'Just so many things to love' as Giants rally late again to take series

May 23rd, 2024

PITTSBURGH -- The Giants don’t need bright lights to come back.

On an overcast Thursday afternoon at PNC Park, San Francisco mounted its second comeback in a 24-hour span, rallying from down four runs to win, 7-6, and take the series in Pittsburgh.

It was eerily similar to Wednesday, when the club had to bounce back from a fourth-inning grand slam by Bryan Reynolds. Mason Black, who pitched in a bulk-innings role instead of the starting spot, faced Joey Bart -- his former teammate from the catcher’s days as the Giants’ first-round Draft pick -- and the reunion was bittersweet. Bart torched a ball to center field … for a grand slam … in the fourth inning.

Given the run San Francisco has been on, though, Black was frustrated but knew the club was never out of the game.

“The team’s found a way to win, and we’re really seeing that right now -- although it might be in spite of me,” he said.

To get in a position to win, the Giants had to battle against Paul Skenes, the top pitching prospect in MLB and possibly the best pitching prospect from the college ranks since Stephen Strasburg debuted in 2010. The plan on Thursday was similar to the one on Wednesday vs. Jared Jones, another strong starting prospect.

“The objective was to try to nick them up a little bit and get their pitch counts up and get them out of the game,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said. “Both bullpens were going to be in tough shape today once the starters came out of the game.”

Instead of whiffing Giants on high-velocity heaters and testy sliders, Skenes threw more “splinkers” -- a splitter the right-hander throws with sinker velocity and movement -- than Melvin and the team had expected. The offense was able to tally six hits and strike out only three times, but only one run came across.

After six innings, Skenes was done, and San Francisco’s side of the entertainment began.

“We felt like if we could get into the bullpen, we’ve got a chance,” said third baseman .

Heliot Ramos hit a solo homer in the seventh, then the bats rallied against reliever Hunter Stratton in the eighth, including Chapman’s third homer in three straight games.

Chapman was arguably the key ingredient in what the Giants accomplished in the series, not only with his bat but also with highlight-reel defense across the two comeback wins.

“That’s the impact he has,” Melvin said. “He can take over a game, and when he does it offensively -- and he showed up defensively the past two games -- it’s pretty special.”

But it took a laundry list of players to produce the five-run eighth for San Francisco. Five straight batters reached to begin the inning, including Wilmer Flores with a game-tying knock. The pressure made the Pirates reach further in their bullpen to stop the bleeding, but a two-out single by young shortstop Brett Wisely against Aroldis Chapman -- who struggled late on Wednesday -- gave the Giants their first edge of the game.

“I think that’s what it takes,” Chapman said. “All these young guys have come up and helped us out a ton and put together good at-bats and given us chances to win.”

​​It’s the first time the Giants have produced comebacks of four or more runs in consecutive games since April 26-27, 1998, when they did so against the Brewers and Pirates in succession, and only the third time since the club moved to San Francisco that it has accomplished the feat.

Riding a four-game win streak entering the series, the Giants blew a four-run lead on Tuesday to end it. On Wednesday, they were down big, and on Thursday, they faced the same task. Instead of things spiraling into a frustrating sweep against a sub-.500 club, it became a series win that could mark a rallying point in San Francisco’s season.

“A complete team win both games,” Melvin said. “… There are just so many things to love and guys to feel really good about across the board. To win these two games, it took everybody.”