maybe a little bit in between, so to be able to get a swing off like that feels good.”

With Jorge Soler, Austin Slater, Nick Ahmed and Tom Murphy on the injured list and another key hitter, Michael Conforto, exiting Saturday’s game with right hamstring tightness, the Giants will need Chapman to help pick up the slack and serve as the middle-of-the-order bat they envisioned when they signed him to a one-year, $18 million deal with two player options in March.

“We’re grinding a bit, not playing our best baseball, so to be able to jump out early like that is huge,” Chapman said. “I think we can build off a game like today. We obviously have a lot of work to do, but it feels good, for sure.”

While Chapman delivered a much-needed boost at the plate, the Giants also got a big lift from their defense, with Ramos and Mike Yastrzemski combining to record three outfield assists in right field. Ramos started in right and showed off his strong arm by throwing out Will Benson and Jake Fraley at second base after they both tried to stretch singles into doubles.

“I definitely have to take him out for a nice dinner after that,” said starter Mason Black, who didn’t factor into the decision after giving up one run over 4 1/3 innings in his home debut. “It was huge having him out there.”

“He better get me a steak or something,” Ramos said, laughing. “Mastro’s or something like that.”

Ramos shifted to left after Conforto was forced to depart in the fourth, but he added a tumbling grab on Benson’s shallow popup in the fifth and then watched proudly as Yastrzemski followed his lead by throwing out Jeimer Candelario at second for the final out of the seventh. Candelario crushed a long drive off the right-field wall, but Yastrzemski played the carom perfectly and delivered a strike to shortstop Casey Schmitt to nail the Reds' third baseman.

“That was really the key to the game,” Melvin said. “The outfield defense was superb today.”

With Conforto’s status questionable due to the hamstring issue, the 24-year-old Ramos could get a chance to continue to show the Giants that he belongs in the big leagues.

“It means a lot,” Ramos said. “I’m just trying to help the team. I’m trying to do my best. I’ve been trying since 2022 when I made my debut. I feel like I’m in a good spot. I just want to keep playing hard and trying to make the best of this opportunity.”